30 September 2009

Señora Propano

The propane resupply was too easy. It was so easy in fact that I am suffering from Puritan guilt. That will be gone in a few more minutes.

I did finally decide to return to the establishment with which I did propane business before, way down the highway toward Dolores Hidalgo. I traded tanks and got another decent one in return. However, this brought me back face to face with the woman I think of as Señora Propano. Señora Propano is not Señora Pollos Enteros--Mrs. Whole Chickens--in attitude, demeanor, carriage or anything else for that manner. She mans an exalted work station in the office and dresses noticeably well. Perhaps she is the owner. She has that air about her. You cannot duck her. There is no dealing directly with the help there. And she takes the money. This woman hates me.

Here is the classic situation that can occur, particularly in the case of a member of a minority as I am here, where one is compelled to wonder if she hates me for what I am, a norteamericano with shaky Spanish. She cannot possibly hate me for who I am for the simple reason that we have had such limited contact. I have run into this before, an encounter with a Mexcan during which the hatred directed at me was nearly palpable. Not often at all, I hasten to add. I have not written of this before. Perhaps the time has come now while Señora Propano is on my mind.

Anyone wishing to explore the smoldering resentment in the hearts of some Mexicans need not look far. My very favorite English language blog concerning México is the Mex Files. The entry entitled About the Mex Files is a brief history of the blog, which is literate, opinionated, highly informative, and very favorably disposed toward México. Among the many comments are several from the Mexican citizenry. Several of those are less than warm. If you scroll down, you will find one authored by El Grapaduro in English dated 25 February 2009 that will blow your hair back.

Oh, what the hell. I believe I have complied with the attribution request of the folks at The Mex Files, and I believe that this is fair non-commercial use. Let me quote that comment in its entirety for you here. I am not going to insult this gentleman further by inserting [sic] at the appropriate points in his text.

I can not believe this! One commentator to this website says that he owns a house in Mexico, but lives in New England…Another says he owns a house near an are where it is nice to hike, providing you drive a car “the locals can recognize.” And this site professes to be pro-Mexico!?

Of course, there are those who mock the American colonies in Mexico, the retirement communities, etc…

And still, the liberal students call Cortez a bastard and they write solemn eulogies to the natives…

All of this is nothing but the true state of Mexico…a colony of the Anglicized world! If you are from the U.S. and own a house in Mexico, you are no better than a Peninsulare…If you like to hike in the jills of Michoacan, you do so because Mexico is the de facto colony of the U.S. in North America besides Puerto Rico! Over two hundred years of American meddling in Mexico has produced this result, and still, thinkers and intellectuals and students and the wealthy have this romanticized, demeaning, nostalgic view of Mexico that they deem as being pro-Mexico…Yet you still have an insulting picture of a poor Mexicano with big feet in big sandals with empty pockets and a big sombrero lamenting his poverty.

Nothing has changed. Everything remains the same. The colonizers are still in Mexico…they have never left.

Mexico has never been left to the Mexicans. Mexico has never had the chance to become a real nation. Historically, there is nothing that can be done about the Conquest – but it did create Mexico. Mexican history ironically stops suddenly when it is professed to begin – at Independence. It is here where foreign influence begins, Mexico is pulled into the folds of the Americans, when burgeoning Mexican identity becomes some weird Anglicized hybrid of Liberalism, Federalism and “Reform.”

I am a Mexican who is in exile. From my home, from my culture, and from my past.

You should all be ashamed. Millions of Mexicans suffer because of your privilege. Millions of Mexicans are forced to wait for what dollars you drop in their country. Millions of Mexicans hope for something to change in a nation where the wealthy are kept in power by the Gringos, they watch their land disappear to condescending homeowners who then marry their women, and are given pennies and smiles and blogs that say “I love Mexico!”

You are a part of the problem. Professing admiration and respect and truth while taking advantage does not make it okay.

Even a cursory reading of the history of relations between the United States and México and more generally Latin America leaves one wondering why they all do not hate every single citizen of the United States. The conduct of the United States as a nation in that regard has historically been of a nature to take your breath away.

As just one example, the Mexican-American War of 1846 was every bit as criminally stupid as the Vietnam War was. It just had “a better outcome” for us, a successful land grab. The name James K. Polk ought to live on in infamy for that episode alone, let alone his utter lack of balls in dealing with the slavery question. I tend to think, also, that the Mexicans who have had the benefit of a decent education have a much longer historical memory than citizens of the United States do.

Resentment may be being fueled here in some circles by the popularity of a book called México mutilado by Francisco Martin Morena (2006) that documents in what I understand is a fairly inflammatory manner the loss by México of what is today the entire southwestern United States. But I doubt that would be any general phenomenon. Relatively few Mexicans read books. That statement is not an ignorant opinion of my own. Rather, I met a wonderful Mexican lady at a dinner party not too long ago. She made that statement as a cold, accepted fact. Part of her employment was finding ways to encourage young Mexicans to read more books.

The relations of the United States with México and Latin America generally have moderated since the Kennedy Administration in the sense that the motives of the United States since then seem less openly piratical. However, such things as the never ending "War on Drugs" and the horrendous impact that has had on México still go a long way toward filling any vacuum. This country is suffering through some impressive violence as a result of a large number of Americans' patronage of the illicit cocaine and marijuana market and the United States' misguided strategy for combating that. I shall not enter into that rat's nest any further.

First and foremost, let us simply consider the manner in which so many Mexicans are treated in the United States, whether they travel there legally or not. (American citizens of Mexican descent are Americans, by the way.) Many of those folks come back here. Most of those who have not yet still communicate with family here. Sweet little Maga has told me horror stories concerning her time in the United States, legal by the way. Her sadness and disgust as she related this to me made my eyes wet up. I need not enlighten you further on that score.

I tend to think that the phenomenon of which I speak is also attributable to the demeanor and air of many Americans themselves and the impression they therefore give when abroad. Many convey a subconscious feeling of entitlement, and sometimes it is obviously not so subconscious. That is manifest in small part by the stubborn refusal of so many to acquire even the rudiments of a foreign language. I am by no means a globe trotter, but I myself have seen this in Asia, Europe, and here.

There is a popular Yahoo! Group for "Members Only" referred to locally as the Civil List. It is for American expatriates living in San Miguel de Allende. I wormed my way into a membership. Why? I have no idea. But there one can read all kinds of exchanges among 'em concerning "the Mexicans," including the bitching about the aerial bombs to which I alluded in an earlier post. The contributors are unguarded in that "private" forum. The great sense of entitlement I have described is on display there by some of the members who, let us again remember, have voluntarily left their own country, moved here, and have all kinds of ideas for the improvement of México and the Mexicans.

By the way, there are some contributors to the Civil List who opine that rudeness on the part of Mexicans is more widespread here in the state of Guanajuato than anywhere else in the country. I have no way whatsoever to judge the validity of that assertion, and I would need to be presented with some serious evidence before I would accept that proposition.

My own personal theory is that a disproportionate number of Americans with this feeling of entitlement that I speak of tend to be the very ones who travel abroad. It never crosses the minds of most of the wonderful, warm citizens of fly-over American, busy tending their lawns, to travel abroad. See what I mean? An outsized number of the citizen ambassadors of the United States of America in other countries are the very ones who should not have that job.

But they get their comeuppance in Paris, do they not, those brash, loud, insistent Americans with the expensive cameras hanging around their necks, dressed in their Hawaiian shirts, cargo shorts, and Birkenstocks in the city with the name that is synonymous with style? A Parisian cab driver has a more valid reason to feel entitled simply by virtue of the fact of his residence in Paris than any philistine from Enid who fell into some money and now lives in Oklahoma City. And that cab driver knows it and acts accordingly. Hence, all the shaking of heads in the United States about the rudeness of Parisiens.

As for me here in México, I am simply going to continue to display as much breeding as I can in my still halting Spanish regardless of how I am treated. And again, do not get me wrong. This has not been a chronic thing by any means in my own brief experience. However, one cannot fail to notice when it occurs.

I am considering an experiment. I need to get this question down in perfect Spanish. The next time I must deal with Señora Propano, if the quality of our encounter has not ameliorated, I am going to pause and ask her,

“Do you treat me this way because I am black?”

Candy's Stoop

Which reminds me. . . . I owe Candy for this idea. My stoop consists of a wooden warehouse pallet. I do not think she saw it when I first acquired it.

I call it Candy's stoop.

Propane Again

I most take a moment here to gather myself for the day ahead of me. The little propane tank went empty in the middle of the night. I knew that was coming soon. It had to be. I was dreading it. It was a little chilly crawling out of bed this morning. And no coffee to be had.

Several of you have been through this with me before. As I explained then, this all is a little different down here in México than simply dismounting the tank off the big Weber gas grill on the patio and driving over to Ace Hardware to trade the empty tank for a full one. That all takes a half hour at most.

See that propane tank underneath there?

In my case I must partially dismantle the camper in order to be able to pull the empty tank up and out of the bracket mounted up front on the tongue of the camper. I suppose that provides some security from my tank being stolen, but that is really stretching to look on the bright side.

The front assembly of the camper forms the bunk area at that end. I sleep in the bunk at the back end and use that front bunk area as a closet. Consequently, I will have to pull all that stuff out. I will have to take stuff out of the main living area here in the middle, including the big table, because I must slide the floor of that front bunk assembly back into the main area of the camper just as I do when I am taking the whole thing down in order to tow it away. That all takes a while. All to get to that tank.

In June it was a trick just to find a gas company to trade for a full tank. They are all located far out in the country. I did luck out on that occasion because I received a tank that is in pretty decent shape in return for my pristine white one that had come with the camper when I purchased it. It is not uncommon in México to trade in an empty tank that is in great shape and receive in return a full one that is a junker ready to explode.

I think I have located a gas company that will refill my tank on the spot for me. Since I am satisfied with the condition of the tank that I already have, that is what I want to do. That company is way out in the boondocks. While I love the boondocks, I hate fucking around with this propane tank.

You know what I am going to try? I am going to get the toolbox out of the truck and see if I can simply unbolt the bracket from the tongue of the camper. I will then try to slide the bracket, tank, and all out the side. That way I will not have to break down damned near the entire camper in order to change the propane tank. It will still be some work, but. . . . . .

You know something else? If I get that done, I am not going to remount that bracket. I am just going to set the full tank under there loose on the tongue until the time comes when I must break the camper down entirely, hook it to the truck, and tow it out of here.

Keep me in your thoughts while I struggle with all this today.

I must endure this philosophically. This is where life takes you when you have played the role of the grasshopper in Aesop's fable. Propane tanks, if you are lucky.

Grasshoppers were on my mind.

29 September 2009


Joachim, my next door neighbor, is a talented photographer. He is trying out a program that allows him to stitch together panoramic shots. He is still using the test version of the program. Consequently, there is an imprint on the photos that he has composed so far.

Nonetheless, let's take a look at how they appear here. He has chosen to shoot classic locations in San Miguel de Allende. Once again, click on them to view larger versions.

Porroquia de San Miguel Arcángel; La Terraza on the left with a string of outdoor cafés.

A covered promenade on the right adjoining El Jardin.

Cab stand near Mercado Ignacio Ramirez, one of the three large markets in town.

Fountain on the approach to the Plaza Civica.

Covered promenade with outdoor cafés adjoining El Jardin with La Terraza on the right in the background.

Not sure.

[They look great enlarged even though one has to scroll across and down to see them in their entirety.]

I can stitch photos together with my little Canon, but the end result demonstrates why Joachim is considering that computer program, which allows one to tweek it all into an acceptable end product.

Closing Out Lawns

I can immediately abandon my project concerning lawns. Within hours of posting the entry of yesterday, I found a book called Lawn People by Paul Robbins (2007). His subtitle is How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are. In his extended introduction he nicely provides a summary of his chapters and also provides a recapitulation of the literature on lawns that preceded his book.

One of those books is Front Yard America by Fred Schroeder. Way back in 1993 Mr. Schroeder wrote this entire book about the democratic underpinnings of the American lawn. He documented the relatively recent “emergence” of the lawn as we know it. In spite of his acknowledgment back then of the ecological side effects of the lawn and unlike me, Mr. Schroeder was apparently entirely approving of all this.

"Turfgrasses" is the term I should have been using. Turfgrasses were imported from the United Kingdom. They and their descendants are therefore by definition not indigenous to America. They are “water and chemical hungry.” It is impossible for turfgrasses to thrive in America without lots of water and lots of chemicals. That is simply an unfortunate fact.

The only other thing to add is that if Mr. Robbins' thesis is correct, it would be a very difficult undertaking to break Americans' addiction--my word, not his--to lawns as we know them. Luckily, according to the New York Times, the folks in Los Angeles can still water their lawns two days per week even though their water mains are breaking up.

In any event, that is that. I need not pursue this any further other than to read.

28 September 2009

Lawns & Lawn Care

I have been thinking a good deal about lawns and lawn care in western society. I detest lawns. Yet I am not even close to coming to grips with the reasons for my profound hatred of them. México offers a wonderful perspective from which to contemplate all that. I have limited my thinking to residential lawns in an effort to limit the subject sufficiently such that I can make a start on wrapping my mind around it. But the more one ponders even that limited category of lawns, the more elusive the subject becomes.

Why lawns? Wherefore lawns? Whence lawns? I confess that these questions are the reason that I have been reading the great western philosophers recently.

I need to do more reading about lawns specifically now. I am not talking about the volumes and volumes written on the care and feeding of lawns. Someone somewhere has written at least a monograph on why residential lawns, as they are presently constituted, in the first place. That is what I am interested in. Having as yet failed to find even a monograph on the subject, I am starting my own.

The environmental damage wrought by lawn care is not something that really interests me. I know something of it, but I am not going to rant about that other than to say this. When John Sebastian of the Lovin' Spoonful sang of his wish to “fall on his face in somebody's new mown lawn,” he could not have been singing about the modern American residential lawn, particularly the one with the little flags planted in it signifying that the new mown lawn has now just been treated to a cocktail of chemicals. Even the damned dogs and cats are not allowed to walk around on that lawn in order to take a shit.

Given the enormous amount of time and effort and resources expended by much of the citizenry in order to maintain an acceptable residential lawn, the lawn as an institution must satisfy some deep longing in the heart of contemporary western man—or at least in the hearts of a great number of them.

My real interest is, as I said, the residential lawn consisting of closely, evenly cropped grass, edged and manicured. The grass itself is usually selectively bred for the purpose of forming a dense carpet close to the ground. The residential lawn as currently constituted is first and foremost something to look at, albeit it usually in passing. Still, there are those who stare at their lawns, as if it were a Vermeer, for extended periods of time or at their neighbors' lawns either enviously or scornfully. That a very small minority occasionally plays volleyball or badminton or croquet on their lawns does not obviate this fact. A residential lawn appeals to an aesthetic viewpoint. The precise nature and worth of that aesthetic viewpoint is a subject for another day.

Here is just a start on that aspect of the subject truly at hand, my working hypothesis. As recently as the 19th Century, residential lawns were the exclusive province of the aristocracy. A closely, evenly cropped expanse of grass, edged and manicured, in part signified that the resident of the manor behind all that had the necessary manual labor of others at his beck and call in order to maintain a lawn, the gardener and his assistants.

Lawns were an essential part of a residential manifestation of station and power. Only the simplest and most rudimentary of machines were in existence as aids in lawn maintenance. Your run-of-the-mill cottage dweller had to devote his time to feeding himself rather than to lawn care. I am sure that sodding a new lawn out in front of his little place never crossed his mind.

With the waning of the power of the aristocracy and the waxing of the power of the haute bourgeoisie, we had a whole new class of people interested in a residential display of station and power. They, too, got their lawns. It should then come as no surprise that as the ascent of the problematic ideals of democracy premised on the questionable assumption that the masses are capable of governing themselves neared its apogee—every man a king, as Huey Long put it--vast numbers of working people began craving a lawn as a symbol of their new station in life. In a republic they were now citizens and no longer subjects of the state, parties now to a solemn contract with their state. The state had, in widely accepted popular theory, become their servant rather than their master.

A typical member of the working classes came to feel entitled to his own little Versailles, some more Versailles-ish than others, and nowhere more so than in that vanguard of democracy, the United States of America. The citizenry demanded of its servant government a subsidy of lawn ownership for veterans in the late forties and fifties and sixties and an immensely popular jury rig of the entire tax structure to the benefit of every residential lawn owner.

Levittown 1950

Nearly everybody could now afford a lawn. All you had to do was put a house on it. An enormous number of ordinary working people in the United States of American got their lawns.

But they were still working people unable to devote the enormous amount of time to lawn care that the manual labor of lawn care required. In the democratic market place there came a great new demand for and the advent of all the machines specifically designed to aid in lawn care—miniature grass mowers with small internal combustion engines capable of quickly cutting wide swathes of grass to a perfectly uniform height, edgers, trimmers, vacuums, mulchers, aerators, blowers, and ultimately—a beloved source of so much laughter for me—the lawn tractor with attachments. The Industrial Revolution had come to be the servant of lawn care.

Note cool attachments.

A fantastic new product, lawn aerator sandals.

Five, maybe six pretty decent little lawns in the background.

[Caption deleted.]

There followed quickly the great demand for and advent of a vast array of fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and other chemicals also specifically designed for that one same purpose. The science of the Enlightenment itself had come to be the servant of lawn care.

In this century we have arrived at an aristocracy of everyman wherein large numbers of the democratic citizenry of the United States of America now pay for the labor of others to maintain their lawns. The sine qua non of the condominium owners' association is just that, as a matter of fact. The labor engaged in this task is quite often, but certainly not always, black or Mexican.

Not Mexican.

Is not that so perfect on several levels? At one level the lawn itself has become a kind of Robin Hood, all dressed in Lincoln green, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. I have never really cared for Robin Hood either. As with lawn care, the whole Robin Hood thing can get out of hand very quickly.

There is a start on the subject, but it still does not satisfy me by a long shot. However, this all may go some way toward explaining the great current gnashing of teeth up north arising out of the fact that so many Americans are losing their lawns. This king, too, is subject to being dethroned.

Still, I am like that great personage of whom it was said that he hated mankind but truly loved individual men. I love my Mexican lawn here. It is a totally organic lawn. It doubles as a semi-arid habitat. It is mowed regularly three times per year. And when Teo is through mowing it with the gas-powered weed whacker and comes over with his big hand clippers to help me with my small hand clippers to trim around the camper, I give him ten pesos.

27 September 2009

Short Story

Some light entertainment for a quiet Sabbath evening.

Here is a short story as told around a desert campfire last month by the irrepressible and now sadly long gone Fabien. It is 6½ minutes long.

The story concerns Fabien's time in the United States working with a couple of New Zealanders. It is at the light expense of some young American men. However, Fabien in his gracious way balances it nicely at the very end.

This video was uploaded as a kind of experiment. For the first time I did this using blogger's video tool rather than Vimeo or youtube. It was a slow upload, and the audio seems to be quite low. But what the heck. It seems to play.

26 September 2009

Regarding the Saints' Names

In for a dime, in for a dollar. While we are on the subject of saints, let us get into a little linguistic trivia. This is interesting because it relates to so many cities' names in the southwest United States.

Santo is the masculine word for “saint” in Spanish. However, before the name of a male saint, it is nearly always shortened to San, as in San Juan, San Pedro, and San Andrés. The exceptions to this general rule are the male saints' names that start with the letters “Do” and “To,” as in Santo Domingo, Santo Tomás, and Santo Tobías.

Here is the reason for that little quirk. If we were to shorten Santo to San before names that start with the letters “Do” and “To,” confusion would reign. “San Domingo” when said aloud would sound too much like “Santo Mingo.” “San Tomás” when said aloud would sound too much like “Santo Más.” See the problem that had to be addressed? So in those cases we retain the full title Santo before the name.

I found that interesting, and I am glad that I did not leave this world before coming to an understanding of it.

The lady saints are always referred to with the full title Santa, as in Santa Rosa.

Do not ask me about Santa Claus. That name must not be Spanish.

Saint Michael Loves Aerial Bombs!

Comandante San Miguel Arcángel

I have had a complete change of heart about aerial bombs since shooting that video in the early morning hours of September 20.

25 September 2009

24 September 2009

Food Column

So I was thinking about that chicken coming up this weekend, and I started to worry. What if I were to get hit by a truck sometime between now and then? No chicken then.

Just as importantly, I started worrying about that found money in my checking account sitting there doing nothing other than earning 0.0000000005% per annum. I like to put my money to work for me.

I walked down and bought one whole chicken. The reason I fell back to one is that I did not know that you get other stuff with the chicken for the 50 pesos ($3.75 American). I forgot to take my camera. The senora there would have been delighted if I had taken some pictures. Maybe some other time.

Speaking of the senora, she carves the chicken for you before putting it into the bag. What a masterful job that was! Whack! Whack! Whack! With a big cleaver, and voila! The chicken is carved.

In addition to one whole chicken, you get two—what do you call the small baguettes?--and a little vegetable medley, and salsa. The vegetable medley consisted of baby potatoes, carrots, which were both a bit picante, and a green thing. One bite of that green thing tore my ass up. Of course it was a species of pepper that I had not run into yet. You would think that I had just arrived in México. But it fooled me because it was leafy looking.

Anyway, I carefully preserved what was left of the pepper and all of the salsa for a later date. A cooler is not necessary for that. There is not a bacterium in the world with balls enough to tackle those. I was a mess when I was done.

I decided to dine al fresco just to torture those two moron dogs chained up to the lady's camper right across the street.

I thought about giving the bones to the three cats that hang out here, but I do not feel comfortable feeding someone else's animals. What if one of those cats is allergic to chicken? As if. I did put the bones in the garbage can, which has no lid, without tying off the plastic bag. So they will get what's left of the chicken carcass, I am sure. But this way it is out of my hands.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I do not chose to cohabit with animals just now. I have not for quite some time. I have nothing against it. In fact I thought about a bird for a fleeting moment at the big open-air market recently. I have cohabited with quite a few animals in my day. What I do not understand is why people chose to cohabit with an animal that is a moron, let alone two of them.

Take dogs for instance. There is a bell curve of normal distribution of intelligence in dogs. That should come as no shock. On the one end are the small number of dogs that are absolutely total idiots. Then there is that big lump in the middle consisting of your run-of-the-mill, half-assed dogs. On the far right end is that small number that are great, great animals, better and brighter beings than most humans.

I have had the honor of being closely acquainted with a couple of those great, great animals many years ago on the farm, both German Shepherds. My eyes wet up thinking about them. Hugo's dog, Hans, a shorthair, was of the same quality. If you are intent on cohabiting with animals or if you have children who love to kick animals around, then the trick is to find one of those extraordinary dogs.

Because think about it. Why would you chose to cohabit--share your living quarters—indeed share you life--with even a half-assed dog let alone a canine cretin? Now if you yourself want to run a dog shelter in your home for a worthless dog, that is a different thing entirely. God bless you.

Please do not extrapolate any of these comments so as to apply them to the humans with whom you cohabit. I am not talking about that at all.

It is difficult though because puppies will fool you routinely. It is nigh on to impossible to foresee the adult animal that a puppy will grow into. But it does not take very long until the true nature of the animal becomes apparent.

The only rational approach is to put the animal down humanely as soon as it becomes apparent that it is a moron or even a half-assed dog. Do not continue to cohabit with it unless of course you yourself are half-assed. Do not spend money on one of those con artist obedience trainers. He or she is not going to transform a half-assed dog into something other than a half-assed dog. If you are real lucky, it will just become an obedient half-assed dog. Do not foist it onto somebody else. Do not abandon it, for god's sake. Do not even take it to the over-burdened animal shelter. Just put it down. You will save yourself from a lot of heartache and from the waste of an enormous amount of your lifetime fooling around with the damned thing.

If you do not have the heart to do it yourself, take it to the vet who, for a reasonable fee, will happily oblige, given the suffering of animals that he or she has seen. The fee will be roughly equivalent to what you will pay to have it neutered. When you also take into account all the future health care costs for an animal that is essentially worthless, it is a bargain.

Look at this as kind of the Nietzchean approach to dog ownership.

You may have to euthanize three or four adolescent dogs, maybe more, before you find that dog of a lifetime, the dog worthy of cohabiting with you, of sharing your life with you. You must be worthy of that dog, too. If you are both half-assed, it does not make a dime's worth of difference. Come to think of it, I guess there is a lid for every pot.

If you have never seen a country overrun with half-assed dogs, come to México. That is why the subject is on my mind. Of course I could be entirely wrong about all of this. Put an implied question mark after everything I say here.

Cats are a different deal in my view. Cats can be so good at faking it. Of course there is a bell curve of normal distribution among cats, too. But even a dumb cat can sometimes fake it so well that he can appear to be brilliant and endear himself to you. I have yet to run into a Mexican cat that was not an absolute master at faking it because they all seem to be brilliant even though I strongly suspect that not one of those that I have encountered really knows up from down.

I don't know anything about lizards, but they are in a cage all the time. So what difference does it make? Same with birds. But if the damned bird will not sing or talk for its seed, put it down, too. Do not continue to cohabit with a freeloader bird. A healthy fear of a freeloader bird, a feathered leech, on my tight budget is what put me off that whole idea.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

We older folks do obsess about our food, don't we? I know because I just did it. Once older folks get past the weather, food is usually the next topic up. For older folks the essence of Schopenhauer's Will is no longer the urge to reproduce but the urge to feed ourselves. The impetus to eat and think about eating and talk about eating is powerful indeed in the golden years.

If you want to see a graphic illustration of what I am talking about, offer older people all they can eat for a flat price or better yet, free food. My mother and father patronize two different banks because they want to keep their finances secret from each other. Once per year my mother's bank puts on a free picnic for its customers. Iowa being Iowa, the vast majority of the people who attend are elderly. The bank does it up right with a lot of extra help to assist the folks in loading those plates and in carrying the full plates to the tables what with all the canes and walkers.

I drove my parents to this once and attended along with them. What a show. I got the idea right away in the long line of Buicks weaving down the road toward the site, all with their left turn signals blinking constantly miles in advance of the right turn necessary to get in there. As for the picnic itself, it was a slow-motion stampede.

You know something? I am still pleasantly full of chicken right now. I am finishing my first big Coke in a long, long time. And I need to get some rest. I have figured out what I hope will be a wonderful investment of the rest of that found money tomorrow. I will report back here on it all.

Neal Cassady

Speaking of Neal Cassady, as I mentioned earlier, he died here. Those vital statistics list his occupation as “Author.” That is interesting because the only things he wrote to my knowledge were letters. But apparently lots of them. So let us not argue with that.

Neal Cassady was rendered immortal as the character Dean Moriarty in Jack Kerouac's On the Road:

I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won't bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead. With the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road. Before that I'd often dreamed of going West to see the country, always vaguely planning and never taking off. Dean is the perfect guy for the road because he actually was born on the road, when his parents were passing through Salt Lake City in 1926, in a jalopy, on their way to Los Angeles. First reports of him came to me through Chad King, who'd shown me a few letters from him written in a New Mexico reform school. I was tremendously interested in the letters because they so naively and sweetly asked Chad to teach him all about Nietzsche and all the wonderful intellectual things that Chad knew. At one point Carlo and I talked about the letters and wondered if we would ever meet the strange Dean Moriarty. This is all far back, when Dean was not the way he is today, when he was a young jail kid shrouded in mystery. Then news came that Dean was out of reform school and was coming to New York for the first time; also there was talk that he had just married a girl called Marylou.

How does one get away with throwing the entire text of On the Road, which is still under copyright, up on the internet? Apparently, the originator of that site is some place where nobody can get at him or her. That site, by the way, is generally fascinating, but I have not yet quite figured it all out.

Here is the the real point of this entry. A guy named Jim Sweeney became obsessed with locating the apartment in San Miguel in which Neal Cassady lived his last days as well as the precise site of his death out by the train station. His extended account under the title Trackin' Neal Cassady In San Miguel de Allende is a fairly entertaining piece.

How does one come to terms with Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady? Such fascinating and admirable characters in so many ways. Such messes as human beings in so many others.

If you can figure out even the gist of Neal Cassady's remarks in this clip, let me know. I even checked John 15:1 in connection with the effort. All that did was get me involved again in reading the weird, runic text of John, not something I would recommend in order to lighten up your day.

22 September 2009

Instituto Allende

The view from the snooty outdoor café at Instituto Allende

The snooty outdoor café at Instituto Allende

A considerably less imposing building from the outside.

Yeah. Another beautiful courtyard. Some more moderately interesting murals. Instituto Allende. The other major art school in town. And I am getting aggravated.

The idea here was first of all to enjoy México, mix it up with the Mexicans, shop for Mexican groceries in Mexican grocery stores, eat Mexican food with Mexicans in real Mexican restaurants, see Mexican sites, watch Mexican entertainment, pick up a little about Mexican culture. Believe me, I am doing all that. However, a blog that consists of entry after entry waxing rhapsodic about all that gets stale fast.

The second objective arose out of the billing of San Miguel de Allende as the home of a large art colony. Lots of art. Stirling Dickinson and all. The whole rebirth of this colonial city back when was based upon art and the G.I. Bill. By the way Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters spent a lot of time here. Neal Cassady died here.

So this was going to be the frosting on the cake. I would get to see a lot of interesting, original art—the kind of stuff that glues your feet to the floor while you stare. I have found a little, particularly Magaly Padilla's work, but not nearly as much as I want.

There are not enough public galleries. Both Bellas Artes and Instituto Allende are schools, not galleries. There is some public gallery space, but I have yet to see anything worth telling you about. At Bellas Artes the current exhibit was of some woman's fractals for chrissakes. This is odd because every third non-Mexican and his non-Mexican brother in this town claim to be artists. A whole bunch of Mexicans claim to be artists, too. But hell, I could claim to be an artist for that matter.

Instituto Allende was full of commercial galleries. . . . . and three very snooty cafés. I left after not going into any of those, but I am going to have to change my approach.

I so wish my pals Hugo and Ruth from back in Iowa were here to go commercial gallery hopping with me. Hugo has the unenviable job of being my own lawyer and much more. Anyone with any sort of grievance against me should feel free to contact Hugo. He is a great listener, and he will probably be sypmpathetic.

Anyway, it would be so much easier for me then because I personally detest dealing with the help. The help hovers. Trying to sniff you out to see if you have money. Then obviously scornful if they conclude that you do not. Hugo and Ruth are great at blocking for me and dealing with those assholes. Then I am left alone to check out the art.

On the other hand those occasions when you get to chat up the actual artists in a gallery can be truly entertaining. Sure, they would like to sell some art, but they also usually appreciate someone who is simply interested in their art, too. Now that I no longer hammer the complimentary wine at those gallery openings, gallery hopping with Hugo and Ruth is a considerably more civilized affair.

In the circumstances as they currently exist, I am going to have to tighten my belt and start walking into these commercial galleries without Hugo and Ruth. But I am not going to pretend that I have money. It will be a deal where I say, “I do not have any money, but I am going to look at the art you have on display here. Do you have any problem with that?” I need to get that all down in Spanish. Although I probably will not have to use it. Most of these commercial galleries appear to be all set up to prey on Americans with a twang and no taste. But I prejudge. We shall see.

At times I daydream that I have Stagg here along with a 2005 black GMC pickup truck load of his art. We would rent some gallery space for pennies in high season, throw a big party with lots of complimentary wine (Hugo can arrange for that some way), and see whether we can sell some real art. I am not guarantying that we would, but I would certainly not bet against us either. I have not found the competition yet.

Relieve some of those Americans who are here in the winter of their money, which they worry about too much anyway. I would hover over 'em and talk about the art in my softest, most unctuous voice. Help them with their estate planning by reducing the size of their cash estate and converting it into art. The kids will only piss away the cash anyway.