Sunday, September 14, 2014

Right.  Where was I?  Taxco.  Fireworks.  Pozole and Negra Modelo.  Talking for some reason about Christmas in late August.  I mentioned perhaps that Taxco has the craziest open air market space I have ever been in, alternating between claustrophobic and sort of thrilling.  Our future exploring the hilltop towns of the colonial highlands of Mexico has been largely an expansion of this experience, which I expect is similar to what a rat in a maze feels like coming around each bend and finding there a new piece of cheese.  It is true that occasionally the cheese is a bit stinky,  and not always in the way a French acquaintance describes as "Stinky like I like it."  Still, I never get tired of exploring this place, as it makes the neurons in my eyes and my brain percolate like a Folger's commercial.  Mexico is truly one of the most amazing places I've ever been.

Down the rabbit hole

One of the things I have noticed about being in markets anywhere else in the world besides the U.S. is that they actually smell like something.  Like melons, for instance, which, similar to truly ripe strawberries, don't always smell altogether great.  (Side note:  Never shout "Bueno Melones!" in a Mexican market, despite the overwhelming temptation to do so).

Or like guava, which smells unbelievably good.  Or papaya, which smells kinda barfy when it's at a certain point of ripeness.  I learned in Mexico, France and Italy that the food almost everywhere else in the world has just a lot more aroma and flavor than where I live.  In the States we shudder at the thought of a fishy smell when we're walking past the seafood at Kroger's but we're somehow okay with feeling our way through the fallout cloud of the perfume section at Macy's.

Hola, Guera!  

This market was really something to walk through, and unfortunately no photo can really capture the experience of it properly, as it winds through narrow tarp-covered callejons that go up, down, sideways and even over footbridges in ways that were frankly not obviously rational or even always pleasant, especially when we suddenly found ourselves in the meat section, with full sides of beef and pork hanging around us.

Super fresh, super tasty produce.
Still, there was sort of a food court area where families sat and had lunch, and conjunto and mariachi music playing from several speakers instead of muzak or Popular Hits From The 80s (which I've heard enough of to last several life sentences served consecutively).  It could not be more different from shopping in the U.S. if it had been conceived by George Lucas.

Tracy and I thought about this place for nearly three years until we decided we needed to go back, this time in the spring of '08.  We stayed across the street from the place we had found in the Lonely Planet guide the first time, at a hotel called Los Arcos that looked like this inside:

It was awesome though just a bit over our budget and was right downtown where there's a fair amount of traffic noise, so after a couple of nights we moved to another spot called the Hotel Victoria.   It had an amazing view of the city and the main Cathedral Santa Prisca, in front of which is the town square, which in this town and other towns in southern Mexico is called the Zocalo.  The Zocalo is surrounded by silver and jewelry shops, which Taxco is famous for, and restaurants that are great for hanging and people watching in.  The trees of the square are filled with tropical birds that made just a whole bunch of noise but which I never actually saw up there in the dense branches.

Hangin at the Zocalo with Straussy and a well placed plant

The view from our room at the Hotel Victoria
The Hotel Victoria was awesome and had the feel of a hotel that had its heyday back in like the 1950s, but which had aged quite well.  It was super quiet in that part of town and in May, we felt like we had the place to ourselves.

One sweet memory I have:  It happened that Tom Waits' Glitter and Doom Tour tickets went on sale on our second or third morning at the Hotel Victoria.  I remember frantically trying to get tickets the moment they went on sale from the one computer for guests in the hotel, which had a really slow internet connection.  All the Los Angeles and Phoenix tickets disappeared in the first 30 seconds, but we snagged a couple of seats in El Paso:  a sweet pilgrimage story for another day, kids (It was awesome, BTW).

Sweet ride!
Anyway, did I mention that there were an improbable amount of Volkswagens somehow negotiating the crazy tilt-a-whirl streets of this town all day and night?  Some of you may have noticed I have an affinity for old cars, and particularly VW bugs and buses, which tend to turn up in my paintings with an improbable regularity, whether they are tooling up a 60 º angle cobblestone street in Mexico or rusting away in a junkyard in North Salt Lake.

There's something really anthropomorphic about them, which is of course why there was never a movie called Herbie the Love Buick.

The chosen vehicle for getting around in this town, as well as every taxi we saw there, was the good old Bochito, as the classic bug is known here in Mexico.  Careful asking for one however, as the word is also apparently slang for a Mexican prostitute [Side note: my grip of Spanish is extremely limited, but shouldn't that be Bochita?].

All the buses in town are old VW buses with the sliding door removed and no seat belts.  It costs like 3 pesos to go anywhere you want in town, providing a car can actually fit down or drive up the street, which is not always a given.

Still own it.
San Francisco ain't got nothing
on Taxco
Ironically, I just sold my 1973 Westfalia Camper Deluxe Special (The Flaming Carrot), which I had and threw $100 bills at for 15 years, in no small degree to help fund this year's unpaid sabbatical to Mexico [Insert frowny face emoticon here].  However, I still own this painting of it called Nightcrawler.  Not that I didn't try to sell it like 20 times.  Think I'll keep it now.

After several days in Taxco we began looking around for other possibilities, and we considered going back south to Oaxaca, which is an amazing cultural and culinary hub I'll perhaps tell you more about another day.  But then Tracy showed me some pics online (after we had scored our Tom Waits tickets) of a couple of towns about a 5 hour bus ride north called San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato.

See?  I'm getting there.


  1. I love reading your blog, the pictures and adventures! keep them coming!

    1. Thanks Marlene! Glad somebody out there's reading it!

  2. Location, location, location - that's what this is all about! Will miss you Friday night.

  3. Thank you for sharing! You inspire me!

  4. I'm reading it too. Love the writing + photos.

  5. As good as the Jack Reacher novels...ok, maybe not, but I keep coming back to read it..

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