Mexico! Stop! Please! For the love of God! I can’t take any more gorgeous, charming, walkable colonial cities! I thought the drive here would cure my blisters and let my leg cramps unwind. And they did just a little. And then you threw Puebla into my path. Cunning move, Mexico. You intrigued me with Monterrey, which proved surprisingly interesting. And then in Zacatecas, you wore me out with the hills and the enchanting 18th century architecture and wonderful people, and deceptively walkable streets. And Chicomóztoc was a sneaky blow too. Those hills didn’t look nearly that daunting from below, but once I was halfway up, you knew I couldn’t stop, and you chuckled quietly to yourself. ¡Dale, Gringo!
And now? You’ve thrown me into the thick of Puebla and I can’t stop. Everywhere I turn, there’s a good mile of charming facades, artfully blending architecture from the sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. OK, I’ll forgive you a few of those twentieth century horrors that snuck in; they’re easy enough to overlook, and they’re all at least a few blocks out from the Zócalo. I’m sure when they were built, some of those old beauties had outlived their charm, and had fallen into a state of not-so-genteel decay. I understand that some folks wanted airconditioning and elevators. It’s ok. They are small slip ups. You’re forgiven.
But please! I need rest. Yet you call me from every street. There are tiled facades. There are basketweave brick facades. There are stucco facades painted in every imaginable color with stone door and window frames. There are elegant 18th and 19th century French-style buildings, with elegant, mannered stonework, beautiful arches, angels smiling out from the cornices. There are open doors with patios, cool fountains, and lush flowers just beyond. And the sixteenth and seventeenth century churches are very, very clever, Mexico. Give me a little rest by sitting in a church for a spell, meditating on the past, present and future. How many souls have come here for redemption in the past several centuries? How many weddings? How many funerals? How many more will come long after this weary traveler reunites with the dust from whence he came? Yes, you give me a little rest in these places, and then you lure me farther and farther away, until I’m miles from my hotel. Oh Mexico, you are a temptress of the first order.
Yet I can’t stop. Now dusk is approaching, with that marvelous, golden light so desired by photographers. Street lights start to come on. Windows begin to softly glow. Ah, there’s no way now that I can rest until the sun has fully set and the sky is black. Quick, Kim! Run! The light won’t last! Hurry! Hurry! Finally the light fades, and I think I’ll get a rest. I pause to sit on a bench. Ah, but wait. Even darkness brings no rest, Mexico, because you’ve put uplighting on all the buildings. You’ve illuminated the fountains. And you’ve filled the Zócalo with late-night restaurants, full of cheerful revelers, mariachis, street performers, and children selling chiclets.
Please I beg you! Let me rest! I’m ready to drop! And then at 10:00 PM you play your trump card. A handsome stranger, smiling at me from next to where they’re filming a movie. I try to ignore him. But you, Mexico, you know that he will prove irresistible. You know I’m lost, and you know that despite having a map in hand, and despite having walked around the orderly streets, I’m hopelessly disoriented. And you know the handsome stranger really wants to help me, as he keeps looking at me and smiling, ever-so-sweetly. I try to resist. I really do. I even put on my reading glasses to read the map, but it’s hopeless. I’ve already been back and forth several times over the same streets, and I still can’t find Las Ranas taqueria, even though I know it’s no more than 5 blocks away. I look up. He’s still looking at me and smiling.
“Discuple. Estoy perdido.” “Excuse me. I’m lost,” I say, finally admitting defeat and approaching him. “Can you tell me how to get to Las Ranas? It’s here on the map, but I’m disoriented.”
“Hola. Si, te puedo ayudar — Hi, I can help you,” he says. I hand him the map, and he studies it. “How about if I just walk you over there?” Oh Mexico! I didn’t even see that one coming. No way!
“Are you sure? I don’t want to inconvenience you.”
“No, I would love to go with you. Let’s go,” he says smiling ever more broadly at me.
“Would you like to join me for dinner? My treat.” I say, figuring the least I can do is buy this fellow some tacos. And I’m really grateful for the company.
It has been a delightful day, but I’m a bit starved for conversation. People here are nice enough, but it’s a big city (1.3 million) and the small-town friendliness of Zacatecas is nowhere to be found. People are polite, but I’ve had many fewer of those little conversations that spiced up my days in Zacatecas.
It turns out that Edgar is originally from Oaxaca, and has only lived here for two months. He’s a masseur, ayurvedic healer, and also does feng shui, the Chinese art of putting things into harmonious order. He’s also an artist and writer and claims to have written four novels and to be working on a fifth. I don’t ask if they’ve been published, but I’m impressed nonetheless. I mention my blog and photographs, and the time just flies by. We discuss writing, spirituality, karma, reincarnation, religion, and his own journey through Mexico. He’s moving from place to place, experiencing different things, different people, just as I am. His schedule is different. Before Puebla, he spent two years in Tehuacán, building up a client base, doing massages, consulting on ayurvedic practices and selling beads, crystals, incense, and the various other accouterments of such a lifestyle. But he got involved in some politics and refused to “play ball,” so he left. Here he expects to spend another two years or so, and then will move on, though where to is unclear.
We finish dinner. Though exhausted, I’m extremely happy. The conversation keeps flowing. We decide to go for a drink. He keeps smiling at me in the most disarming fashion, and I can’t help but smiling back. He holds my hand. I’m melting, slowly forming a helpless pool on the floor. He comes back to the hotel with me. I am fully defeated, but also ecstatic. Together, Morpheus spirits us away to dreams and a night-long embrace.