Speaking of hard, that’s what the beds were. The hotel room itself is cute. Just cute, cute, cute. But hot and stuffy and the mattresses are inflexible.
But we manage to sleep, probably out of sheer exhaustion from the previous two days.
We spend a day here in the city. Right away we shop for gifts. We have our meals in the Zocalo.
We enjoy the city even though it’s hot and humid, and with only one exception, all the clothes I packed are black. Stupid.
These ladies must be hot too.
I’ve always liked Oaxaca City. But it seems less lively this time of year. The last time I was here it was November, when the weather was cooler and the city was packed with tourists for Day of the Dead.
We shop for gifts for friends and family back at home. For myself, I want to buy bracelets, lots of cheap, obsidian bracelets. Later, I would read in THE FEVER, Wallace Shawn’s explanation of Karl Marx’s Fetishism of Commodities -
“ . . . what really determines the value of a coat? What is it that determines the price of a coat? The coat’s price comes from its history, the history of all the people who were involved in making it and selling it and all the particular relationships they had. And if we buy the coat, we, too, form relationships with all of those people, and yet we hide those relationships from our own awareness by pretending we live in a world where coats have no history but just fall down from heaven with prices marked inside. . . . “
“A naked woman leans over a fence. A man buys a magazine and stares at her picture. The destinies of these two are linked. The man has paid the woman to take off her clothes, to lean over the fence. The photograph contains its history – the moment the woman unbuttoned her shirt, how she felt, what the photographer said. The price of the magazine is a code that describes the relationships between those people – the woman, the man, the publisher, the photographer – who commanded, who obeyed. The cup of coffee contains the history of the peasants who picked the beans, how some of them fainted in the heat of the sun, some were beaten, some were kicked.”
I don’t buy or wear diamonds. I don’t shop at Walmart. Unlike most tourists, I don’t haggle with the vendors. If I want an item, I pay what they ask. But I can’t resist cheap bracelets. They are my own fetish commodity.
We wear ourselves out with walking. At the end of the day, Mom and I dine at our favorite restaurant and each drink two very, very strong margaritas.
We walk back to our hotel. It’s still hot. We are both drunk. I offer to sing her a song. She falls asleep. The fan is way, way, way too loud.
We go to The Ranch
The next day my uncle arrives with my cousin’s husband. The cousin’s husband has a taxi. They are there to take us to The Ranch. It’s a two-hour drive from the city of Oaxaca.
They all call it The Ranch though it’s really more like a farm. There are cornfields and bean fields but no herds of livestock. The land has been in the family for more than 100 years. Maybe close to 150 years. My uncle raised his 12 children here.
We came here to visit my 80-year-old uncle but we are here now because one of his sons is hosting the Festival of San Ysidro. It’s a big event. My cousin, Jorge, is one of the majordomos, in this sense, a long, funny word for host. Interesting, the word’s true meaning lies in the history of feudalism.
When we arrive, everyone is busy making bread. They have a wood-burning oven. They bake lots of bread.
We sit in the shade of an ancient ash tree. My mom and my uncle chat. Jorge's daughter, Aleli, joins us.
His life has been hard but he does less work now. I think I overhear him say he no longer keeps chickens. I could be wrong. My Spanish is rusty and seldom used. But that’s what I think I overhear. Except it doesn’t make sense because I see clearly before me a flock of at least a couple dozen chickens and some roosters.
I like chickens. They’re nice birds. I wish I could have chickens of my own. But not really.
The breeze is calming. Birds sing. Chickens scratch. Sheep call out. We shed our anxieties. Life here is neurosis free. Life here is without email and blogging; without Facebook and YouTube and Hulu. Life here is without the constant need for connection, for affirmation of place on the planet. It is without the constant need for validation. It is without Tea Party vs. Coffee Party, without Palin vs. Clinton, without The Culture Wars, without the New York Times, the LA Times or BBC America or NPR.
I am cut off and my thoughts are my own.
Next – the days here are long.