Mexican Fire

Mexican Fire

Back home in Atlanta a full day removed from a pit of Mexican fire in my stomach, which burned brightly with salt and tequila aftereffects, I sip a soda water and comfortably reflect on Zona Polanco, of the Federal District of Mexico, or D.F., for short. Think of our D.C. meets N.Y.C.

It’s pronounced day ef ay, by the way. Way on into the middle of the Mexican peninsula. Bright lights big city daydream for me of the real Mexico, where my paternal grandparents had honeymooned. I’d always wanted to experience more of it than the airport and astounding urban aerial display, from when I’d changed planes there on past trips.

Polanco, in effect the Beverly Hills of Mexico, from Burberry to Gucci to my favorite, the eclectic Common People boutique where we bought beautiful soaps and bath salts and a brightly-colored magnet of the Lady of Guadalupe, radiant against a red background. That’s Mexico for you these days: radiant and resiliently shining always, yet against a well-publicized red background of worsening “narco” drug violence. We didn’t see many other Americans during the trip but generally felt fairly safe.

Mexico City boasts more density than New York City, while it is vaster than sprawling North American land giant Los Angeles, with a total population roughly equal to both of those biggest of United States cities combined. Thirty million people hived around us seeing about their day, while the affluence of Zona Polanco was perhaps most striking. The pedigreed pooches in sweaters and bows, with well-coiffed and attired owners in tow, themselves with expensive sweaters tied around their necks, so Euro. The rolling tree-canopied park and the fine shopping I mentioned, tasty restaurants where I found so many friendly tables.

Past the biggest flag I’ve ever seen, one Zona over is the giant park, with a public lake where families and couples cruise on peddled boats. There were several impressive full-scale museums and lots of street food vendors. On a Sunday afternoon, we strolled amongst thousands, one street vendor saying, “Wow,” at the significant beauty of my special lady in her flowing teal dress, as the sugar of the churros stuck to our hands.

We eventually stopped in for a tangy margarita at a swank spot playing NFL games, in Spanish of course, and then were given a free ride back to our hotel in their comfy courtesy van…the excitement of a big city night still awaiting us.

Fitting that we’d bought a souvenir folk art miniature Mexican cantina in Cuernavaca, I thought a little later, as we explored the decadent nightlife in Mexico City, with somewhat mixed results. Our credit card stopped working and required a phone call to rev it back up at what felt like could have been an inopportune moment. When I felt the local tequila wisk my wits away, I was ready for a quick taxi back to our Zona, a soft hotel bed.

Before this, was the mansion once owned by the lovely Hollywood actress Brigitte Bardot in Cuernavaca, Land of Eternal Spring, where we stayed in the guest quarters of a friend. Cuernavaca is a city of around one million, an escape from Mexico City, a city behind gated walls, which opened to reveal large homes with majestic gardens and outdoor spaces.

The place we stayed was cobalt and white and flowing and as majestic in taste and decoration as any I’ve seen on many trips below the border, a shrine to all that’s good about Mexico, and there really is so much “there there,” to admire and enjoy, rough reputation aside.

The smell of steaming tamales removed from foil and banana leaves, for an authentic breakfast. The memories flooded through, of Texas relatives like my beloved Nanny who loved the culture. The luxurious feel of being seated outside by a glimmering pool under a temperate azure blue with tufts of gray sky, consuming cold crisp Mexican beer with fresh limes sliced sideways, with the woman I truly love.

The thronging Zocalo and the reverence and spectacle of Mexico’s churches, the taste of piquant salsa verde and wholesome handmade tortillas. The art and color – yellow, cobalt blue, galaxy blue, Aztec blue, pale pink, hot pink, several shades of red and orange, all popping against the expected browns and tans. My single favorite art piece I saw was the Diego Rivera mural depicting the history of the people of the state of Morelos. It filled the largest walls in the main public building in Cuernavaca’s historic downtown.

To-and-fro Cuernavaca, we traveled by luxury bus, from the airport in D.F., where we’d shared our first Mexican meal, a delicious bistec torta (steak sandwich). The country’s main city is mammoth from the air and feels just as enormous while navigated by autobus. Housing packed on top of shallow stores and restaurants selling food and goods to the multitudinous masses. Soccer facilities and parks along the graffiti-splashed Metro train line, as we bounced in the bus through the crush of traffic.

Followed by the rurality of mountains and fields of hay that is most of the land in the great nation of Mexico. Coming into Cuernavaca, we felt the energy rise again. And life did pulse there, with sparks of that same Mexican fire that we felt off the biggest city in the world, 100 years after revolution, 200 years after declaring independence from Spain.

Students flock to Cuernavaca to study Spanish; while Capitalinos (as residents of D.F. are known) retreat the relatively short distance to Cuernavaca for cleaner air and a comparatively calm culture. There are differences between huge and smaller-sized cities, but here the contrasts felt more palpable, even though Cuernavaca is no small place.

Mariachi players wait near the Zocalo in full uniform ready to be rented to play for you. And a raucous midday celebration once swept us up, a tipsy local painted as an Indian for the festivities putting his arm around me as he introduced himself and his less than pleased date, while we charged down the cobblestone street with them. He told me I should have been out there at 10 a.m.

I liked so much that he’d included us, that I loved the whole wide world more.

We visited the silver town of Taxco on a day trip and found it brimming with humanity – flooding narrow city streets, full of pedestrians and vehicles and thousands of shops, every structure white with only black-lettered signage. There, I prayed in the most ornate church I’ve ever seen and then had a drink at the rooftop bar across the plaza. Next, dinner included chicken enchiladas and a hilltop view of the entire village from a large hotel’s restaurant. The charming town on view across the way, jammed in along a sloping crest.

Our last night in Cuernavaca, fireworks bombastically filled the sky from the nightclub next door, as we finished with fine dining in a gorgeous open-air restaurant. The food was spicy and cheesy, plainly delightful. Mexican night air felt so perfect to us all, under the candle and lamplight, as my lady and I were bidding our most gracious hosts a long, fond farewell. A true city boy at heart, part of me silently anticipated and even yearned for the frenetic energy of the megalopolis of D.F., which was again on our travel agenda.

Back inside the mansion that night, we settled in together to fall asleep and then were suddenly awakened to noises on the tiled ceiling. We moved to the kitchen, and two curious creatures called coatis glanced at us through a window from atop the property’s wall, before one bounded over the other playfully as they exited our view, the magic of Mexico plainly evident to us.

After a final sweet honeydew melon and medium roast Mexican Chiapas coffee breakfast, we departed the great gated Cuernavaca compound bound for another luxury bus trip, hardly such a thing even in existence in the United States. Life here had similarities, sure, but was remarkably different from ours.

And Mexico City, again, was next.

“RE: invent” (2019) Tour info:

…more SUMMER EVENTS:

1. Waller’s Decatur, GA 7/18/19 (THU 8p)
2. Posman Books-Ponce City Market Atlanta 8/17/19 (SAT noon-2p)
3. Bowery Poetry Club w. Tom Cheshire New York City 8/25/19 (SUN 6-7:30P)

Han Vance “RE: invent” book available www.silverstonepress.com (signed and mailed), debuted 5/25.


Tour information (poster by Mike Tom):

(Summer 2018) Han Vance Live:

Atlanta:
Posman Books ATL
(in Ponce City Market)
Aug 26th, Sunday ~ noon-2p
Golden State Misadventures” 3rd edition
(nonfiction novel, new cover, liquid libations)

New York City:
Bowery Poetry Club in Manhattan, NYC
(On the Bowery)
On Aug 12th, Sunday Night ~ closing the 1st set
Silver Stone Press Presents
(Sean Scharbach of Silver Stone Press reading, too)

– www.silverstonepress.com

Excerpt from “peach”:

1. My Moment Of Joy
Before The Sun Also Rose
I Was In Bloom, Nirvana
Working In San Francisco
Coffee Roasting Co In
Atlanta: Center Of The South
Words Came To My Mouth
After The Alarm Clock
It Was FRI, So Rock
Show Was On Said Radio
Waiting For The Floyd
Then It Came And My Fav
Wish You Were Here Heard
Loud, Lights Back Off And
Walked Toward The Couch
With A Water, The Elixir Of Life
Washed Away All Strife
Faced It, My True/New Joy
And In These Reflections
On Life & On The Picture Wall
Trains, In Both Directions

2. What I Love About This
Presunrise Employment
Is Watching The Trains
Buzz By, While I
Cantank A Vinegar Piss
Or Preach About A Thing
Or Two I Do Like, Like
Dixie’s Sunny Shore Or
A Nice Medium Roast
Big Wines And Little
Beers And My Dears
I Love My Family
Nuclear, In Particular
I Know Myself, The Shelf
Where I Keep My Crazy
The Closet Is For Skeletons
We All Have Tons Of ‘Em
But My Baggage Is Aging
While I’m In A Youth
Movement, Getting Older

3. Dark ‘N’ Deep
Your Cool Friends Dead Cold
And A ~ Byproduct, I’d Say
Of Getting Old
Is Putting Away
Unbecoming On Hold
Lest You Sleep (Weep)
With Fishes, Wishes
In The Dark ‘N’ Deep
REM Phase, U2 Phase
Bananarama Shama Lama
Phi Slamma Jamma
Honor Your Ancestors
Those Euro Capitalists
American Materialists
Philanderers. Financiers.
Aviation Pioneers, Shop
Keepers And Chiropractors
They Course
Through Me, Throwin’
Me A Bone And Washin’
Against Me In My Home

“SILVER STONE PRESS Presents” is a double reversible poetry featuring “peach” by Han Vance and “uNEVENLY yOLKED” by Tom Cheshire.

American Culture Reporter (media brand)

American Culture Reporter TM is a media brand by Han Vance (Editor-in-Chief) of Atlanta, featuring Vance + other writers and artists.

www.AmericanCultureReporter.com
Copyright 2016-2020 HV

Aclothing.company

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Hanfest

(Photo by: Han Vance)

The day I moved from Marietta proper to the more distant suburbs, a punk rocker juvenile delinquent named Chris Damico was building a small wooden skateboard ramp in the street that led to my new culdesac. Though I had never ridden a skate ramp before, I’d picked up street skating about a year earlier as the sport hit a second wave of major national popularity in the mid 1980s.

It was the heat of a Southern summer, and most of my like-aged friends were living closer to the Marietta Square. I was living way out in the vast stretching sprawl of what had been previously rural, then exurban, and finally suburban Cobb County, in what was then known to be the fastest-growing civilization in the history of mankind: greater metropolitan Atlanta.

My siblings were a good bit younger than I, and I found myself with no one cool to regularly hang out with when I was not at work as a fine-dining busboy at The Planter’s restaurant. By mid-summer, my friend Doug got a Chevy Nova and was the first to get a license. He started picking me up, and I was back hanging with my old crew of friends. Before that, I skated with Damico everyday.

We grew apart, Damico and I, but we talked from time to time. Then when I was a senior, his mom moved out of the school district, and he talked my brothers and folks into letting him ride out the school year living with us. I thought it was a terrible idea, but the decision was made before I had any input. He bunked with my brothers.

For the first time, we became truly close friends. My epic high school career was winding down, so we decided to have a huge graduation party as a last hurrah. We set a date and gathered friends from neighboring schools, like Dave Weiss, at my house for a meeting and told them to tell their friends and friends of friends from many of the schools across the county.

A week before the party my parents went out of town for one night, so we threw an impromptu gathering. Hundreds of kids from my school showed up and lined my entire street with cars and trash. I paid my brothers to clean up the mess after, but I was immensely worried. We didn’t have access to enough space for the coming big graduation party, and my folks’ plans to go out of town again were suddenly cancelled. We were screwed.

My mom and stepdad’s yard at the time led to a stretch of woods that eventually led to fields behind a huge western store called Horsetown. Damico came up with the idea to rent these fields, and in a meeting in which the outcome still baffles me to this day they agreed to lease us the property for a night. We paid them a small amount of money and assured them it would be a calm affair.

As the day approached, I distributed flyers amongst the upperclassmen at my school listing my address as the location for an “Adult Graduation Party.” A teacher found one and said I could not go on with the plan, but I scoffingly told him I was eighteen and the party was the day after school ended. It was out of his jurisdiction.

My friend Todd Smalley’s band the Wild Onions agreed to play the event, and I made him promise not to reveal the real location of the party to anyone at our school. He kept my secret at Lassiter; meanwhile we called our party planning colleagues and told them to tell everyone to be at my house by 5:00 p.m.

We hung a sign on my basketball goal on the day of the fest that said: “Go To HORSETOWN.” We were there well off the street and obscured from visibility with the rock band playing as the thousands and thousands of kids began to show up. As the sun set, the traffic continued to stream into the fields. We positioned paid parking attendants in the drive to charge admission for vehicles and made hundreds of dollars over the field rental. Interestingly, Damico and I both later worked for years in the management of the parking industry.

Of course, the cops came that night. We heard it told that for a few hours they could not find the exact party location. When they did attempt to bust the party, it still went on for over an hour as they simply directed traffic out while making very few arrests for underage drinking. When the crowd finally started to thin, we grabbed as many cute girls as would follow us and led them back through the woods to the relative safety of my house.

For weeks after, we were the reigning stars of the county. I began to commonly hear the term “Hanfest” and wondered who’d coined it. About a month later, I was hanging out with my artist friend Mike Tom. He told me he’d hand-painted a sign at the entrance of the Horsetown fields that said: “HANFESTIVAL.”

Hawaii (a different world)

Welcome to Hawaii:

The mountain roads to Holualoa winding upward through lush vegetation and small rural housing, it had me reminiscing about the time I toured inland Puerto Rico with my father and one of my brothers. We reached Holualoa and were immediately astounded by the number of art galleries in such a small town, at most, really just a little village. Holualoa exists around two of my passions: art and coffee.

Off of Main Street, a tropical tree-lined gorgeous bed-and-breakfast, Holualoa Inn. The lack of a wall separating the living room from the lush green lawn and outside grounds first struck me. This was a different world.

Hawaii fruit

Up On Ponce (C) 2013 HV:

Up On Ponce:

Mammas Are Chocolate Milk

Cheap American Swill

Is The High Life

And Thomas Cheshire

Will Always Be A Hero

Races, Classes, Demographics

Whites, Blacks, Hispanics

Neon-Lit Classics

Against An Old Marquis

And Just Me, See

Boozers, Cruisers And Stone Cold Losers

Atlanta, Georgia ~ Deep South

Plus, That Damn 2 Bus

Where They Ripped The Pioneer Heart

Out Of Our Fair City

Divided We Ain’t, Y’all

Summer-Winter-Spring-Fall

We All Do, Hear-I

Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

And A Revolution

Watch Wheels Spin Round

I Skyscrape Devotion

Center Of Town