Magical Mexico

(Photo by: Jami Buck-Vance)

ATTN: A full-length book collection of travel writing by Han Vance is to be published in 2018.

Magical Mexico – originally for hanvance.com

A day removed from a pit of Mexican fire in my stomach, which burned bright with tequila and salt, I comfortably reflect on Zona Polanco in the Federal District of Mexico, DF, for short. Think of our DC, meets NYC.

Polanco, in effect the Beverly Hills of Mexico, from Burberry to Gucci to my favorite, the eclectic Common People 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 red background of worsening 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 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 finest shopping, the restaurants where I found so many friendly tables.

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

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

Fitting that I’d just bought a souvenir folk art miniature Mexican cantina in Cuernavaca, I thought later, as we explored the nightlife in Mexico City, with somewhat mixed results. Our credit card stopped working and required a phone call to rev back up at what could have been an inopportune moment, and the tequila eventually hit me too hard.

Before all 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. 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 below the border, a shrine to all that is good about Mexico, and there really is so much.

The smell of steaming tamales removed from foil and banana leaves, for breakfast. The memories flood through me, of Texas relatives whom loved the culture. The feel of being seated outside under a temperate sky and consuming cold Mexican beer with 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, pink, hot pink, red, 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 state of Morelos, which filled the largest walls in the main public building in Cuernavaca’s downtown.

To-and-fro Cuernavaca, we traveled by luxury bus, from the airport in DF, where we shared our first Mexican meal, a delicious bistec torta (steak sandwich). The city is mammoth from the air and feels enormous while navigated by auto. 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 nation of Mexico. Coming into Cuernavaca, we felt the energy rise again. And life did pulse there, with the same Mexican fire that we felt of the biggest city in the world, 100 years after the revolution, 200 years after declaring independence from Spain.

Students flock to Cuernavaca to study Spanish; while Capitalinos (as residents of DF are known) retreat the short distance to Cuernavaca for cleaner air and relative calm. Mariachi players wait near the Zocalo in full uniform ready to be rented to play. And a raucous mid-day 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.

The silver town of Taxco that we visited on a day trip was 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 restaurant/hotel.

Our last night in Cuernavaca, fireworks bombastically filled the sky from the club next door, as we finished with fine dining in a gorgeous open-air restaurant. The Mexican night air felt so perfect to us, under the candle and lamplight. And we anticipated the frenetic energy of the megalopolis of DF, which was again on our agenda.

Back inside the mansion that night, we settled in to fall asleep and then were at one point 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 as they exited our view, the magic of Mexico plainly evident to us.

Volcano (Park) – from “Hawaii triptych”

Volcano (Park) (C) 2010:

A:

Almost canyon-like,

the great crater we

walked through under a blazing

Hawaiian sun, after the rain

forest. After  the volcano, another

stretch of rainforest, a lava

tube. Songbirds don’t live in resort

areas or near cities, and

neither have we – we – have been

Holualoa-Inn and the lodge named

for the volcano, in the

Village of Volcano.

And the jacuzzi

is set to

104

(Photo by: Han Vance)

B:

Next up is old downtown

Hilo, more dark sand. On the

drive to Volcano, from

Holualoa, we stopped at the

black sand beach & a few

observation points: Hawaii

is everything. Big. Life.

When I see a color, that

color tends to be vivid; when

I taste a fruit, that fruit

tends to be succulent and

sweet. And the fish is good,

the people are very good and

my travel companion is great

Happily Floating In Big Blue America,

Han

Play it forward

Today is National Pay it Forward Day. So, I helped a temporarily homeless new friend with an application this morning before heading to the park for a shoot-around. I have hoops fever and am back to my old hard-court and gym rat ways, suddenly. Game last night netted a loss to the 6-time defending league champions and a reality check in terms of the team length required to compete in competitive basketball. My box score was this as 6th man and player/coach: 3 of 7 shooting, 2 of 3 on free throw attempts, 8 points, 3 hard fouls, 2 steals, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. I could have played better, of course, but if you extrapolate that out to a full game where the clock actually stops, I’d have had some seriously awesome stats. I actually shot a bit worse than that looks, but I was fouled on 2 of my shots (1 of which I converted into a sweet 3-point play). When you’re fouled on a shot it doesn’t count as an attempt. First time I’ve played in a league in 7 years.

I slightly sprained my ankle before the game while practicing a running behind the back pass. Notes to self: showboating is bad. Sportsmanship and the sporting life are good. Speaking of that: I saw the great poet Jon B. Goode today. Ever since UGA had a good season and made the NCAA Tourney and I went to the Hawks playoff win with my lady, I’ve been on geek for playing ball, and then my season finally started. I wanted to play again today, so I backpacked and biked it over to the park and shot a few, a few like hundred jumpers, free throws, hook shots.

I was set to leave and then decided to clean all the trash from the park. As I did, a car rolled up full of some of the top poets in the ATL – making them some of the top American poets, period. Jon and Xpj and Tommy Bottoms from the hot scene at Urban Grind and then some other good folks I believed I was meeting for the first time. I may have met that gorgeous Tasha before, or just wished I had. Anyway, Jon is getting married. I’m getting married. Life is moving forward. Pay it forward today, y’all.

The 4 types of elopement

(Photo by: Han Vance, Hotel Oceana)

We each came to understand that we wanted to be together forever, well before we dared to utter. Then we did, eventually, and it was just letting the truth out more than it was any sort of a revelation. And considering I was still in rewrite and final edit of my Cali travel adventure memoir at the time, we – I – postponed. It was untoward to move forward while clinging back like I was. And a memoir is nothing if not a cling back, especially when one of the strong themes of said memoir is divorce.

Speaking of divorce, she’d been through it, too. More recently, so her wounds were fresher. Mine were deeper, as I’d made grave mistakes last time around and though we all fall – I’d really fallen and failed. And I have two children; she has none.

Of note: we were married in the same facility in Atlanta, just not to the final spouse. This is final. This is real. This is forever. Forever – ever…

Her mom’s in poor health and shouldn’t travel. We’ve both done the whole big wedding thing before. We both know everybody and would have to offend or invite everybody. So, elopement was an obvious choice.

We traveled to Augusta and being a Southern gentleman I asked her dad, the Colonel’s permission, and he gave consent.

Dreaming of getting married in a beautiful out of country location like on a beach in Mexico or in the rainforest in Vancouver. Means legally nothing in the United States of America. You have to do it again, and we are trying not to do too much. So, USA.

The Texas hill country spawned me and is one of the least known-for-its-beauty, breathtakingly beautiful spots in America. It’s far enough – Charleston is not, Rosemary Beach is not – but Austin is not a beach. Hawaii is something we did last year to great expense and exhausted elation; we want a relaxation vacation. Since I’ve traveled Cali extensively, Jami said pick a place that’s not LA yet in Cali, maybe. So, Santa Barbara, the American Riviera.

And the Spanish-tiled Santa Barbara County Courthouse is noted as the prettiest government building in America. So, there.

This is a planned elopement. Dinner at Bouchon. Hotel on the beach. The dress. The rings. Thoughtful this and that. And here I’d like to mention my guys at JFL Corp. in Atlanta’s Apparel Mart. I’ve bought suits from Jerry and his dad for over 15 years now, and I recommend you fellas do the same. Selection, prompt onsite tailoring, and the unrivaled eye of Jerry Junior are reason enough to go. There prices are unbeatable, too. By appointment only: (404) 523-2498 or 1 (800) 767-2498, www.jflcorp.com. My new suit is midnight blue and totally crushin’ it. My tie and shirt are a gorgeous, regal lavender, and Jerry picked that out too.

Anyway, I came to realize there are four types of elopement:

1. Planned Elopement – as detailed above

2. Secret Elopement – hiding out from family, friends, ex-spouses, maybe the IRS

3. Emergency Elopement – bump of a bun in the oven and her dad has a big shotgun

4. Spontaneous Elopement – VEGAS, baby, VEGAS

Hamlet in the hills

Craggy Pinnacled

Catawba Rhododendrons

Butterfly Bushed

Blue Ridge Blends

Smoky Mountain-Topped

In Great Green

And Blue That Is

Mountains ‘Round Here

Down Here, Deep – The Ville

Deep South – North Carolina

Hamlet In The Hills

20 great things about The South:

1.Southern Girls (and other friendly folks)

2.ATL’s ROCKET SHIP Architecture

3.College Football, y’all

4.N’awlins’ Food

5.Charleston Flavor

6.”30 A” Beaches of the Florida Panhandle – especially Rosemary Beach

7.The Smoky Mountains in autumn

8.Sweet Tea, Grits, Biscuits, BBQ

9.America’s Teams: (the Dallas Cowboys and the Atlanta Braves)

10.Southern Literary Tradition: William Faulkner, Tom Wolfe, Gone with the Wind, the Decatur Book Festival, Grisham, urban ATL poetry scene, me

11.ELVIS (Memphis, Tupelo)

12.The BeltLine (Atlanta)

13.ATL and Athens Music Scenes – from Outkast to Mastodon to Rhianna to REM to SVA to Of Montreal to the B-52s, from the Tabernacle to Chastain to the 40watt club to TI to Music Hates You, from Pylon to Black Lips to “Superman those hos.”

14.Twilight Criterium (Athens)

15.Lowtide at Tybee Island (GA)

16.The Live Music Capital of the World  (Keep Austin Weird)

17.Mommas

18.Vulcan (Birmingham)

19.Deepdene Park -of the Olmstead Linear Parks (Atlanta)

20.Taco Stand (Athens)

A flower for my father’s grave

I See Him (C) 2009 HV:

In that hospice room

Preparing for heaven

With slow familial good-byes

To the last woman he ever loved

To his progeny: children and grandchildren

An ex-wife and old friend whom had mothered his kids

I still see his frail body as he slept below me

I prayed over him, read scripture over him

Found solace in the face he had given me

That face I’d seen for so many years

Gaunt and too fair, yet oh so him

He rested in peace and awakened blissful

Unabashed, unshackled in joy

He smiled at his boy

First with those heart-piercing eyes

Then the silver-tongued mouth

He’d taught me so much

Told me no lies

He prepared to die

He’d even chosen his path

Out the window

The sky to Wesley Woods

And the infinite rest

Fair father, you were the best

Best dad I ever had

All misgivings forgiven

So I openly asked you

How do you like those woods?

Gorgeous said you, old man

Simply gorgeous, son

Transcendent Funk

Thinking about the transcendent nature of art a lot lately. I contemplate the re-write of my manuscript-that-will-be-masterpiece novel while in the friendly skies; I stare at an otherworldly sculpture garden in the swelter of Mid-City New Orleans; I trip on the surrealistic paintings of Matthew Peck in his gallery in the French Quarter; I marvel at rocket ships of ATL architecture from a rooftop in the sky. And my hips sway to the sounds when I hear them.

My sexy girlfriend danced in front of me. We’d had a bit of a bad day before ENTROPY took to the stage at the 420fest in Candler Park of Atlanta. This was before the flight, before New Orleans. It was a spring festival in the capital of the south – nothing new to me about that. Heck, it was our second festival in two days. It was a writer’s work day, and I was not in the mood. My sublease had suddenly dissolved, and I was stuck in a financial muck causing me to question.

Then frontman Rod had a suggestion: Dance your troubles away. ENTROPY is black and white and modern and classic. They represent the funk in America now. And we still want the funk.

Rod fired us up, shook us from our winter slumber. And then Slappy took over – he as charismatic a guitar instigator as exists. And the stage was full with up to ten total people at a time…all with one cause: To get you out of your funk. And suddenly we were drunk on the sounds, the excitement. It worked, man, it works.

Rob Robinson is more pounding drum machine than human being. Steve Boyd from Parliament joined to add an undeniable credibility. Rod’s daughter did not let being on crutches stop her from making the show a family affair.

And we were one again. My girl and I moved together to the beat. The crowd moved together to the beat. One nation under a groove.

There Was No-L

There Was No-L

She Was Gone

As Quickly As I Made Her Up

No-L, I Called Out

She Turned Her Head

You Want To Go Downtown?

Yeah, I Need Cigarettes

You’re Heading The Wrong Way

Delicious Arm Candy

Setting The Bar So High

For Future Friends

Gorgeous Is Major Understatement

Tanned, Curved, Freckled

Tall, Cheeky, Soul-Eyed

And I Tried

To Imagine

Forever

I Wanted To Keep Her

This Horror Writer

Educated On The Catwalks

Of The World Capital

From The Middle Of America

To Me

Currently listening :
The Smiths

No Marr Drama

SO, LAST NIGHT HAD TO BE THE CRAZIEST FRIDAY NIGHT EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE SUBURBS. FIRST, I ATE MUSHROOMS. NO, NOT THOSE ‘SHROOMS – PORTOBELLO WITH SPINACH AND CHEESE. THEN I SMOKED ME SOME MINI CIGARS UNTIL MY THROAT HURT AND I WAS DIZZY. THEN, I WAS REPEATED TO THE INSTRUCTIONS FOR PROPER HOUSESITTING WHILE THE FOLKS ARE AWAY AT HILTON HEAD. THEN, I SAW MY SISTER’S NEW THRIFT STORE CLOTHES. THEN, I WATCHED A THE SMITHS CONCERT FROM 1984 IN GERMANY. MORRISSEY DANCES WITH HIS ARM OVER HIS FACE AND SIDEWAYS LEG KICKS UNTIL HE NEARLY TOPPLES, ALL ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY POUNDS OF HIM. ANY GOOD SMITHS’ SONG HAS AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF HIM WHINING IN SOUND RATHER THAN WORD, AND THEY HAVE NO BAD SONGS. SIS HEARD HIS WHIMPER AND VENTURED AWAY FROM PACKING TO JOIN ME IN MOM’S LIVING ROOM. IN 1984, THEY DID NOT HAVE ENOUGH MATERIAL FOR THREE ENCORES, SO THEY PLAYED MANY OF THE SAME (GREAT) SONGS TWICE. THE GERMANS CLAPPED. JOHNNY MARR IS THE GREATEST RYTHM GUITAR PLAYER OF ALL-TIME, BUILDING A SUBTLE WALL OF SOUND THAT WOULD STAND TO BE NOTICED IN ANY BAND WITHOUT THE DRAMA QUEEN AS FRONTMAN…AND OH WHAT A QUEEN HE IS. GREAT HAIR AND WORDS AND THAT VOICE. PLUS, HE HAD FLOWERS IN HIS POCKET. IN POETIC TERMS, THE QUEEN IS DEAD. BUT SHOEGAZING SHALL HALF-LIVE ON IN ETERNITY, I CRY. I LOVED IT WAY TOO MUCH. THEN, I HAD A BEER WITH A NEIGHBOR AND WENT HOME TO MY ART LAIR AND WENT TO SLEEP…ALONE… I WAS NOT HAPPY AND I WAS NOT SAD. AND THE SUMMER NIGHT: CRAZY I TELL YA.