Monday, June 20, 2005

Our Departure from GTO

number forty-two

This is the last in a nine-part series detailing our first big Mexican vacation. This installment is about our return home from Guanajuato. 1,144 words.

[NL]—On Friday, when Sunshine ventured to the ticket agent just down from the Jardin de la Union to book our passage back to Monterrey, they had kind of laughed when she asked if the bus might be crowded. Apparently, there are not that many tourists heading from Guanajuato to Monterrey like we were doing. I suspect there are just not that many tourists heading to Monterrey from any point of departure. The ticket woman’s attitude about this was borne out when we boarded the bus: there were about four other people on it. Mexican bus travel can be pretty posh, the seats are plush and large, with plenty of foot room. The busses are dark and cool, and every window has a shade and a curtain. The busses are the large, touring variety, used by film crews and rock stars. They often have double-paned tinted glass and TV screens that automatically descend from the roof when it is time for the movie. Some even serve meals. The lack of other people on the bus makes the travel even more comfortable. The bus stays darker and cooler with only one or two of the curtains open.

Our last day in Guanajuato had been eventful. We had run around purchasing all of the things that we had seen window shopping throughout the week. We were up and checked out of the hotel by noon, leaving our stuff in the office to be picked up on the way out of town later in the evening. Our shopping took us on a last whirlwind tour of the town: to the mercado for T-shirts and a carry-on bag for the bus; to Dulcería la Catrina for candy (but more for the hand-painted gift boxes), and to various plazas and things for little knickknacks and postcards. While wandering, we swung by the weird taxidermy museum again today, with a camera; but the very same ticket guy was guarding the doorway and I felt that it would be obvious that we were smuggling in recording equipment if we returned so soon. I think that it might have been okay if my intentions were pure, but since I mostly wanted photos to prove the joint’s dubiousness, paranoia won out. It might be my imagination; but he eyed us suspiciously as we walked on by, whistling nonchalantly.

On up the hill, and back down again, and up the next, we paused to rest for awhile at the Alhondiga, were we were treated to a Volkswagen Bug show on the structure’s nearly two hundred year old plaza courtyard. México is a world leader in Volkswagen production, and manufactured the old style of Beetle until 2003 (ending a fifty-eight year production run in Puebla, México). The streets of México are infested with these cars, and it is neat to see slick, modern trappings, like well-designed interiors, decorating a design that has been produced with very few external changes since before World War II. I had thought these cool, old cars had been abandoned with the production of the New Beetle in 1998. The car show was nifty. There were other types of Volkswagens included, Cabrios and Things, but the old style Beetles, souped-up, lowered, converted, and painted in an array of colors and patterns, were really the star of the show.

Next, we took a cable car up the side of the mountain to the three-story statue of Pípila that looks over the town. Sunshine went to watch a beautifully tacky “oral” history of Guanajuato performed by animatronic dummies, and I occupied myself taking pictures from the feet of the statue itself. This overlook is another fifty feet higher than the second floor of the wonderful Italian restaurant that we had eaten at previously, and had pretty much the same view. Guanajuato is interesting looking because the whole town, as scattershot and juxtaposed as it may be, is contained in such a small place. It was easy to stand up there with this giant stone hero of the revolution and trace the last few days with my finger along the vista.

When we ran out of things to do, we killed some time in the Santo Café, then picked up our belongings. The hotel guy helped us out by flagging down a cab. I do not know why it is that I always have the feeling I need to get to the bus station so early; but I do, so we killed the last few hours before the mostly-empty bus arrived camped out there.

The ride was overnight, stretched to eleven hours, and turned out to be pretty eventful. Not only did we stop every now and then, all night long, to pick up the dozens and dozens of people waiting at gas stations, abandoned parking lots, and every little town along the moonlit way; but we were treated to a screening of Tony Scott’s terrible Man on Fire and accosted by people chucking cinder blocks off an overpass at us. The movie, basically demonizing México City and the corrupt asphalt hell of the developing world, comes early on my list of worst films of all time. But on the bus from Guanajuato it was absolutely mortifying (although, to be fair, the Mexicans on the bus didn’t seem to mind). The cinder block assault happened fast and was over, though the bus driver had to stop to shake all of the glass out of his clothes. This is when I learned all about the double glass panes in commercial busses, as the outer layer was shattered in many places down the left side of the bus, but the inner layer was only crisscrossed, here and there, by long cracks. After the noise and the swerving it took a little while for the news to filter from person to person to our row in the now mostly full bus, and by then the incident was far behind us. Far from being worrisome, it was kind of exciting and it provided a needed break from the embarrassing movie. Throughout the night, after the movie when the bus was pitch dark between stops, the occasional sound of glass falling out and swirling away on the highway behind us kept me awake.

We pulled into the Monterrey bus station in the pissing rain with a full load, still shedding glass here and there when the driver turned particularly tightly. After eleven hours I was more than ready to get the hell off that bus. From the outside, it looked like we had survived a war zone like Tony Scott’s México; come limping out of that asphalt hell in our smoking and busted-up tour bus. The driver said a couple of things to me while I was inspecting the damage, but he was speaking Spanish, of course, and I didn’t follow most of it.

And so concludes this Mexicn vacation.

Photo Illustration © the Author

Quiet Reading Room

This is a quiet reading room. Often, I find it is uncomfortable to digest long tubes of columned text directly off a computer screen. This journal is dedicated to the collection, percolation, and ultimate integration of my personal experiences. Subjects that I want to examine and then talk about--sometimes talk a lot about--€”are presented here. This central content can tend to thousands of words, maybe millions. I was afraid that readers were leaving the presentation boggled, spinning, googly-eyed. Or perhaps when confronted with twenty-four inches, or yards, of monitor sprawl they were just giving up. I am not even certain that I have necessarily solved this inevitable content problem of modern information enjoyment, but here is what I have done.

After long and highly scientific routines manipulating double-blind control- and test-subjects, peer reviewed journal publications, and hours and hours of hands-on experimentation, I have crafted this quiet reading room. There is no scientific way to control the length of the articles I write, but careful handling can somewhat soothe the contextual presentation. In other words: I have dropped the traditional speculation about lexicon, and attacked the question of the matrix itself instead. Brilliant. After years of diligence what I eventually crafted is this reading room.

The walls are contoured to relax instead of constrain; the paper is made to soften instead of reflect. The light is dimmed--just so--€”to prevent strain, angled to prevent umbra, and color-coded to soften harsh red lights and deepen wimpy light reds. There is nothing I can do to control aural environment, but my recommendation is that it should be kept quiet. About ambient sound: these entries are probably best read as far as possible from emergency vehicles, preferably from beneath the muffler of a vintage fire fighter pilot's scarf, puffy old duvet, or snow that is still falling.

My theory is that the wide web world is filled with potent and material opportunities that are just too difficult to digest for many people to take part. Enjoyment of this stuff is regulated to the routines of crawlers and robots at the peril of humankind's peaceful future survival. In an attempt to delay this likely outcome: welcome to this quiet reading room. It is for people like you to relax, kick back, and hate my content for better reasons than the dizzying vertiginous specter of its lousy dpi presentation.

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