Saturday, May 25, 2013

Mexico 1987, Part 2: Train I Ride

Oct 20
Zacatecas, MEX
So, here we all are, train wrecked, chatting with each other as people do in these situations, when they're stranded together. We left Juarez yesterday evening; I was put in a Pullman car with two young women traveling together, one older woman with a little baby boy who never uttered a sound, only smiles, and one woman alone, and right away the women started gabbing. I couldn't understand everything, just a word here or there, and one of the women, the older one traveling alone, spoke a little English, so I felt included, not that I particularly cared one way or the other - I had thought I was getting a private car. We rattled and snaked through the night; I didn't sleep too well because the temp dropped considerably and I didn't have enough clothes on. This morning they were up and talking by 8:00 at least, so I didn't stay in bed as long as I wanted. We had a fairly long stop around 9:00, and I met a Danish boy - 21 years old, antsy and cynical - with clear blue eyes and a taught body. We got to talking, waiting for the train to leave. His name is Loren, I think.

We stood and talked for a while outside, at the back of the train after it took off, then I went to study the Berlitz Spanish phrase book he loaned me and promptly fell asleep. I woke up to a guy selling soft drinks, beer and water, and I bought a water. A little later, I went to stand between our car - the last car - and the penultimate one. Standing outside like that is kinda like being on the back of a motor cycle, except you can't see where you're going. And if you stick your face out the side you risk dust in your eyes or sewage splashing your face from people flushing their toilets on the tracks. I counted the cars - 10 with the engine - as the mounds of bushes and cactus with dark red bulbs slid by. I was thinking about letter writing, which is near impossible while the train is moving, and about my mother, and thinking I might go get Loren to walk up to the engine car or see if we could get that far, when I was smashed against the back of the next to last car, the side of my head hitting first, then my entire body. Before I had time to recover, or even realize what was happening, I was slapped against the car again. The noise from the whole thing was enormous - a collision for sure. The wind was nearly knocked out of me and my head was pounding and ringing like a freshly struck bell.

Griselda, the other lone woman - by now my new buddy after breakfast together practicing our respective weak languages together -was standing on the platform on the other side and she, too, got whacked pretty good. We looked at each other in complete shock and confusion. The first question in one's mind is, that didn't just happen to us, did it? She kinda reminds me of my Tia, so I guess I have a special fondness for her. So, we all got out to look. Our train had had a head-on collision with another, longer train and derailed its engine. Our train remained on the track with barely a scratch, but the other one was on its side, with pieces of it strewn beside it.

Loren and I got a few pictures, that was around 6pm, and it's now past 10:30 and we're waiting for another train from Mexico City, sent special to come and rescue us. Griselda and Loren and I went into town and had dinner and watched a couple soap operas that were on the T.V. and peed in their relatively clean toilet. Even with knowledge of the fact, one is still shocked and repulsed by the first look at those gargantuan cockroaches!

Here is an excerpt from a letter to Sweeney's:

The Blue Wonder is holding up, though aging rapidly. It started slowing down by 5 mph every day after Kansas City and I thought it was because, the farther I went, the closer we were to parting company, and the Blue Wonder hates goodbyes. But after the oil change in Phoenix, it perked right up and sped back to an easy 80 mph. The police have managed to ignore us mostly, I guess, because of the illusion of decrepidness we create. One cop did stop me in Kansas, though. I was doin' 75 before he turned his lights on me. Just a routine vehicle inspection, he said, and I ought to have my exhaust checked. He also advised me to wear my seat belt while in Kansas . . .  so the wildish west is just the way it looks on TV: land, lots 'o land, $699.95 per acre, large white clouds, a shrub or tumbleweed here or there, and hundreds of big billboards advertising some roadside attraction for 40 miles! Bowlin's Teepee! Indian Jewelry! Chili Dogs and Milkshakes! Authentic Indian Design! Belgian Rugs! Velvet Mexican Paintings Made in the U.S.! 

I don't know how I resisted, but I rolled right past Bowlin's Teepee and Bowlin's Continental Divide and even Bowlin's Running Indian! It has been a fun and eventful trip thus far, and I am pleased to find that I'm not such bad company after all. I miss you all very much. The Twin's game last night almost made me cry from homesickness, so I didn't watch the whole thing . . . m73.

I sold the Blue Wonder in El Paso for $125 to a nice man named Tony of Jet Autos. I thought it would be a sad moment, but didn't even look back. I hope the Blue Spirit doesn't come back to haunt me.

[What I didn't include was that Tony not only bought the car, he let me sleep on his couch and he and his wife drove me to the train station the next morning] 

Oct 21
Just so you know what happened (I have to tell the story quickly because the train is starting to pull out and then I won't be able to write from all that juggling!). A train was sent. It arrived at about a quarter to 3:00 and we were back moving by 4am. I dreamed that Dudley Moore was staying at our place (restaurant? hotel?) and I was going to ask him to dinner. A couple of big dogs of ours started figuring out how to walk through closed doors, but needed to learn to take less of themselves with them because I had to open the last of three doors for them.

I'm in the Hotel La Marina, downtown Mexico City, with the built-in radio on. My feet are filthy from walking around the train. I spoke with my Tia's friends here. They are quite nice and I'm having lunch with them tomorrow. That pack of mine is pretty heavy and there's nothing but clothes in it! I hope I didn't make an unwise choice and buy a pack that's too heavy to start with. Too late to worry about that now, I guess.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Mexico 1987, Part 1: Mexico or Bust

[In the fall of 1987, I hit the road in St. Paul, driving to El Paso in my rusty, turquoise Honda Accord that farted black smoke when I started it each morning. Nobody thought the car would make it, but I had faith. From there I would board a train for Mexico City. I was 27. These are entries from my journal.]

Oct 9
Kansas city, MO.
I left Omaha this morning, after having spent 2 fun-filled days with Chris and DD. It's great havin' friends with guest rooms and even guest bathrooms! It's the trade-off for not traveling, tho! You live in comfort and work hard and stay in one place, or you travel and live in shit holes. But I'm gonna have both, eventually. I got invited by Pam Am to go train to be a flight attendant. I leave around Jan 4 for Miami, training through Feb 11. Then they decide on a base city - London, LA, SF, Wash D.C., New York or Miami. Yipeee!!

Now I'm watching Magnum in my own room in an antique bed w/ my own bathroom! Life is ruff. Tomorrow I have a very long drive ahead of me. I'd like to get as far as Amarillo, but I might only make it to OKC. I've got to get to Albuquerque by Sunday morning, so I can see the final race, which I'm hoping is a mass ascension (per usual). Please let me arrive on time!

Oct 10
Conway, Texas
Just barely made it in here - wouldn't your know it, just a AAA motel and cheap cafe and gas stations don't open 'till morning. Shit. I was all set to find some great place w/a huge hardwood dance floor and some shit kickin' music! Guess it's just me and the t.v., though. The shit's gonna have to wait.

I got some sort of leak in a gas line to the carburetor and stopped along the way in have it looked at. The guy was real nice and neighborly - he fixed it and about 45 min or so later it was ready to go. I asked how much and he said what did I think was fair. I said I didn't know anything about fixing cars and he'd have to name a price. He was still hedging when he got a customer outside at the gas pump. I could see right then, as he closed the garage door behind me, with me inside, what it was he thought was a fair price. So I took my 5 bucks into the office where the customer was and I said did he think that was fair. He looked at it rather disappointed, asking me if I didn't think it was too much. I said no, and he said if I wasn't in such a hurry we could've figured something else out! I gave him a sidelong glance and got into my car. Next thing I knew there was another cowboy-looking guy along the road hitchhiking. I'd already seen him a couple times before, getting in or out of other cars, so I figured he was safe.

Oct 11
I arrived in ABQ around 12:30 after forcing myself out of bed w/a scotch hangover at 8:00am to make it to the balloon races. The descent into ABQ is incredibly suspenseful. I kept thinking that, any moment, just over the next ridge, Albuquerque would be spread out in the valley below me. But I kept winding around and down until I thought I was gonna burst! I searched the sky for balloons but none appeared. It took a time to find the field once I got down into the city, but as I drove up the last few chase trucks, with their flags flapping, were driving off.! The races were over! I started crying - all that anticipation and excitement had built up so big inside me - and drove off to find a phone. I wanted to cry to someone, but Terri wan't home, the bitch.

As I headed back toward the freeway I saw a van with some bunches of red chili peppers selling on a corner. I pulled over and dried my eyes and walked up to the people. They read my Cucaracha sweatshirt and one of the women said she'd lived in St. Paul for 6 1/2 years! They were warm and friendly to me, and I bought 2 bunches, one for Greg and Merlin and one for my mom. The biggest one is about 3 feet long! They are so beautiful, I hope when I get settled in a house I can send for some, since they gave me their card.

I felt pretty cheered up after that and I set off on the southward interstate, figuring I'd get halfway to Phoenix and then stay somewhere for the night before finishing the trip in the morning. I took a state highway, a thin, crooked, red line on the map, and it took me through the mountains and the plains of St. Augustine. It's sort of alpine up here. I'm stopped now at Springerville, at the Saphire Restaurant. It seems I can't find anything but bad American food!

Last night, after I set down my pencil, a man walked into the cafe, looking for gas. Both of the gas stations in town were closed and he wanted to find the owner. I said I was in the same predicament. He sat down and started chatting with me. His name was Willy and he had a motel in Amarillo and he wasn't about to spend the night in Conway! He had white hair and a face like Robert Culp and a yellow sweater and I thought he was an old queen by his mannerisms. We chatted a little more while one of the locals called the gas station owner that might still be found in town. Willy told me if we could get some gas he'd give me a room in HIS motel. I said that was great 'cause I really wanted to go dancing. He asked if I like country-western and I said "You bet." (my how-to-talk-Minnesotan lessons are paying off)(except that, after Oklahoma, I've developed a bit of a twang). Willy said he knew of a great place called the Caravan where the people could really dance that stuff. The station owner was not be had, so Willy called one of his employees and asked him to fill up a gas can and get his butt over there. We waited in his car getting acquainted for 2 hours and nobody showed! I had to pee so he drove me around to the side of the cafe so I could pee behind the building (It was a biting cold windy night and he didn't want me to have to walk too far).  As I was at it, he spotted someone in the gas station, so when I got back in the car we raced off down the road to plead for gas.We got both our tanks filled and he paid for both!Willy said "follow me!" So off we went at a trot to get to the bar in time for some drinks and dancing.

He was right. The Caravan was exactly what I had in mind. It was just like watching a movie! With the dancers promenading, each to their own steps, around in a circle on the dance floor. Willy and I became good friends in the short evening. It was just my luck that he wasn't a good dancer, but I wasn't really so impressed with any of the other guys, so I didn't mind. He's 54 - I guessed 50, so that made him happy - and living with a 29-year-old for 6 years. We talked about trust and honesty in relationships. He said I was pretty smart for my years. It's a nice compliment. I love to hear it, but I tend to just think people who say that are just not too smart; I sure don't know much.

Now, in this restaurant, all the single guys are looking around at the single girls to see if they're gonna have to really sleep alone tonight or not. The cowboy who ate with his hat on is leaving. I'm afraid to have eye contact with anyone. I'm too tired to talk. I just want to turn on the t.v. and fall asleep. I hope there's something good on.

Oct 12
Phoenix, AZ
This was in a letter I sent to Greg here in Phoenix last Sept 7:

Moving tends to hyper-sensitize me, make me more serious about life quests, progressions, transformations. I question my physical realness. Am I living on a crack between two worlds? Parallel worlds?

It's so good to be here with him, in his environment, his world. It's the first time since we were lovers in Olympia, when he lived in a chicken coop. That was a special domicile, and so is this.Coming into Phoenix on the highway was miserable. It bares a shocking and frightening resemblance to LA, the valley in particular. I brought he and Merlin the huge bunch of red peppers. They love them and they look beautiful hanging in their kitchen. And I gave Greg one of the owl feathers I redeemed from the dead owl on the highway yesterday. I took two, one for myself and one to give to a friend who wanted it. They told me that they had wanted to get a feather from a bird along the highway this weekend, but the driver wouldn't stop. I guess it's because the feather from me was coming. There are 2 or 3 little feathers attached to one of the big ones that I'm going to make into earrings.