Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

sábado, junio 24, 2006

Disappearing In Mexico

Ambrose Bierce
Today, I'm informed by The Writers' Almanac, is the birthday of Ambrose Bierce. In December, 1913, Bierce, who was then in his 70's, crossed the boarder into Mexico at El Paso. In Juarez, he joined the army of Pancho Villa and participated in the battle of Tierra Blanca. He stayed with Villa's army at least until it reached Chihuahua. After sending a last letter to a friend on December 26, 1913, he vanished without a trace. Investigations to ascertain his fate were fruitless and, despite many decades of speculation, his disappearance remains a mystery.

In one of his last letters, Bierce wrote:

"Good-by — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico — ah, that is euthanasia".

Carlos Fuentes
Which brings us to Carlos Fuentes' novel, The Old Gringo. Fuentes was deeply influenced by Bierce and the novel is his speculation on Bierce's travels in pursuit of his death in Mexico. It is a great read and has a lovely twist. I highly recommend it.

And then we have the more familiar matter of my repeatedly being "a Gringo in Mexico." In the past century it has obviously changed. It's not Pancho Villa's army now, nor shooting Felipe Carrillo Puerto against a wall. No. Far from it.

I had the pleasure a few weeks ago on a Sunday morning at 10 am to be one of 400 people in Champions, a sports bar in Cancun, to watch Mexico play its first Wold Cup game. What a remarkable event! Even though it was Cancun, I was clearly the only Gringo. No speaking English at this event. Extremely loud music blasting, people drinking beer after beer, chanting and cheering even before the kickoff. After the game started the excitement and noise crescendoed. A huge amount of beer and food. When Mexico scored the first goal of the game, the din and celebration was deafening. Then Iran (whom I love to see lose) scored to tie the game. There was only a brief silence. Thank goodness. Mexico rallied the the second period to score twice more. People were still there late, late in the afternoon watching other, irrelevent games.

Watching the Mexico-Argentina game this afternoon at home in New York (3 pm ET on ESPN HD) just cannot compare.

lunes, junio 05, 2006

Federico Garcia Lorca's Birthday

From today's The Writer's Almanac:
It's the birthday of the poet Federico García Lorca, (books by this author), born in Granada, Spain (1898). In 1928 he published a book of poems based on gypsy folklore called The Gypsy Ballads. It made him Spain's most popular living poet. His poems appealed both to the literary critics and the common people, and many of them were set to music. García Lorca once heard a prostitute singing a song in the street, and he was shocked to realize that he had written the lyrics she was singing. In 1998, on the hundredth anniversary of his birth, the Spanish government flew a helicopter over García Lorca's home city of Granada and dropped 100,000 leaflets of his poetry.

Keillor doesn't remind us that Lorca was assassinated in August, 1936 near Granada by Nationalists. And that nobody knows where his body lays. But you remember.

jueves, junio 01, 2006

Who's The Fairest

It's 6:10 am. Raining. The yard's purple with fog. Rivulets descend on the window. Turning on the bathroom light makes him squint. And after all the halos and auras disappear, he can see a face in the mirror. It's just his face, but it brings a tsunami of judgments and analyses. And a whirlwind of chatter. The usual. He doesn't want to look at it. He breathes deeply and audibly and forcefully. The face is still there, breathing, and it seems to him to be remarkably like his grandfather's.

He's not at all sure what parts of his face used to belong to his grandfather. The broad forehead seems familiar, and the hook of the nose. Maybe the thinning grey hair. Or it is something else: an expression of early morning sadness, perhaps regret, being partially defeated upon awakening, wondering whether the Book of Job has some relevance to today's events. He looks at this hand-me-down face from his grandfather. It doesn't fit properly. It'll never be really his. He wonders what he has to do to get his own face.

These questions might very soon be forgotten. But in mid morning and two hours from home, now wearing a suit, he pauses in an office building bathroom to wash his hands. He likes the expensive Italian hardware and marble. He likes the designer bathroom lighting. He looks at himself in the smoked glass mirror. And he's mildly surprised to see that he's no longer wearing his maternal grandfather's visage. No. Now he's wearing his father's. This is what sometimes happens. The face he's wearing gets exchanged for another familiar one. He stares at the eyes, and the way his jaw round, and the shape of his ears. Is it his weight that makes this resemblance? Is it some timidity or fear or passivity in the corners of his mouth? "It's not much better," he says out loud. It echoes.