I am sitting at Carlos' kitchen table waiting for my damn hangover to kick in and for Carmen to finish cooking me breakfast - the smells are simply mouthwatering. I begged her to let me cook but she would hear none of it. Literally five seconds after I left my bedroom she put a glass of tejuino in my hand, the drink of maiz and lime which is renowned for being the perfect hangover cure. If I had stumbled into my own Mother's house at 4:30 in the morning she would be laughing at me when I awoke, but my surrogate Mexican mother had prepared extensively para mi crudo. Sorry Mom, but you have serious competition here.
The days just keep getting better - Carlos took me to Tlaquepaque, another suburb of Guadalajara, which contains some of the most intriguing art I have ever seen. The downtown area is small, but packed with a multitude of gawking tourists since it is probably the most beautiful area in all of Guadalajara. Many artisans have galleries here and I was impressed with one in particular, Sergio Bustamante. He works in different mediums, from painting with pastels to bronze sculpting - but what impressed me the most was his creations in papier mache. The colors are so vibrant that you would think these weird creatures are just going to spring to life. While I'm sure his art is quite pricey by Mexican standards - I couldn't help but think that these same works would be five times as much in New York or Los Angeles.
After wandering around the plaza we ended up on the outskirts of town and found a place with batting cages which is apparently the only in Guadalajara. They had the baseball playoffs on T.V. and I got to watch the Yankees lose horribly to the Tigers while amongst numerous Yankee fans. Could it get any better? You bet. For 75 pesos, roughly seven dollars in total, we each got a beer and five turns in the cage. I think that because I am American many of the spectators figured I would have some sort of natural talent when it comes to baseball. Well, they would were wrong. During the course of one round of pitches I proved with much wackiness why it is quite important not to stereotype the entire population of another country. After all this exertion a siesta was called - since I needed all of my energy for the big fiesta. A group of people Carlos met on the Internet were having a party at an apartment in the center of the city. It ended up being a really good time.
While I am not going to go into details about all the debauchery that went on, I can say that I met some fantastic people. The majority were French, but there were several Germans, a Canadian, a few Chileans and of course a lot of Tapatios, the nickname for people from Guadalajara. I had an enormous breakthrough with my Spanish and I'm pretty sure that I have the Mexican beer to thank for that. And I'm not talking about just being a drunken idiot and thinking that I spoke well, I truly lost all of my inhibitions and natural fear of making mistakes and just let the words flow out. I really do know the language but sometimes my brain forgets that fact. Anyway, I was very happy with myself and I learned several important lessons: first off, there is basically nothing that beer can't improve upon, and second, I need to maintain the same attitude when I am sober, god forbid if that ever happens, and just speak the language without trepidation.
The diversity of the guests at the party was just fantastic. I met people from so many walks of life. Santos is a clothing designer from Mexico but his designs mostly go to a company in Brazil. Helmet, a German guy, spent a year in Rio Gallegos, a small town in the far South of Argentina. This place is in the middle of nowhere, smack dab in the heart of Patagonia. I can't imagine what it was like to spend a winter there but he loved it. Being a big fan of Argentina myself we had a lot to talk about. Brian is an American from L.A. who has decided to more or less drop his career as a lawyer and set up shop here in Guadalajara teaching English, a decision that I can certainly respect.
Lord, there was no end to the string of fascinating people I met. But I did have a favorite. Alejandro, a guy my age that was born and raised in Mexico City, spent a year at a boarding school when he was seventeen-years-old in the smallest town imaginable in the middle of Arkansas. He has no idea how he ended up in Arkansas, but since he did indeed live there and had nothing better to do he became obsessed with watching movies. I have only met two other cinefiles in my life and needless to say I didn't expect the third to be a Mexican, but he was indeed and we spent many drunken hours discussing the finer points of Fritz Lang's and Martin Scorssese's careers, amongst other things of lesser importance.
And now here I am, sitting in a kitchen in Tonala, feeling more brown than white, and thanking whatever powers that exist that I found Carlos. I am going to have an easy day tomorrow and will write more about him and his family, but I will say right now that the few days I have spent with him as my guide have been some of the best I have had in Latin America. He is a tremendous person, from a family that clearly taught him values that matter. Viva La Familia Felix.