Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Guadalajara, week two

Saturday 9/1, 3:30 am
Baby fires warning shots across the bow. All our clothes are wet. There's no way we can be going anywhere until tomorrow afternoon. Also, we have no toilet paper.

Friday afternoon, 8/31
Parque Agua Azul, full of young women getting their photos taken in wedding dresses and brilliantly colored quinceañera gowns. One woman emerges from the mariposarium in acid green, her dark hair pinned in elaborate curls. Some of the Monarchs have escaped from their mesh dome and try to find their way back inside. Others cling to the sky, perhaps driven by some ancient urge toward Michoacan, far from the deafening noise of the buses and the crush of rush hour.

We have seen an inordinate number of large disembodied heads in Mexico.

We arrived at the Casa de Artesania, a government-run store/museum intended to showcase the best of the national arts of Mexico, to find the whole place mysteriously being packed up. It turned out they are moving everything to Monterrey for awhile. We still felt confused. The workers kept looking at us, but no one asked us to leave.

We thought this wall art, found in Adam's mom's hotel room, was an isolated incident.

But it's not!

On the way back from the park, a custom garage with a hot pink Bentley limo and unidentified street racer.

We're about to see two kind of depressing movies that have no plot. (My tastes in film seem to have grown very plebeian.) Near the theater bathroom is a poster for "Super-Size Me." In Spanish it's called "Super-Engordame."

Thursday, 8/30, 10:15 pm
After watching Antonioni’s Deserto Rosso—set in some industrial part of Italy with heavy shipping, disease, and dissonant “techno” music—I need a coherent narrative. We’re walking down Lopez Cotilla and see Churros La Bombilla. I think I remember that churros are long, ridged donuts, a sort of Mexican beignet, in other words sweet and deep fried. We order from the board: Cuatro con chocolate. The man behind the counter clips the ends off the churros with a big pair of scissors. The chocolate comes in a white coffee cup, thickened with corn starch, like hot pudding. I watch the only other customers stir their cups of chocolate with churros, then alternate between chocolate and thimbles of caramel. Una orden más. We sit there suddenly remembering things that happened a long time ago, like our high school Latin teacher bringing a pomegranate to class, its translucent red seeds glowing under the fluorescent lights. I imagine her searching Rochester, New York, for a pomegranate, her long gray hair folded into an untidy bun, her shapeless dress swinging as she walks through the parking lot of the big new grocery store. I remember what happens after that, and after that. Moments that were awkward and painful and filled with pleasure, now perfect because they are known. I have survived them.

Wednesday, 8/29, two years after the hurricane

The year I got my PhD and moved to Michigan, the annual MLA convention took place in New Orleans. I went back, got through my interviews, then met my friend Brandy for brunch at the Palace Cafe on Canal Street. It must have been a Sunday and a four-piece band was making its way around the room. When it finally reached our table, the trumpet player asked if we had any requests. Brandy came up with that old Louis Armstrong tune. Listening to it, I found my throat swelling uncomfortably—I knew, yes—I knew what it meant. And it was such a cliché. And so inarguably real.

That summer I drove late at night over the Industrial Canal to the Winn-Dixie or Sav-A-Center in Chalmette to wander the aisles. I bought ice cream or a bottle of wine. One night we went out to the Home Depot on Judge Perez and saw a sign saying, "Stock up on your hurricane supplies here!" We hadn’t heard about any hurricane.

I had been working all day, writing about Storyville. One of the few buildings from that time that’s left is Lulu White’s saloon. I wanted to say which corner it was on—Basin and, I couldn’t remember, though I’d passed it over and over. The landscape might soon be washed clean of that intersection, the truth obscured from me forever. I went out into the electric stillness. Streetlights lit the silent Desire projects and one young man, his shoulders hunched, walking toward the empty places between the brick walls.

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