I drove down the short alley to the back door entrance of my new studio, as has become customary in a relatively short period of time. My studio neighbors were, as usual, enjoying their whiskey drink and a cordial greeting was exchanged through my intentionally opened driver’s side window. After parking and exiting my car I noticed an older man sitting on the stoop of the tienda that services the neighborhood just across the alley. An opened quart of cheap beer sat at the ready beside him. We exchanged traditional greetings which seemed to encourage him to stand and walk toward me to engage in more in depth conversation. We quickly determined a reasonable combination of broken English and broken Spanish to maintain a conversation. His name was Jose “Freddy” Alfredo. He had recently returned from “the States” where he had worked for 37 years picking various crops in more states than I can recount, including Alaska. He returned to San Miguel because his mother had died, and as he crossed the border going south he was told he could never return to Los Estados Unidos. He had ten years when he left Mexico, and stood before me a 47 year old man. His entire family was deceased. He was friends with the tienda owner and so found comfort there. He lamented the loss of regular, though difficult, work that afforded him a living wage and also allowed him to contribute to a society through labor and a certain degree of consumerism and the inherent taxes. He needed, craved, work of any kind. I told him if anything came up I’d let him know, but that was a lie. There was nothing I could offer him, just as I had nothing to offer the young neighbor man who approached me two days earlier, drunk on whisky with the same request. I gave the “old” man a few pesos, nothing really. He crossed himself, and I noticed his eyes watered.
Well, that was his story, such as it is.
Ya know, you haven’t lived until your wife comes home from walking the dog crying and wincing in pain and softly explaining that she fell and is pretty sure she broke her shoulder so your obvious first reaction is to panic and run down street screaming like a little girl but realize you need to BUCK UP FELLA ‘cause your wife needs you to be calm, intelligent and resourceful and oh my god you can’t be all three of those things at once and then it hits you that you live in Mexico and you don’t know how to dial 911 in español then your wife hands you her phone telling you she pulled up the info for your Mexican health insurance and you think “Wait, what… we have Mexican health insurance! What else do we have that I don’t know about… Mexican car insurance?” then it hits you to message Eréndira your former landlady who is now your good friend because her father and brothers are doctors of note in San Miguel and before you know it Dr. Ricardo is on the phone and how can he sound so calm while telling you that he will meet you at hospital H+ and do you know where it is so you ask your wife because she mentioned recently that she remembers seeing it while you were driving but now she has no idea and this is the woman who remembers how much she paid for ice cream when she was five in Australia but now she can’t remember a big white building and you realize you’re on your own here so you run around the house gathering anything you think you might need like the laptop case you use to store all of the very important Mexican documents and your water bottle and her water bottle and her purse which is quite flattering don’t you know and you feel like Dick van Dyke in that episode where Laura is really pregnant and he’s practicing putting on his hat from the headboard of his bed in order to save time and why do they sleep in separate beds so how did she get pregnant anyway and you kind of chuckle DAMMIT MAN FOCUS AND STOP REMINISCING ABOUT OLD BLACK AND WHITE TV SHOWS so now you’re out the door and she’s moving really slowly walking on the cobblestone street and you want to help but she yells “DON’T TOUCH ME!” so now you’re just kind of hovering around her with your feet apart knees slightly bent and hands outstretched like you’re waiting for someone to start dropping eggs from a third balcony and now she’s in the car you throw the laptop case water bottles and lovely purse in the back seat hop in and realize that there is an awful lot of bumpy pain-inducing cobblestone street between you and H+ and OH MY GOD WHEN THE COBBLESTONES ON OUR STREET BECOME THE SIZE OF BOULDERS you would need a monster truck to get through that but you don’t have a monster truck you have a 2010 VW Tiguan which is a lovely vehicle and has served you well in Mexico and what exactly is a “Tiguan” anyway HEY PULL IT TOGETHER MAN your wife needs you so you’re off and driving very very slowly ‘cause cobblestone is bumpy so you put on your blinkers hoping that other drivers interpret that to mean “Back off amigo my wife’s got a bum arm” and after what seems like hours you are finally driving on smoother road and just one more speed bump and a brief pause at the roundabout and then the car shakes and what the hell was that and your wife says “I think we’ve been rear-ended” and REALLY C’MON JUST ONE THING PER DAY PLEASE so you open the door stick out your leg and look behind you to see two amigos in an old white sedan calmly starring at you and why is everyone so calm today then you look in the rear view mirror and yep the same two guys so you get out walk to the back of the car and now you’re starring at the passenger who is also there now and he’s starring at you and you blurt out “Dónde está el hospital?” and there’s that confused look again like you can’t even say “hospital” in español IT’S SPELLED THE EXACT SAME WAY and so now it’s “Está bien” shake his hand and it’s back in the car and on to the libremiento to gather speed looking for the big white building and there it is and you pull in where it says “Emergencias” and think well I guess this is it so it’s out of the car grab the laptop water bottles and lovely purse from the back seat get your wife but DON’T TOUCH HER and again with the hovering ready for the eggs to drop and here’s an orderly with a wheel chair to take your wife into the big white building and you’re about to follow when the orderly points the other way and tells you to either “go back to where your ancestors came from” or “park you car over there” so it’s back to the Tiguan with the laptop case water bottles and lovely purse and you find the last parking spot which you will learn later is not a parking spot but actually dead center of the entrada/salida now it’s off to “Admisiones” where the nice lady behind the counter offers you a clipboard with a stack of forms which you are ever so not qualified to fill out in any way and before you know it you have all of your Mexican documents spread out all over the counter along with your phone your wife’s phone laptop case water bottles and lovely purse and for some reason all the contents of you pockets then there’s a tap on your shoulder and OH MY GOD IT’S DR. RICARDO so you give him a big kiss on the lips and wow that’s awkward but he smiles at you and leads you back to the exam room to see your wife then shows you the x-ray of her shoulder and points to a fracture of the big bulby bone thingy and you nod your head in agreement even though really don’t see the fracture of the big bulby bone thingy at all but you want to be polite to Dr. Ricardo and now there’s a crew of people surrounding your wife including Dr. Ricardo struggling to put on some type of sling apparatus and you’re thinking if they can’t put that thing on there’s no chance in hell that you can and you want to help but again with the hovering ready for the eggs to drop thing so they all move away and there’s your wife looking like a Roman soldier ready for battle except her face doesn’t show it because the pain meds are kicking in and she’s all glassy-eyed and doesn’t know who you are and now Dr. Ricardo is explaining the prescription he just wrote and what they are and when to give them and your hear something about something eight of these every hour with food and not with food and you nod your head knowingly just to be polite to Dr. Ricardo then he tells you the farmacia is just down the hall so it’s back to the “Admisiones” room where you get your wife seated give her a kiss on the forehead wipe away a bit of drool from the corner of her mouth and tell her you’ll be right back to which she replies “schmurglgroop” and you run into the farmacia yelling “farmacia farmacia” but these people already know where they work and you give the nice lady behind the counter the prescription and she is calmly typing something into the computer and AGAIN WITH THE CALMLY DOING OF THE THING WHEN YOU’RE STILL IN PANIC MODE and she turns to you and says “no lo tengo” and you think “NO LO TENGO” HOW CAN YOU NO LO TENGO WHEN DR. RICHARD JUST WROTE THIS DOWN THE HALL YOU’RE IN THE SAME BUILDING THE INK HASN’T EVEN DRIED ON THE THING YET so you return to retrieve your wife and the nice lady behind the “Admisiones” counter motions you over to remind you that it’s time for the paying of the pesos and she tells you the amount due and you stare at her she stares at you and repeats the amount due and more starring so you just start slowly peeling off one billete at a time until she tells you to stop but she has other things to calmly do so she starts pointing at billetes to help speed up the process and now with receipt in hand you tell your wife it’s time to go home and she replies “frooplettes” and soon you’re both sitting in the Tiguan in the H+ parking lot dead center of the entrada/salida and you’re finally calm and you look over at your wife and as you lovingly reach over to wipe away a bit of drool you think she may be a little klutzy but she’s your little klutz and you know you will always take care of her because you love her.
She’ll be fine.
Sunday, August 4, 2019
You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll go to the baño during intermission and maybe buy a glass of wine. Look at you doing stuff.
Fiesta Blanca de Verano
Saturday, August 3, 2019
Fábrica la Aurora
San Miguel de Allende
I’ll be showing at Gallery 8A
Stop by for conversation, art and wine. And wish me a happy birhday.
Outside the window of my second story studio, a young man sits on the stoop next door with his 3-4 year old daughter. Diego and Lis sit there most days for several hours with their basket of nuts and candy, inviting passersby to peruse their wares. They adore each other. He often cradles her in his lap and tickles her, and she makes funny faces while touching his cheeks. I often hear her laughing when I’m painting. Periodically, the two will be joined by Diego’s wife and their <1 year old girl. Diego checks her basket and replenishes it. They share a meal. Chat. Eat. Then she disappears to her spot. They are a lovely family. I don’t sense any measure of fear, despair or hopelessness. I should be more like Diego.