A Second System of Arteries

Written November 13, 2015

Today has been kind of a slow, quiet day.  Jalene and I got up, finally, about 9:30, showered, and went outside.  We’re here in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, enjoying time with Grant and Katharine.  The house here is marvelous, with stone walls and dark timbered ceilings.  The courtyard enclosure contains a small pond, and I can hear the bubbling fountain.  Everywhere are flowers of some kind, bougainvillea is one I know, and there are so many others.  Not a riot of color, but a pleasant scattering and grouping.  Bees are at work in the long orange blossoms (trumpet vine) that look just made for the beak of a hummingbird, some flowers having evolved together with their avian pollinator.  We’ve been given the use of a comfortable casita separate from the main house.  Both are enclosed by a high-walled courtyard.  Over us is an open, airy studio where Katharine paints in an abstract style with color and energy.  Ever-present is the music Grant is playing, some of it his own fine work, as he composes and sings some terrific contemporary songs.  The walls are formed with stones of random sizes, and the masonry also includes pieces of tile, old bricks, pottery shards and other objects in a wonderful style that intrigues and holds the eye.  In combination with the vines and flowers growing over everything, a pleasant and continuous flow of color and texture surrounds one in a comfortable embrace.

View from Katharine's art studio. They are both so talented. Take a look at Katharine's art and Grant's music.

We went out on the town for a walk yesterday, but will likely just chill here at the house today.  It’s not a big town, plus there are a lot of foreigners here, so in a way we’ve temporarily left the Mexico we had been travelling through.  There are some very upscale art studios and expensive hotels here.  Yesterday I stood on a corner and watched a Mercedes sedan pull up and park right in the middle of a busy intersection.  The guy got out and just started walking away, but then handed off the keys and, oh – valet parking.  He walked into Hank’s, a posh-looking oyster bar that could be right out of New Orleans.  Hmm.  It really is a cool town, but we’ve kind of seen it, and will move on tomorrow.

Guanajuato, on the other hand, is still real Mexico.  There is a tourist element, though, and so we were often approached by “tourist helpers” who wanted to steer us toward tours or other such fun.  We learned very quickly to just wave them off or ignore them, as we were able to get along just fine on our own.  On occasion we would talk to them, generally just to find out where a certain place was.  This town has a really unique set of streets.  They run both above and below ground.  Years back, as the story I heard goes, the river used to run through and under the city.  With all the hills both within and surrounding the town, it was decided to divert the river, and use the river channel as a roadway, then drill tunnels through the many steep hills dividing sections of the town.  Now, to get to another part of town quickly and easily, you simply turn or descend into the tunnel system, which is like a second system of arteries.  They run mostly one-way, with intersections and roundabouts underground, as well as parking areas carved out of the walls.  Just follow the signs and you’ll pop back out into the sun and can then rejoin the choked surface streets much nearer your destination.  Jalene and I had fun at first, because it was like being slung into a maze.  “Wonder where we’ll end up this time?”

Guanajuato has a lively nightlife.  Jay and I went to see a jazz concert one night and blues the next at the incredible Theatro Juarez, one of the most beautiful theater interiors I’ve ever seen.  First-class shows, the jazz trio was from Toronto, and the blues band from New York.  Both acts used the theaters Steinway piano, and the sound was fantastic in the high theater, with an intimate orchestra level and five levels of balconies, reminding one of La Scala in Italy.  Both concerts were free!  We also went to visit the Museo Diego Rivera, and saw examples of his work from throughout his life, showing the progression of style and thought in a very understandable way.  I would suggest that after seeing all that original Rivera art, you stroll another block down the street and have coffee at Café Conquistadore, where they are roasting the beans right out at the sidewalk.  Another great stop was Café Tal, where we also had a fine and relaxing time of it.  Kind of hard to spot – look for the burlap coffee bags hanging over the window railings.

I find in Mexico I don’t really care what day or what time it is anymore.  Other questions control the day.  Am I hungry?  Is it light?  Does Jalene need something?  Are the bikes running good?  Yes or no to each.  Otherwise I’m just happy to sit back and experience at the world, or write these posts.  There are no impulses that I should be doing something (except maybe work on my Espaniol).  There is no guilt, there is no worry.

When we first crossed into Mexico, I was surrounded by strange sights, strange sounds, colors, textures, crowding.  I was uncomfortable, as everything was strange and new.  As we put distance between ourselves and the border, my discomfort eased.  I became accustomed to my surroundings.  But even now, when I think of the border and that crowded town of Piedras Negras, I feel the uneasiness and I’m glad to be way down south.  But why is that?  Is it that we were told beforehand that the border areas were dangerous, and we should move south out of there as soon as possible?  Maybe, but I think now it was the energy of the place.  Think Mad Max and Bartertown.  At the border, we were busy with changing dollars to pesos, going through Customs and Immigrations, and so on.  Everyone was busy, and there was a frenetic energy to the town.  Moving out of it had the same feeling of relief as leaving an overly crowded nightclub.  Here, further south, I’m comfortable with walking down alleyways and quiet backstreets day or night without too much worry about my safety.  Still, our personal radar is always up, but as we were discussing earlier this morning, the only times we’ve taken action in response to feeling some threat has been while still in the USA…

Next we are heading up into more mountains on our way east toward the Gulf side of the Sierra Gorda.  We are going forward with no plans for where we will be tonight, only a general idea of the direction we’d like to head, weather permitting, with the idea that we’ll be at a destination town of Cuetzalan in a few days.  Back to the exploring way of traveling.

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Take a look at the photos and at Jalene's video about talking with gremlins.

But wait, there's more! One morning, Keith and I hopped on his bike for a tour above, in, and below the town. My hands were free to capture some video so come along with us...