May 14, 1999
It is 6:35 pm. The bus is leaving the station. Yesterday, I purchased a ticket for the 4pm bus, but I stayed up until 4am this morning stoned on the banana cinnamon space cake that I made last night with my buds bud and I didnt get my pathetic, procrastinating ass out of bed until Stefan woke me up at noon, so I missed that bus. I didnt even started packing until today. "Leave-it-til-the-last-minute," that is the subtitle of my life.
A world unknown to me is passing by my window.
May 15, 1999
Durango, Sinaloa, Mexico
Stepping off the bus at 1am, I asked a trio of old men on a bench if they knew of the whereabouts of a "hypnotismo" with a "grande carpa azul" (big blue tent).
"El circo," one responded.
I explained to him that the tent I am looking for is more of a theater. He said the circus was the only "carpa azul" that he knew. On Isla de la Piedra, people often called Horacios theater "el circo", so I set off with the mans directions.
I walked seven blocks down a main drag, well lit with street lamps, lined with car dealerships, fast food restaurants and large chain stores - like any mid-size city in the U.S. or Canada, but there was no movement other than an occasional passing car and a solo gringo bulging with belongings. I was optimistic, but still cautious and on-edge.
It was a circus. I saw no sign of Horacio. All was still, aside from a guard dog barking at me through the tall barbed-wire fence surrounding the bigtop and a dozen transport trucks and motor-homes.
Across the street was a large brick house under construction where I entered and set up my hammock. I awoke several times during the night to the sound of rats running through the trash scattered in piles around me. Sleeping on the ground would not have been possible. In the morning, I walked out as the first workers were arriving.
A circus hand told me he knew of Horacio, but did not know of his whereabouts. I asked to speak to "El Heffe" (the boss), but was told to come back at 11 am.
As I was exiting the fare grounds, a loud whistle shrilled from behind. I turned and saw the man I was speaking with sttanding next to an old man with a bald head and round belly in his pajamas. I walked back and introduced myself.
"You can speak English," the man responded.
Humberto and I spent the following half hour sitting in lawn chairs on the porch of his motor home, talking about the circus family and life on the road. Humberto has traveled with his circus and others throughout the U.S., Canada and western Europe. He no longer performs, but says his sons have taken his place. In a few days his daughter will marry into another tribe of circus stars. It is more than just a way of life, they are a different breed; and it is not right to marry out of the species.
Humberto knows of Horacio, but doesnt know where he is. "You can ask the tax man," he suggested. "He comes by here to collect every night around 11:30 pm." Humberto invited me to be his guest at any of todays three shows. He also gave me permission to leave my backpack in the trailer until I returned.
Across the street, browsing through the market looking for breakfast, I spotted a poster advertising the national Taekwondo championships, which will be held near here tomorrow afternoon.
I picked up some bananas and a grapefruit, then went into the dulceria and got a six pack of snickers. A sweet chick behind the counter was following me with her eyes, so I stopped to ask if she knew of anything interesting I could do during my time in Durango. She, nor her two co-workers, provided me with much assistance, but they were fun to talk to. Oddly, the cute one was shy of being photographed.
Walking past a garage where men were boxing pineapples, one of them called out to me in english tainted with a Latino ghetto accent, "Whats up man!" The dude was cool and spoke good English.
"I should," he told me. "I lived in the US for seven years." Four of those spent in prison for theft he said. He thinks life is better in Mexico. I have heard the same from several Mexicans who have lived in the US, but came back to Mexico. I was surprised to hear that the first couple times, but Im not anymore.
Three boys, between ages eight and ten, were sitting on the corner as I passed, and one called out asking for a peso.
"Por que?" I asked.
"Por favor," he responded softly.
"Estoy pobre." I told him, "Lo siento (I am poor, Im sorry). Gusta chocolate?" All three heads nodded. I gave them a Snickers to share.
I took the bus downtown and found a traveler-looking dude with a backpack sitting on a park bench with friends. Jesus, 23, is an artesian and has traveled throughout Canada, the US and Mexico-which is rare for a Mexican. His English is no better than my Spanish, but he says it has not been a major obstacle.
I asked him "Que es interesante circa aqui? (What is interesting around here?)"
He couldnt think of anything in particular, but suggested I meet him at the Cafe Madrid at 8pm. I asked for the directions to the museum. Jesus and his friend Javier walked me there, then paid their own way, two pesos each, to accompany me through the exhibits.
One of the exhibits was a tribute to the life of Pancho Villa (1877-1923), a local revolutionary who acted both as Robin Hood and the greedy king. When Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico in 1916, he became the only general to attack one of the lower 48 states in the 20th century. Javier is a card carrying member of "Los Dorrados", a militia originally formed by Pancho Villa.
Viewing another exhibit displaying the artwork, tools and clothing of the early native inhabitants of the area, I referred to the natives as "Indios," but Javier was quick to correct me, saying the proper name is "Indigenous". Noticing his dark skin and obvious concern for the indigenous people, I asked him if he held any bitterness toward the Spanish, who tortured, enslaved and killed many of his ancestors. It was obvious from the response that they didnt think about it much. It is not highly publicized or talked about. The wealthy Spanish upper class write the history books used in schools. Javier is a Heinz 57 of different nationalities, including Spanish.
Jesus and Javier guided me through two more museums - a cultural (with cool mask exibit) and a natural history, as well as a government building with a large mural covering the walls of the inner courtyard, depicting the history of the state of Durango.
When my brain was full and my stomach was empty, we stopped into a restaurant. Jesus had no money, but I was glad to pay for his meal. Javier came back to the circus with me and Jesus went home, with a plan for us to hook-up again at Cafe Madrid around 8:30 tonight.
The chicks performing at the circus had my conplete attention, Antonio had a cool balancing act, but I found the rest of the show mildly entertaining.The trained animal acts even annoyed me. If any animal is tortured enough... of course it will do as is commanded - except for the black panther, which refused to defy his natural instincts and jump through the flaming hoop; no matter how much the "trainer" poked him with a pointed rod and prodded him with little chunks of raw meat. During the entire 10 minute routine, the panther refused to do a single trick. The "trainer," a tall skinny German man in his 60s, whipped the defiant feline and made himself look pathetic. Surely and rightfully he must have been embarrassed. The three brothers, the headliners, use various props: unicycles, juggling clubs, the usual stuff and were good, but many years of television viewing is hard to compete with. The trained elephant was very good, but youd be good too if someone was sticking a hook into the back of your ear.
After the show, Javier and I took the bus here to where he lives with a host family, because he is studying art here at the university and his own family lives a couple of hours away. Painting and creating robots are his main interests. He showed me examples of his work. Like myself, his two favorite artists are Van Gough and Salvador Dali. It is now past 8:30 pm. Well be late to meet Jesus.
10:30pm I met a litter of hip cats at Cafe Madrid, and now Im chilln in a small dim night club called La Pena, listening to a live band play a Spanish version of Buddy Hollys song, Where Can My Baby Be?, with friends: Jesus, Javier, Cuauhtemoc and Manuel.
12:14 am- Ive just been told "vamanos." Two different houses have been offered where I can crash for the night.