May 17, 1999
Durango, Sinaloa, Mexico
8:12 pm. I just pulled out my map of Mexico and asked a guy in the seat across the aisle to show me where we are. He pointed in the area close to Parrel, halfway between Durrango and Chihuahua. The Earth outside my window is flat, covered by dead grass and green bushes - mostly between 5 and 12 feet high. The sun is on the horizon; my favorite time of day. Sunrise is a close second, but I am rarely awake to enjoy it. Randie often told me how much she loves this time day. I wonder how many of the friends I have made during this journey I will see again? Likely, not even a quarter.
8:40 pm. I just moved into the empty seat at the very back of the bus so I can see the sunset better. Only a sliver of the moon can be seen hanging in the pale blue sky. I am very comfortable, with my legs straight out resting on the chair ahead of me, but the jiggling, jolting, vibrating bus makes writing on this notepad difficult.
8:49 pm. The bus just stopped at a checkpoint and two uniformed men entered the bus.
"Where are you coming from?" I was asked in perfect English.
"Durrango," I answered.
"Were you born in Durrango?"
"Im Canadian," I responded, although I felt the answer was obvious. Did he somehow miss the large Canadian flag on my shirt? Did he forget that his initial reaction was to speak to me in English? He asked me how many days Ive been in Mexico and what Im doing here.
"Im a tourist. Ive been travelling in Mexico for six months -- now Im leaving for Texas." He asked to see my i.d., so I showed him my drivers license. Its a picture i.d.; I thought it might be enough, but he looked at it for a few seconds, then asked me to see my passport. I was hoping he would not look to find the stamp of entry. He didnt.
A movie has started - Con-Air, starring Nicholas Cage. It is too distracting to continue writing.
10:38pm. We just arrived in Parrell and Con-Air is nearly finished. That dude was a little off. Bano break.
10:45pm. That is the first free bathroom I have found in a Mexican bus station. Usually, there is a lady at the door with the toilet paper, charging a couple pesos.
Through the bus window, I just watched a woman stop before passing a shrine to the virgin Mary (or virgin de Guadalupe as she is known in Mexico), then put down her luggage and cross her chest in the Catholic tradition before picking up her bags again and continuing on her way. Ill go take a photo of the shrine.
11:09 pm. The movie just ended. It was the same-old same-old. A lead character with super-hero like abilities and short witty lines -- Die Hard on a plane. The first film, A League of Their Own, made tears well up in my eyes. It wasnt even sad, it just was nostalgia. Nostalgia, to me, is the feeling of being both happy and sad at the same time. I like the feeling of nostalgia, even if it is not my own. "Nostalgia-- it aint what it used to be."
I enjoy thinking back to the many great moments of my life and those people who I shared them with. I never feel nostalgic for those times when I am alone-- standing on a mountain peak or gliding across the ocean. In Laredo, after returning from La Paz, tears dripped down my cheeks, splatting on the keyboard, while typing an e-mail to my father who had just arrived home after sharing 3 months and several hundred miles of coastline with me. Continuing alone on this dangerous ocean voyage does not worry me or cause me pain internally. The sorrow I felt then, like the sorrow I feel now, and the tears which trickled down my face, as they are now, is due to the fact that I love my father and it hurts me to think that I may never again see the pride in his eyes when I exit the water with dinner flapping on the end of my speargun. Its the same deal with chicks--- If I cant be with them, Id rather not think about them. It is difficult to move forward while looking backward.
1:54 am. Mine is the only light on in the bus. Most of the others are sleeping. At Parrell I asked "Quanto tiempo mas para Chihuahua?" and was told "Tres horas," so we should be there very soon. I have no idea where I am going to close my eyes tonight. Im not paying for a place, thats for sure. Im sticking to my rule: Dont pay more for a place to sleep then I do for food during the day. I dont know what Im going to do tomorrow, either. I should play it safe and take a bus to Texas, or maybe be thrifty and adventurous and hitchhike or hop on a freight train. Wow! Chihuahua is a huge city. Its lights are spread out several miles-as far as I can see. I should be lucky to find an alley with no banditos; only trash and rats. Forget the rats. Im not into rats. Maybe the bus station will have to do. And as for the freight train-it may not be worth having my camera stolen. "Quien sabie," whatever happens, happens. Thats my new motto.
The bus is pulling into the station. My next adventure begins now.
3:38 am. Im watching a pop video review program called MAX in the bus station. I purchased a ticked to Okinagua, across the border from Texas. The ticket cost me 79 pesos and the bus leaves at 5 am. I should arrive there between 8 or 9 am. Ill find a place to crash once I cross the border; or maybe not. Maybe Ill continue to Terlingua by thumb and go without.
Yesterday, after getting off the city bus, I walk through a large park heavily populated by families enjoying a sunny Sunday afternoon, listening to free concerts, playing games for prizes, chowing at food stands and cooling off in the free water park. Life in Durrango on a sunny Sunday afternoon appeared rich, even for the poorest of folk. The Auditorio del Pueblo was locked up with no sign of Taekwondo action. I asked a police officer if he knew about the Taekwondo event. He didnt. Another man approached the police officer after me. When I went back to the Auditorio to look for an explanation to my dilemma, the man approached me and asked if I had film in my camera. "Por que?" I asked, but I couldnt understand his response. My obvious puzzlement led him to dig into his bag and pull out a handfull of rock climbing equipment. I asked him how he knew I was a climber, but again, I couldnt understand his response. Florencino had my complete attention and asked me to follow him.
Five minutes later, on the edge of a large parking lot, he emptied his backpack at the base of an 80 foot cliff, which had obviously been blasted by dynamite, making it lame for climbing. Blasting makes the face loose-therefore unreliable and dangerous. It didnt matter. Florencino isnt a climber. He does the same stupid rapelling stunts I was doing at the age of 13, which I learned from my Army cadet training. His was the same story (military trained), with the same gear I used: a swiss seat (a harness made only of rope), a caribiner, a figure 8 rapelling device and a static rope. His methods were dodgy. He had no protection from his rope being cut by abrasion on the sharp edge at the top of the cliff and he was making long jumps in freefall -- often Ozzy-style (head first), which is considerably more thrilling, but it is far more likely that something could go wrong. The rope rapidly moving through his leather glove, could burn through to his hand, causing him to let go of the threads which hold his life. A friend stood at the bottom and watched.
Three men drinking beer came along and watched. When I had seen enough and began heading back to the park, one of the 3 men invited me to join them on a joyride. VERY HESITANTLY, I hopped into the back of the truck, keeping my pepper spray close at hand. I asked Angel, who was in the back also, where we were going and insisted I needed to be dropped off downtown before 8:00 pm. He assured me they would only be cruising around town and would drop me off whenever I wanted.
Our first stop was a corner store to pick up more beer. Following the law, the store wouldnt sell them to us, as it was Sunday and past 5:00. THey found another store that would sell. While waiting for the boys to buy the booze, Angel and I talked about Durrango attractions I should see. He pointed to a cathedral located at the top of a large hill located at the center of the city and asked if I had visited there. I told him that I hadnt, but would like to. A short time later, I was posing with Angel and Gerardo on top of a monument to the revolution, half-way up the mountain, heading toward the cathedral. The view from the top was spectacular. After a conversation with Gerardo, during which I got to know him better, my intuition told me he was cool. This was a relief, as I was was seriously worried. They seemed too-friendly.
Gerardo owns a business making mini-blinds. Polo is his friend and only employee. Angel paints cars and has ambition to move to the U.S. to make more money. Cursing down the mountain, chilln in the back of the truck, Angel handed me another Ballena. I took it, but said, "No Gusta Burracho. Grifo es Mejor." Angel told the boys to drop by his house.
Angel invited me in and gave me small amount of herb rapped in the page of a nudy magazine - enough for a couple doobies. The chicks in the mag were wearing lingerie. Fully nude pictures are not allowed to be sold in Mexico, although, sexually explicit comics are sold at the counter of nearly every corner store.
I asked Angel if he had any ice I could put in my beer. He didnt, so I said I was going to walk to the store to get some. Polo instisted that I relax, and hed go get it for me. He asked if I wanted a bag of chips. I said, "No Gracis," but he bought me back a bag anyway.
We picked up Gerardos girl friend, Isabel, a college professor, and she came cruising with us. We rode into a shady neighborhood - not run down, just as clean and well kept as the other parts of the city. They stopped in front of a house, where a dude was on the sidewalk in front of the doorway. Polo handed him four empty Ballenas, which were replaced with four full ones - for a fee, a bove normal cost. Behind us, the next customers in line were two middle-aged men wearing spiffy suits - ranchero style, with Stetsons, driving an expensive sport utility, and then a cab in line behind them. Laws that make drugs hard to get... make thugs rich.
Angel purchased a pack of Furos cigarettes (just for the paper, because he said rolling papers arent legally sold), then, to evade Big Bother, we drove down a dark unpaved side street which came to a dead end, where we stopped and rolled. I was wiggn, but it turned out all good.
We picked up a friend of Isabel, then got hamburgers at a roadside stand. The hot sauce felt like lava on my tongue and I couldnt taste anything after the first bite. It was painful. The others didnt think it was all that hot, but I think they are desensitized from growing up with hot sauce on almost every meal. It took 20 minutes, several ice cubes and half a bag of chocolate chip cookies to extinguish the fire in my mouth.
They took me to the circus to pick up my back pack. I got them in for free to catch the last half of a show. Watching acrobats and juggling acts, sitting on bleachers, flacked by friends, I thought to myself, "Mexicans are cool. Ive only been here two days and Ive made two dozen friends."
They took me to the cathedral downtown to see a shadowy apparition in the clock tower, which is said to be a nun, waiting for the return of her secert war hero lover who was killed in battle. I couldnt see it.
With the girls and the beers both gone, the only thing to do was to get more beer. I had had enough after the first Bellena. They stopped at a different spot - a curbside window protected by steel bars (like nearly every first level widow Ive seen in Mexico thus far).
Angel said I could stay at his brothers house - where he crashes. When we got there, I stayed in the truck while he went in and asked. Angel said his brother didnt like that idea, so I ended up sleeping on a matress on the floor of Gerardos shop, above his parents house.
In the morning, I said, "Hasta luago" to my friends, walked to the grocery for breakfast and food for the road. I got the bus to the Public Library, where I sent an email to my folks, then I went to the tourism office to find someone who spoke English well enough to explain my plan.
The lady called a couple of trucking companies that might be going to Chihuahua, but both said they could not allow me to ride along at the risk that I might be a "robber," and for my own liability. "Not your lucky day..." said the lady on my way out of the office. I thanked her for her effort, but knowing that Ive been "lucky" my entire life, I didnt believe it ended today.
[Other photos from Durango: city scenes and " Bus driver loves Jesus. . . and Playboy."]