Hey. Even though its not September, this is the last of Grateful Dead-titled posts, going out as a mini-set, based on mixed requests to Tom, Adam and Raftissimo that I didn't get to individually due to lacking internetation.
Mexico is nothing if not a magnet for bad press these days. Not that its totally unwarranted, as there is some heinous stuff going on in the country. Landslides that turned out to not be all that real meant a higher than average few days of 'friend emails': are you okay? Swine flu last year, oil spill this year. Drug war, drug war, drug war.
A friend was in Canada on a business trip a few weeks ago, and, in pleasant chit chat, happened to mention to a store clerk that he was Mexican, and would soon be heading back home. "You couldn't PAY ME to go to Mexcio!" was the response.
Not surprising, in some ways. If there's an image constantly presented to you by your streams of information, that image will shape in your mind. This is hardly a groundbreaking insight, or a shock to anyone who takes a cursory glance at daily international news out of Mexico. Massacre this, mass grave that, drug kingpin this, and pretty soon a 120 million people spread across a massive geographically and culturally diverse country become painted with the same brush; an international opinion is formed as a result of this.
Unfortunately, while its not as blanco y negro as its portrayed, there are a lot of heinous things happening. But, there's an infinitely bigger middle zone.
I spent the last week in small town that I've spent a decent amount of time on and off in the last few years, surfing the mornings, writing in the afts and eves. I love the place, not just for hedonistic reasons of surf and such. Its quaint, remote, friendly, rustic there's lots of pride in the people for what they have, and super rad people at all levels of the town.
Into the mid-90's, local politics and 'job choices' meant it was quasi off limits to tourists, though a few hardy surfers took the risks for the pretty stellar waves it produces. Some paid the price for that decision. It enjoyed a bit of a heyday from 99/2000 until last year, when a series of kidnappings, road blockades and a gunpoint robbery of several tourists cast its shadow, leaving the temporary mark staining so much of Mexico right now.
This leaves the town in a place that I think a lot of cities, towns and states find themselves. Places made up almost exclusively rad people, who for the most part just go about their daily lives. But with a contingency that threatens the status quo, and renders the general population without much they can do but try to get by, best they can. You can see that people want to say with all their hearts that its safe, but there's the hesitation in their eyes. They want to say its safe, because everyone they know personally has good hearts, good intentions and works honestly to put food on the table. But they can't ignore things like when news filtered into the town one morning about a 4-hour gun battle 20 mins up the road the night before. Or that one of the community members - a good and honest kid, from what I knew of him - will soon be coming home in a body bag, after an attempt to make it to the US took unknown turns for the worst.
People are not living in constant fear here like in the same manner that is happening in some of the border towns, but you can see it wearing down on everyone through the casual smiles and the handshakes, the empty restaurants or the small talk in the tranquil plaza at night. This constant grinding reminder of the risks of life around them is not what they want, and, more importantly, not at all who they are.
One afternoon, this was on my mind. Under the insanely powerful afternoon sun, a nearby river was pushing the brown, silty river water from the mountains into the clear blue ocean. With almost no wind, and no current this left a near straight line out to sea, dividing blue from brown. With one of the local kids - a super smiley high schooler, who works his family's farm when not schooling, surfing, or repairing boards - we were sitting right on this line. For about an hour with just the two of us, the waves would pops into view, breaking across this axis of brown and blue water. The more powerful rights offering a faster but shorter ride across the brown water, (demanding a quick kick-out before dying over a shallow bed of rock and sand), the mellower lefts offering slightly longer rides up and down the crystal blue shoulders of the waves.
We'd take turns with the sets (of waves) when they'd come, and talk about school and waves and girls and surfboards and Canada and whatever else while we waited for more waves to show up. This is the life everyone in town kept trying to convince me still exists. Out in the waves, it certainly feels that way. Even in town, it never feels dangerous.
Sitting in the water, its hard to accurately evaluate real life on shore and the risks involved. Its that neverland that still exists, despite it all. For right now, my reality is making a quick decision: will I go for the faster right or the mellower left on this incoming wave?
And I can't decide if I feel guilty or lucky about that.
3 weeks ago