Hey there, are you reading this in your email? If so, you might be missing some extra content such as photos and videos. For the best experience you should hop onto the website.
2/25/19 – 2/27/19
We’re sitting on a rooftop in Tepotzlán. The man in front of us, Yoy, is standing silhouetted by the rising morning sun. One hand holding a conch shell (caracol in Spanish) to his lips, the other on his hip. People are standing in the streets watching as he takes a deep breath and then exhausts every ounce of oxygen and energy from his body in what seems to be his morning ritual, a primal reverberation through the valley. It sounds like an ancient battle horn, but this is Mexico and there are no wars to be fought so I assume it must be good natured. Yoy had impeccably shiny raven black curls down to his waist, tight black pants, a strange see-through shirt, a broad smile on a chiseled face, and dark brown native skin. In another world he could easily be a romance novel cover model or perhaps a featured actor in a series of adult themed movies.
Tepotzlán was situated at the base of a mountain on top of which somebody at some point had somehow come up with the idea of dragging some relatively large stones to the top in order to build a temple in honor of the God of Pulque. Pulque is a native fermented beverage that tastes like a cross between kombucha and sweat. We’d hiked up it the night before to take in the view. Yoy owned a small café at the base of the mountain and had let us camp in the parking lot. As we were packing our things I noticed that the ukulele I’d acquired in Tequisquipan was already showing signs of abuse from riding. Yoy struck me as somebody that would know what to do with it. I showed it to him. He sat down and began playing. He curled his fingers into his palm and released them in perfect succession to give a beautiful deep strum. His eyes lit up as he played. He said that he once had one, but he’d given it to his son.
“Keep it,” I said.
He had a genuine look of happiness. I’m not sure when I last looked as happy as he did, I was strangely jealous. It was hard to part with the uke, but seeing how it made him feel made me realize it was in better hands.
We were a few days removed from Mexico City. The night of the twenty fifth was spent wild camping in a sheep pasture. It was just off a bike path that ran for forty or fifty clicks outside the city. There was a bit of rain that night and this somehow validated the twenty four ounce tarp that I’d now carried for five months. We’d passed by stone arches, boulders that had been carved into rabbit heads, and panoramic views of one of the world’s most amazing cities. As the trail wound through little towns, all of the trees along its edges had been meticulously manicured into spirals, spheres, and other shapes befitting a noble garden. Everyone we passed was smiling.
I’d awoke in the middle of the night to coyotes wailing. They sounded like they were just outside the tent. It sounded like dozens. They sounded frantic. I couldn’t tell if they were surrounding a soon to be kill (maybe us) or mourning the loss of one of their own. It went on for fifteen minutes. I laid awake for another hour, not in fear, but not wanting to miss that beautiful sound should they start up again.
From Tepotzlán to Tetela del Volcan we had the option of riding the freeway or the dirt roads. A fundamental difference between Americans and Brits seems to be that the British will always opt for pavement, whereas an American cannot resist a pair of tire ruts carved through the side of a hill. We stood in front of a schoolyard with children swinging from a jungle gym and engaged in a deep philosophical debate. Each of us laying a case for our preferred route. In the end, it was agreed that we should each take the path that called to us. I spent the day getting lost on strange farm roads. A few times I appeared to be on foot paths cutting through private property. I had no idea where I was, but had some kind of faith that Google did. Sometimes it didn’t. I would follow the turn by turn and end up at the same strange spot in the middle of a field with a dead cow rotting and putrid. Eventually I was spat out onto a main road.
I climbed through pueblita after pueblita. Two of the best tacos I’d had since Sonora were in Yecapixtla. Soph made it to Tetela del Volcan an hour or two before me and with a much cleaner bike. The town had a spectacular view of ____________ volcano, which was releasing smoke.
We wandered the market and eventually made our way to a small seafood restaurant beyond the outskirts of town. We’d walked past scrappy and snarling stray dogs and tough guys playing street craps to find a strange little Shangri-La on a hillside. For fifteen bucks we had taco appetizers, shrimp stew, a dozen of the most succulent fried shrimp I’d experienced in my life, and four beers. The place was run by children.
Vader, a former roommate of mine, was once lamenting to a member of my legal staff about his current existential crisis and wondering if he was destined to be nothing more than a line cook. My attorney, completely shitfaced at the time, gave an impassioned, albeit slurring, pep talk.
“First of all, you can’t discount the importance of a meal and what takes place around it. You don’t realize it, but somebody might be proposing to the love of their life, or signing their divorce papers over your work. And somehow that plays a small role in whatever memory they have from that night. You can’t think of it in terms of how much money you make. You have to ask yourself, what is my genius? What is the thing that I have that can somehow shape the experiences and memories of others while simultaneously giving me some kind of peace?”
He probably put it better than that. The only thing I actually remember him saying is “What is my genius?” Whenever I see somebody, a superman in the Nietzsche sense of the word; somebody that is so good at what they do that it would be an injustice to the world if we fail to find a way for their genius to flow, I think of my wise attorney. Much like my roommate, the genius of these kids was food. It was one of the most amazing meals that I’d had on what, for various reasons that need not be discussed, was a one of the darker days for me on this trip. I left ten dollars, a small fortune to these punks, for a tip.
As we walked past the spot where the men had been rolling dice, there was a small unattended trash fire. I heard something in the brush and then two small bodies came darting toward us, yelling something I failed to understand at first. I spun around with a clenched fist.
“Senor, su cambio!”
It was the kids from the restaurant. They thought that we had left our money and chased us down to return it.
“Esta un propina,” I told them it was a tip. I then told them it was the best meal I’d had in all of Mexico, maybe in my life, and thanked them.
Like what we're doing here? Tell a friend or throw us some bread. It keeps tires on the bikes and food in our bellies!