The best thing about going to bed on a Friday night is laying down and not having to care about setting the alarm. It is a magical feeling to lay in bed on Saturday morning and let your body naturally wake you up when it’s ready, instead of being jolted awake by the sudden heart-stopping noise coming from the alarm. There’s also something very liberating about not having a schedule or a task list to follow. When you can take an entire day and just enjoy living without worrying about accomplishing anything, you are better suited to appreciate the small moments that make life so precious.  When you’re relaxed food tastes better, movies are funnier/sadder depending on the genre, and the sun feels better upon the back of your neck as you run from the Police.  Wait, what!?

All week I had heard from Daniel at IBM about the town of Tlaquepaque (pronounced: teh-lah-kay-PAH-kay) and that I would really love it, especially if I liked to take photos.  Although, this made me sorely miss the digital camera that Allie and I share; however I knew that I would still be able to make use of disposable cameras… it was just hard knowing I wouldn’t have any idea how the pictures turned out until I got back to the States and had them developed (how did people used to live like this?!  Oh and linky after the jumpy near the bottom).

Saturday.  Day 14. Journey into the Unknown

I stretched my arms and yawned as I lazily swung my legs over the edge of the bed.  There was a crack in the curtains that allowed a solitary stream of sunlight to flitter through the dust suspended mid-air and stain the multicolored carpet near the foot of the bed.  After a few days of overcast and occasionally rainy weather I was looking forward to a nice, clear day; if anything it would make for some nice photos.

Being that this day was Shabbas, I chose to forgoe the showering portion of my morning routine, as everyone knows: I don’t roll on Shabbas.  I threw on my trusty jeans and a faded blue t-shirt that I’ve had since the fifth grade “Just Say No” field trip to Seaworld in Ohio.  My lucky shirt; the kind that every guy has… the one so worn that you can see through the fabric in most spots, and as such, the material has taken on a new pattern of color fade that’s somewhere between camoflauge and tie-dye.  There’s just something about that shirt that’s so comforting to me.  Reminds me of the days when the most important thing was which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle I’d be getting next, and which of my sisters’ barbies would be kidnapped by him and hung from the upstairs banister with a shoelace.  All in the name of Splinter, of course.

As the glass-enclosed elevator rushed me to ground-level, my eyes were focused upwards at the massive skylights.  They were terribly dirty and had developed a weird yellow hue, quite possibly from being made of a cheap plastic with polymers that had gone untested for long periods of sun exposure.  I wondered what it would be like to be one of the workers that would eventually have to replace the windows in the middle of the cluster: would he be suspended from the ceiling on the interior of the hotel or work from scaffolding above the roof?  Alas, my thoughts were interuppted by the change in momentum as the elevator’s brakes came on and we slowly set down in the lobby.  I had momentarily overheard an internal dialogue that was happening between my brain and my tummy that suggested eating before leaving the hotel; however the conversation was quickly squashed at the memory of mornings after the lobby restaurant.

After leaving the hotel and stepping out into the bright sunlight, my first stop was the ATM.  I needed me some pesos, and fast… it was early morning still, but my hunger pangs were insatiable and I knew that it wouldn’t be long before I needed nourishment.  After grabbing some bills from the automated teller I crossed the street and headed into a convenience store to pick up my first disposable camera of the day.  Luckily, I didn’t need to make any decisions since they only had one type, which I purchased and quickly unwrapped.  I forgot what it had felt like to hold and operate a disposable camera.  It was an especially strange sensation to take a picture and not know what actually was captured… no feedback.  Just thinking about it makes me uneasy.

Anyway, I hailed a cab and hopped in to be greeted by a very elderly gentleman with huge liver spots all over his decrepid and shriveled body.  He never turned his head towards me as he asked my destination, but all the same I told him “El Jardin”, Tlaquepaque (the most touristy spot) and away we went.  I didn’t really care to pay attention to his driving and yet all the same I slowly grew worried.  It wasn’t exaclty the fact that people driving in Mexico are crazy, rather the fact that he was bleeding.  Yes, after a few minutes of him playing with a tissue that he kept balled up in his perma-fist, I realized that he was dabbing blood off of his left arm, which was conveniently hidden from view.  I couldn’t discern what type of wound he had sustained but from the relatively low volume of blood that was on display I could only imagine that his skin was falling off and he was experiencing a case of the “my heart meds givin’ me thin-blood and now my arms won’t stop bleedin’ blues”, which I think is the scientific name for it…

It was a nice thirty minute jaunt to the somewhat adjacent town of Tlaquepaque and the driver was even kind enough to point out the window at the open green space to our left and say, “El Jardin” letting me know that I wanted to head left into the open area with all the people, and not walk into the dark alley on our right side.  Perhaps without his direction I would’ve headed down that alley and found nothing but a clinic for homeopathic medicine.  Because I did head down that alley anyway, just to see what was there.  And there was a clinic.  For homeopathic medicine, which as wikipedia tells me, is “quackery”.  Getting my quack hunt out of the way, I traveled into the center of El Jardin, which is basically a town square.  Since it was still relatively early in the morning, there were very few shops open, and there were rows of kiosk-type shops that were being uncovered, swept out, and set up by the people who I assume owned said retail spaces.

I didn’t really have much choice as to what I wanted to do, so my first activity was to simply explore and create a mental map of the area.  I first made a few laps around the general area, snapping pictures all along the way, taking note of the stores that looked like they might contain some interesting items.  I then headed for the high ground: a gazebo in the center of the square, which featured a platform that was about 6 feet above street level.  I immediately spotted the two churches that this area was apparently famous for, and quickly turned to scurry down the steps and proceed in the direction of the church; however my progress was impeded by a group of about 15 teenage Mexican children who decided to use the gazebo steps as a backdrop to their latest facebook pictures.  They were all sprawled about the steps, while there was a single young boy who was burdened with the duty of picture taker.  After he took a picture with the three cameras suspended from his forearms, I figured that they would allow me to pass.  Alas, I forgot about cell phone cameras.  Almost every single person in the group conglomeration handed their cell phone over to the photographerette one at a time so that he could take a picture on each and every cell phone.  I definitely sat on the railing of that gazebo for over 20 minutes looking very angry and glaring at a group of teenagers, which I assume will be my favorite activity when I reach old age.

After the photo shoot, the children made way for me and I headed towards the first of two churches.  The building was very run-down on the outside and surrounded by a 9 foot stone wall, with wrought-inon spikes at the top.  There was a courtyard in the front with a small fountain, which was void of any and all water (and had been for some time as the tile was bleached from sun exposure) and a single twisting tree, whose roots were lifting a large section of the wall above the ground and causing large cracks to run up the entire height of the wall.  It all looked very decrepid and in dire need of repair; however the inside of the church told an entirely different story.  There were intricate and beautiful sculptures adorning every nook and cranny of the innards, with pristine marble and gold adorning everything.  The fact of the matter is that my words can’t describe how beautiful the churches were, and I had been content in the fact that my pictures would speak for me; however unfortunately the pictures didn’t turn out :( and that makes me a very sad panda, as the second church was just as beautiful, if not more so because of the stained-glass work.

After this initial phase of exploration, the stores were slowly but surely opening up, which allowed me to peruse the trinkets that they contained.  Of course, the first thing I did was go to the two dollar, knock-off sunglasses stand and buy a sick pair of aviators so that everyone knew that they were dealing with a serious badass.  Actually, it was just because I had recently lost my aviators and the sun was extremely bright and reflecting off of every single surface in Tlaquepaque, and hey… two bucks!  Adorning my shades, I continued to explore.  There was an alley way that extended for about a half mile from El Jardin that featured an endless supply of art galleries and the occasional eatery.  I traversed the length of this alley at least three times, being sure to check out the art galleries that were the most spectacular (and unfortunately none of them allowed photography: sad face).  After a few lengths, I had worked up a considerable hunger and decided to have lunch at El Patio, which featured a prominent patio (actually a courtyard) with a fountain and lots of sunlight.

My waiter was full of jokes, and after a few laughs he talked me into partaking in the margarita special, which was any two margaritas for three dollars.  Almost as soon as he walked away a server brought me a bowl full of diced Jícama with an even tinier bowl filled with Mexican Tajín fruit seasoning.  It was delicious, and spicy and refreshing all at the same time.  Needless to say, I ate almost all of it by the time my appetizer came around, which was a skillet full of mushrooms, cactus flowers, roasted peppers (of the green and red varieties)… all smothered in thick, creamy, smokey Mexican cheese.  This plate was served with fresh flour tortillas, steaming hot.  The flavor of this dish was strong and the cheese seemed to overpower everything.  It was a hot day and yet somehow this warm and filling dish inspired great comfort in my belly.  I was almost instantly overcome with sleepiness.  And lethargy.

I wanted to like what I was eating.. I really really did; however I felt like every bite was sapping all of my energy.  It was delicious, but I could barely eat it.  It was very greasy and sat in my stomach like a rock.  I couldn’t help but think about my main course that was still to come: Cheesy enchiladas.  Today was one of those days where I had to admit that I had made a very bad decisions, and that I was going to have to pay for it.  I had finished my first margarita around the time that my enchilada came, and I very well may have frowned when it was placed in front of me.  It smelled of spicy mole sauce and was just begging to be eaten.  The cheese was plentiful, and the sauce had just been spooned on, so that the tortilla had yet to become soggy.  Basically, it was a perfect enchilada, and I had no intentions of eating it.  Unfortunately for me, my brain and my tummy were arguing over what to do.  And my brain won.

But not the smart part of my brain that told me to stop eating because I was full, no; the same part of my brain that tells me that playing video games until 3 AM in the morning before going to work is a good idea.  Do I regret the decisions I made that day?  Yes.  Was I a better man for having eaten the majority of what was in front of me?  Not really… But did I enjoy every bite?  No.  To be honest, there wasn’t a single part about this lunch time experience that I was happy about afterwards.  In fact, after stuffing myself to the brim I had no choice but to slump in my chair and sip margaritas until 3 in the afternoon.  Yes this experience was full of bad choices.

My only consolation this entire time was the in-house entertainment.  When I first arrived there was a cheesy lounge singer.  He reminded me of a fat Tom Jones.  With bigger hair.  Thankfully, I only had to listen to maybe three of his songs before the bar-room duet came out, featuring some woman on keyboard and a man on guitar, with both of them singing.  When they came out I was already well into my meal and therefore completely blacked out from my surroundings.  By the time I finished eating they were just about finishing up and there was about twenty minutes of silence before the real entertainment came.  It was an all-female Mariachi band.  I had been very impressed by the mariachi bands that were in the hotel lobby on Thursday nights; however after listening to the first three songs of this female band I was very put off.  They didn’t elicit that same feeling that the other mariachi band had, and it disappointed me greatly.

I finished up my last margarita, payed my bill and left.  The sun was almost going down over the rooftops of the buildings around El Jardin so I went to catch a taxi, and head home.  I was exahusted from a day of walking and overeating, so I layed in bed and watched movies before going to sleep.  I was excited that my trip in Mexico was coming to an end, but also greatly disappointed that it had gone by so quickly.  Although, in retrospect, I could do it again I don’t think I would’ve changed a thing.  Except for bringing that damn digital camera.  Grr…

P.S. Here’s the link to the photos I snapped while in Mexico.  Slightly more than half are from Tlaquepaque*, and just know that there are plenty of adventures that were captured on film that didn’t come out and that makes me very, very sad.

*HINT: look for the bright sunny pictures.