Thursday, April 24, 2008

An Update

So the gods of travel, economics, and new apartments threw me into a temporary internet exile, which I survived begrudgingly, and which explains my lack of blog posts and communication with the rest of the world not in a ten-block radius of downtown Guadalajara. An update is in order.

I moved on March 5, found a place smack-dab in the historic central district, a good-sized neighborhood away from the stingy gossip of a landlady who attempted to bill me an extra day’s rent (and internet charges) for the couple hours I spent moving out in the early morning of the 5th. In our final stand I insisted her that if she charged me the day I would stay the day, the same another tenant was planning to arrive at noon (whom I’m sure would also be charged). She acquiesced but still billed me laundry dues for the entire month of March, and is holding my deposit hostage until she receives my last note from the telephone company.

My new apartment is on the roof floor of the orangest house I’ve ever seen, above the shop of a mechanic who bangs around all day on water pumps and also welds together fruit juicing machines. At half the price I was paying before I can’t complain, not even for the rustic character-building skills I’ve learned like washing laundry in a paint bucket, grappling and swishing around a broom handle and sawed-off coke bottle device per a borrowed Chiapas technique (according to my roommate).

I share the place with two artists, the owners of the flat, a portrait painter and an abstract collagist respectively. And also with a sour Swiss girl, who loafs around in a constant stream of bitterness directed towards unfaithful ex-boyfriends and her own mismanagement of a home hair dye job; and a German girl, a slight, pretty dancer with a new pink scar that runs across her neck in the shape of a smile, acquired from ongoing cancer treatments. She’ll only stay a month.

My routine of teaching and writing for the Reporter is unchanged, except I’m doing a bit more web-editing now that the new site’s up (New and Improved! Click on the link: www.guadalajarareporter.com). I find myself sitting most nights at dusk on the wall overlooking my new street, the only time of day I don’t fear sunburn at five minutes exposure, with a drink in hand and headphones on. Without skyscrapers, which Mexican cities don’t tend to build, I can make out the stars behind the dim brown haze of Guadalajara’s ozone, while tepid evening breezes try to cool off the panting hot pavement.

Facing the small intersection, I can see the caddy-cornered abarrotes shop manned by La G├╝era, an affectionate, middle-aged natural blonde (thus her nickname) who appears to be on a first name basis with about a quarter of Guadalajara’s population. Discovering I’m from North Carolina she bragged that her 27 year-old daughter once lived two years there at a military base after joining the U.S. army, and now she’s on tour in Italy.

An ugly transvestite works nights against the wall opposite the corner-store (she lives above it), whispering obscenities to male passers-by. I asked my roommates about her and they shrugged it off, adding only that they consider her outfit of particularly poor taste. Since I face her directly from my rooftop perch and am a liable witness to all potential encounters, I’ve begun to wonder if I’m negatively affecting her business and have felt guilty on occasion.

With lack of other personal news, some things of interest have happened lately in this part of the world. First, the U.S. Marine accused of killing a pregnant peer in North Carolina, who fled the country months back, was apprehended last week in Michoacan (a state bordering Jalisco) at a roadblock in the middle of nowhere. He was born in Guadalajara so the FBI tracked him down here—and word is last month he dropped by Zapopan to say hi to a cousin, who had no idea he was a fugitive and reported the meeting a little too late.

Also, the governor of Jalisco has developed a scheme so mightily corrupt you’d think he were trying to out-do his colleagues in other strains of fraud and crookedness. Emilio Gonzalez has found a mere $90 million pesos lying around somewhere in those forgotten stashes of money generally stored in the dark closets of Mexican tax offices, and is putting it to use: he will build the grandest cathedral ever seen in Jalisco—of course, not by donation of tax-payers’ “leftover money” directly to the Catholic church (that would be unconstitutional, you see), but though contracting companies who will then very directly fund the construction. The plan is strongly opposed by most citizens, secularists and faithful alike, but will surely be realized nonetheless. As Stephen Colbert once billed a bit on the Daily Show, “constitution, schmonstitution.”


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