Sacred Icons: we got in the habit of including a little image of the Virgin of Guadalupe in the haphazard altar that always accumulated on our dash over the course of a trip. Steve always figured even a hardened criminal, though a lapsed Catholic, might have second thoughts about robbing a van under the protection of the "Virgincita"..
¡Viva Mexico! Icons: And then we did the obvious. While rustling around in markets we came across pictures of the heroes of the revolution -- or many revolutions -- of Mexico -- Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa -- and they began to take their places in the iconography of our workshop. Soon I was adding photos of Subcommandante Marcos and the EZLN to our collection. After all, the revolution isn't over, is it?
Popular Icons: Meanwhile, I'd gotten intoxicated with the pure fun of making tributes to some of the icons of my youth- Marilyn, Elvis, the Beatles. These popular images included both the saintly- Gandhi and Mother Teresa -- and the profane -- but all of them were figures who capture our imagination and inspire feelings of delight or reverence.
Memorial Icons: Steve died six weeks after he was diagnosis with cancer early last summer. Churpa had taken an excellent photo the past winter of Steve and me dressed as twins for the annual Coco Loco Open, a golf tournament at our favorite beach, with cocos for golf balls and "sleazy lingerie" the dress code. During the summer months followed Steve's death, I found some solace in my workshop, making over twenty versions of that photo into icons for Steve's friends.
Steve never DID want to be on the altar, so when Churpa & I set up the altar on the porch this year for Day of the Dead, we put him on a stack of coolers, complete with spatula, rice paddle, kitchen knife, tomatillos, hot sauce and chiles. Also an extra set of bottom teeth I found in the desk drawer in the computer room.
All Us Desert Rats: Part of my initial fear was the tension of recognition, knowing I'm not that far away from her place, only a few steps removed, from becoming a homeless woman living in her car. It could happen to anyone
A Ritual for October: A few pairs of Steve's boots sat bedraggled in the corner of the porch, depressing me with their sense of abandonment, an echo that rings within me often. I asked around to locate the two homeless camps that exist in Eugene. I decided to take them to a park across the river where homeless people with vehicles are permitted to park their rigs.
On The road Again
#1: Preparing to leave: I'm starting to have anxiety attacks around driving to Mexico alone, the pressure of getting ready. This is just such a HUGE thing to be doing. I can't believe I'm doing it, and I don't know what else to do.
#2: On the Road Again: The night before I left home I dreamed I was marching in a parade. And then I noticed Steve walking up ahead, blowing kisses to the crowd. In the dream I started crying. But when I woke up, I was happy. I felt that Steve was blowing kisses to me, giving me a good send-off for the road, blowing kisses to all of us, like bubbles floating out on the breeze to his crowd of friends.
#3: Dia de Guadalupe: The second day's arduous drive got me around Chihuahua, just barely, to Ciudad Camargo. The "just barely" was three runs at getting on the periferico. The first was a dead wrong turn into on-coming one way traffic on a large avenida...
#4: Gamboling for Cookies: In the morning Churpa asks me to braid her hair. Just as when she was a little girl, I inevitably run into a tangle, and she yelps. She has discovered a treasure, a new story about her father from "The People's Guide to Mexico." She reads aloud to us as I braid her hair from "Parrot Fever", the story of Steve's acquisition of Arturo and Far Out in a Guatemalan market.
#5: The Geography of Ghosts: Late afternoon finds me and Carl climbing the high rounded hills that overlook Lake Chapala. Carl tells me he can't handle San Miguel anymore, for all the ghosts that pop up at every corner -- a memory of their first winter there with Steve, a vision of John Muir on Callejon de las Animas, or of Diane, my sister whose big heart stopped on Valentine's Day three years ago.
#6: The Baby Jesus: Christmas Eve found both Carl & Lorena with their noses in their computers. Having heard rumors of an event up at the church, I took an early evening walk downtown. A quick circulacion of the courtyard, and I raced (as much as cobblestones will allow) back to the 'casa' and literally dragged the two of them out of their respective offices.
#7: The Laughing Buddha: I'm in Ajijic for the holidays and am getting ready to set off for the beach. Lorena and I walk to the weekly market, and soon she is loaded down with bolsas of fruit and vegetables, while I balance a freshly baked pizza, made at a puesto in the street mercado, in its warm box on one arm, while the other carries my shopping bag, with a few necessities. In honor of Y2K, I have bought four small packages of matches. That, some propane and a few candles should do me. I'm going to a place where I have Friends Who Fish!
#8: Degrees of Acceptance: As I descend from the hills around Colima, the temperature rises up to meet me. When I see the first flowery pink tree I cry out to Steve, "Look!" It has always been a moment of excitement, of passageway to paradise, to sight that first flowering glory of the coast.
#9: Keys for the Road: Pelicans on maneuver glide in formation silent and swift over the water. I see two caught surprised and, toppled under, by waves that catch a wing, tugging them off-flight. Tumbled, wings akimbo, they surface, shaking their long necks with aplomb, dignity unruffled. I like it that even they can screw up, miscalculate, be tossed like jetsam by Big Ocean.
#10: Not Pie in the Sky: After two hours of meditating, I crawl out of the camper to go make coffee. Looking to the sky in the west behind the lagoon I am startled by the big orange ball of the setting moon, almost full, hanging in the indigo inky dark. It looks like the sun setting in a blackened sky, amazing. I'm almost glad for the insomnia that got me up to see this sight
#11: Raison d'être: Churpa bursts back into my life fresh from her Yucatan adventures. I get a whole day with her before her friends from Oregon arrive. They set up their camp down the beach.... are soon in competition with the next door boys from Georgia, to see who can have the cooler camp. The boys make much of their plywood table, a coveted item. Immediately Churpa flies her skull and crossbones flag -- banner for their pirate camp. That's worth some points!
#12: Butterflies & Turtles:
#13: And, yes Howard, we did eat Steve Thirty-five of us have gathered here at Steve's favorite sunset fishing haunt for a picnic feast and to remember him before we consign his ashes to the sea. We are a circle of his friends who mostly were absent from his illness and death, only able to participate by phone or written card, with this one opportunity to come together in his honor.
#14: "56" I've recently finished Victor Villasenor's family biography, "Rain of Gold", a rich historical recounting of how both branches of his Mexican rooted family were forced by revolution to migrate to the north, to the United States. In it he tells the magnificent love story of his parents. Do loves like that truly happen?
#15: Dia de Amistad: I like the spin Mexico puts on St. Valentine's Day,...it's the Day of Friendship.... I remember a February 14th years ago here on the beach when Steve, Churpa and Jacques all spent the day making valentines. I got no sentimental lacey heart from Steve. No, mine from Steve was a drawing of an anatomical heart with extra tubes and the saying, "Don't by-pass my love."
#16: Grupo AA: Rio Purificacion: Last week Colin got some of his AA buddies from nearby to come over for a meeting here on our beach. So one afternoon I walk down to Colin & Christie's brick bungalow and join three strangers and Colin in fellowship. This circle of men, honest about their addiction, humble in their struggle, brings me to that tearful cracked-open heart space I have been graced to live in so much of the last ten months
#17: Popcorn: While Carl & Lorena are here, our days fall into an easy pattern. I'm usually the only one up to greet the dawn; they pull themselves out of the tent at a more leisurely rate. I don't think I've ever seen Carl this laid back! We begin to worry about the perhaps permanent woven pattern indenting his back from a severe case of hammockitis, a condition endemic to the beach. His back looks a little like some exotic Tahitian tattoo has been executed in dark pink.....
#18: Ode to Odette: Yesterday a woman died on the beach. Her name was Odette. She was a 65 year old French Canadian. She had a heart attack and died in her pink and gray bathing suit on the floor of the little 16' travel trailer.....We all stand around outside staring at each other in disbelief and repeat the same old cliche. What a shock. It's so sudden. She's gone. It could happen to anybody. And those words are all true. We just don't know their meaning, their true content, until it happens....
#19 Departures: I sent a smidgeon of Steve's ashes south with Bob and Betty. I asked them to leave them in the spot where Steve and I camped together last year at the Oaxaca Trailer Park, where Steve said he wished we could just slip on down to Chiapas. And then slip on down to Panajachel. I mark the envelope "Steve goes to Oaxaca." I tell Bob, "If you get stopped, just tell them it's cocaine!" ....
#20 Pueblita's Flowers: Back in San Miguel, I've been dreading running into Pueblita, the very poor flower lady, who has known Steve & Maki for years. Steve always made a ritual of buying flowers from her, usually a little ragged bouquet of purple and white strawflowers. Our dashboard usually held the crumbling remains of one of Pueblita's little floral offerings....
#21 Rear View Mirror: I leave San Miguel with a full tank, Xuxa washed white for the road, and Janis wailing on the tape deck. As always, I start north reluctantly, in no hurry to get home. I have no schedule of visits, no deadline to meet (as in our days of folkart sales) and hardly any reason to be going home at all. In past years, we only ever went home when we ran out of money, and that, at least, is still true!....
#22 Lingering & Malingering: As I drive north, the closer I get to Deadwood, the slower I go.... So, even though time is passing, passing, relentlessly passing, very quickly, in its ordinary tempo, my movements slow and slacken until I can hardly be seen to be moving. ....
#23 Re-entry: Then I walk the little path to Maki's (Steves mother) trailer. Is it unusual to look forward to seeing someone and at the same time dread it? I don't think so. Perhaps the contrasting emotions are often less drastic than in this greeting, but there's often a blend of contradictory feelings wheeling through our systems at a reunion....
#24 1st Anniversary of Steve's Death: Yet, in my mind's eye I can see Steve so clearly--he strokes his whited beard with a kind of sensual absent-minded pleasure. He has that twinkle in his eyes, then rolls them back like someone in the grip of orgasmic delight. I see him standing on the porch, leaning with one arm against a pole, other hand on cocked hip, telling a story to someone descending the stairs, just one more story for the road
#25The Mexican Left Turn Angelic Blues: Coming up on our left is an ample gravel turn out to a distant building. I signal a left turn (first big booboo) and start to slow. A car going about 100mph roars past on the left, and I begin my turn. Almost off the pavement, a sudden push from behind sends us flying onto the gravel. Completely rattled but apparently unhurt, I continue forward and swing in a large circle to return to the highway where ES faces her attacker....