Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Music Men

First day in San Cristobal.....Lots of walking. The hills in town are nothing compared to the "pyramid" I lived on last April, that created calves of steel. But just street hiking requires major knee effort as the curbs are at least 10 inches and in many cases over a foot high.

San Cris is a colonial town, the buildings are OLD, made of stone and concrete. The sidewalks are slabs of various stones like granite and chert (slippery as greased snot when it rains) with just enough concrete to hold them in place. The height of the sidewalks has to do with the thickness of the stones, many are more than a foot thick.

By the end of a day of shopping for vegetables and fruit, wandering over the town familiarizing myself with it again, and meeting with Malena and her darling (now one year old) Mateo, my knees were achy and I felt OLD. But the day wasn't over.


Ladder leading to the loft, note the chopped
off top of the ladder. Good thing
it's also nailed to the beam.

The casita is a strange (by American standards) arrangement of rooms which all face out onto the courtyard. The bathroom is a narrow vault with double doors that ought to be left open as nothing airs out well in this humid climate. The large kitchen has a door to the living room, each with a door to the yard, and a second bedroom makes the leg of an L, with it's own entrance. Needless to say, leaving the place requires locking up several doors, including a large steel gate from the garden to the street.

John asked the maintenance guy to put a lock
on the interior door. But any thief with
a screwdriver can get in!!!
Also opening onto the yard are two other apartments with entrances on their opposite sides into a much more attractive garden. Apparently our garden was the "back" yard and treated as a step child by the gardener. It was overgrown with piles of rubble here and there, the poor potted plants were root bound, and the furniture was covered in spider webs. John got on his case and by the time I got here the place looked really nice.

It is, of course Mexico, where nothing is fixed unless it absolutely will not work, or has been destroyed, in which case, it might never be replaced at all. For instance, in the bedroom, there is a double bed and a loft accessible by a wooden ladder. My bed is in the loft. Some past resident put up plastic to cover the sloping roof and after one night I figured out why. The roof leaks. Not water but flecks of wood, dirt, balls of spider web mixed with dust, etc. Where there is no plastic, this 'crap' drifts down slowly until the entire bed is covered in brown and gray flecks. The ladder up to the loft is missing one 'hook', the bit of wood that actually goes over the top of the loft floor. Fortunately the entire thing appears to be bolted to the loft's frame so it's not likely to come crashing down with me on it.

The two other casitas are currently occupied by couples, one from Seattle and the other couple, Matt and Fran, are from the UK. They are living at-large in the world, having figured out a way to make a living from anywhere. Matt is a professional musician who transcribes music for a British firm, so he can do that via computers from anywhere. They purchased a round-the-world ticket and are headed to Australia and New Zealand this Thursday. San Cris has a fabulous music scene with many live performances in bars and restaurants at night. The less talented people are buskers in the streets and on busses.

The garden of the little house. Note the three
doors. Left is the bathroom, then the kitchen,
and on the far right, a bedroom. 

John loves music and usually has the i-pod/radio blaring in the kitchen. I'm sure when Matt was practicing, John went over and chatted him up. Matt and Fran have been here for two months, and during that time, Matt found an equally talented fellow to play with. They were warming up in his casita while I took a nap to their sweet music, then later we went to Entropia, a tiny little bar, to see them. It was amazing. They played off each other and innovated the themes so seamlessly, it was as if they'd been together for years, when in fact they had only played together three times prior to the concert.

Two glasses of wine and a long walk home zonked me out until 10:00 the next morning. Day number 2 was spent recovering with a bit more shopping. A block away is the Tres Pesos store. Like the Dollar Stores in the US, most of the plastic items are $3-10 pesos (way less than a dollar). I hauled home all kinds of goodies like a plastic container of needles, an eyebrow pencil, bucket, pitcher with lid and leaky spout, toothpaste, an apron, etc. Great haul for less than 50 pesos (4 dollars).

My 'loft' is under that sloped roof. 
Another nap later (I love being retired!!) we headed to the Andador Eclisiastico, a walking street, to attend an avant gard Jazz music festival. It was the first festival but the last night of it. The promoters would like to make it an annual event. At $120 pesos, the admission price was a bit steep for most of the locals. But (and this is very Mexican) they left the front doors wide open so the people walking past could hear the music for free! It was held in the same large auditorium where we'd seen Palenque Rojo back in April. That production ran its course and disappeared. I was a bit sad about that, it was one of the best dance productions I've ever seen, right up there with an off-broadway musical.

John, the music man, enjoyed the first group (Sophie y Los Papazuels) a lot and found the second one boring. I thought the whole thing way too loud, the room was freezing, and I had a stomach ache. So I stood in the far back and paced to keep warm. Sophie had an incredible voice and the bongo drummer was spectacular, able to make the bongos whisper love songs or pound like ocean surf. Their arrangements were way out in avant-gard-land and beyond my musical acumen or appreciation, though I certainly enjoyed much of it.

A busy two days in San Cristobal de las Casas....Vacation will soon be over, I enroll in Spanish classes on Monday.

(Turns out this blog has a map function, in case you want to see where this town is in Mexico. Click on the location below....)