So we’re living in the USA and we decide to take Christmas off and drive down to Mexico City. Our neighbours all think we’re nuts. Why would anyone want to go to Mexico for Christmas? Besides we’ve got little kids and it is obvious that we won’t survive. We’d all be killed. There are bandits down there! It’s one thousand five hundred miles! There’s a dirt road. It’s uncivilised. It’s a Third World country! We can’t take the little kiddies to their deaths in some third world country. We should stay in the USA, party and consume!
We smile. We’re off to Mexico.
We set off with our van and a tent, three kids and some Mexican money. You don’t need much. It’s cheap down there.
Petrol is forty-four cents a gallon. That about twenty pence! Wow! It’s over £2 in England!
Don’t eat the food. Our neighbours told us. They are distraught. Live out of tins. So, as soon as we are in Mexico we buy tortillas from roadside vendors and they are brilliant. And we ate the salads washed in local water.
Don’t drink the water our neighbours tell us. It is full of bugs. So we drink the water.
Don’t stop for anybody under any circumstance, they tell us. We will be robbed and murdered. So we stop when we’re flagged down going through the mountain. These guys have a car that has broken down and they need a push. We give ‘em a push and they don’t rape Liz, shoot the kids or me, or even rob us. They smile and wave thank you.
The roads are lethal. We will inevitably be killed on the road, they informed us. Well admittedly the road does suddenly come to abrupt ends every now and then, when we round bends so that we find ourselves bouncing along rutted dirt tracks at seventy miles per hour. The main road is a single lane death trap. Mexican drivers can be a little volatile, fast and erratic. One day we watched as we picnicked at the side of the road as a car careered off and into the desert at about a ton plus. But the driver and passengers were alright. They reversed back onto the road and drove off as if nothing had happened. Admittedly there are little shrines every few hundred yards down its entire length where other drivers have met their demise. But nothing happened to us. We loved it!
It was tough walking through some of the poor Mexican towns with money and a camera. Our camera was worth more than some of their entire lifetime earnings. We could change lives with a single contribution.
There were roads with beggars. They didn’t pester you like in India. They sat despondently, almost hopelessly. They had little wooden bowls. There were old misshapen ladies, cripples and kids. If you put something in their bowls they ate. If you didn’t they starved. We put some in but still felt guilty.
We reached Mexico City and went up in the revolving restaurant to survey the smog. There was a lot of it.
We went out to the pyramids at Tehuacan. We camped by the pyramid of the sun. We woke to the sun rising over the pyramid of the sun. We climbed that pyramid and the pyramid of the moon. We stood at the top and imagined human sacrifices. The pyramids used to be painted red with huge carvings and plaster frescoes. They were scary places but incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring. You could imagine the music blaring, the crowds gathered and the sacrifices to the gods. The steps were supposed to have run with blood.
I could not help thinking that it was the same god all those years ago, before Mohammed, before Christ – the same vicious, demanding, blood-thirsty god! Same people! Same superstition. Same fear! Same sacrifices! Same stupidity!
We don’t get any cleverer!
We still are just as superstitious and stupid as ever we were!
Oh, of course, I am so wrong! I forgot! This is the age of Christ, Mohammed and the rest! Not some primitive superstition! Not like the gods of Rome or Yahweh, or the Earth Mother! No. Not some superstitious human creation of a messed up human mind. This time, unlike all the past times, it is real! I shouldn’t forget that, right!
But as I stood on top of that pyramid and thought about all the blood running down those steps I saw all human-created religion from all cultures, over all time. Nothing changes. It’s just wrapped in different clothing.
So we came down the steps where religion had killed countless thousands of innocent fools and headed for Taxco. A town up in the mountains. We stayed and had Christmas away from Christ and the commercial god of avarice. We stayed in a beautiful old hotel and listened to the firecrackers. And the kids ran through the streets with their Panyattas and smacked them with sticks to break they open to get the sweets inside and it was wonderful!
My idea of straight and your idea of straight might be totally different. I’m amazed at how straight I’ve become. It quite shocks me!
I wonder if I’m quite so willing to put my life and mind on the line?
Human beings are the same the world over. There’s thick ones, and ignorant ones, rich, poor and nasty ones. There’s good and evil ones. There’s violent and aggressive ones. The majority of them are pleasant, friendly and helpful. You just gotta find your way around and get along with them. I’ve always found that if you smile, are friendly and treat ‘em fair then they do the same to you.
I guess I’ve been lucky and never run into the real bastards yet!
The trouble with honesty is that people can find it so disappointing. To reveal all about yourself is to destroy your image. A radio programme has better pictures than a T.V programme. Everyone has his or her image of you. None of them are right.
The reality has got to be less than the imagined. The mysterious enigma is more intriguing than the openly blatant.
I am a crazy Zen beat hipster from Merton in Surrey on the Thames delta in the deep south.