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...and they lived happily ever after. Smith & Lady: poets, artists, photographers & adventurers.
Our relationship was forged to the soundtrack of Yoko Ono's magic,
frenetic, love-laden song, "Walking On Thin Ice." ( play song )

wrong way day gone right

wrong road Mexican mountain pig – foto by smith

i go up-mountain to pick coffee weighing 178. come back 172. not bad for a 6 foot 3 inch 62 year old man. walking up and down mountains is serious weight reducing work.

went this time with our gringo lady friend who had suggested we go the first time and who introduced us to the coffee couple. she’s involved in trying to get mountain villages their own independent radio stations so they can counteract government lies. she spent time down in Nicaragua and El Salvador back in the 80s and 90s when the Central American death squads were using ronald reagan’s drug money to kill american nuns.

the 5 hour bus to Tanetze took four and a half hours first time, five and a half this time, probably due to what i thought was fog but looked like clouds. mist so thick, driver stopped at one point and stared into nothingness, a headlight lit golden glow of Twilight Zone plasma about us. we left paved road for dirt and night. clouds thickened, bus bounced down steep mountain. even at 5 miles per hour, the bus bounced precariously. big bounces, small narrow road that’s not always all there. streams run across the road and wash sections away, and the mountain itself keeps falling off in bits and pieces each rain. i knew from our first journey how dangerous the roads were, how precipitous the fall would be, but figured if we fell, we fell. my only worry was falling and surviving in the mountain cold.

in the worst of it, a baby starts a horrendous squall and wouldn’t stop. never heard such angry rage vocalized so succinctly. don’t think she liked being bounced about so in the dark, or the noise – big bus down dirt road ain’t quiet. i can’t blame her. driver turned bus lights on and i caught her eye because i was the only tall white bearded person wearing a tee-shirt and a Greek fisherman cap. looked her in the eye and waggled my fingers slowly, and she went silent. stared at me. each time the mom broke our eye line, she squalled. each time we got it back, she fell silent. i felt i had magic power.

got to Tanetze ten at night. next morning at 5 the roosters start crowing, followed by burros braying, interspersed with the kur-eee kur-eee of dawn birds. at 6 the village loud speaker broadcasts religious music (it’s easter) and some sort of sermon or announcement. i look out the window down the mountain and see clouds below us, a river of clouds snaking between the mountains. and it is cold. i start thinking in haiku.

celebration in next village up mountain – foto by smith

we’re scheduled to walk up the mountain to the next village for a special easter festival celebrating a girl’s 15th year. our hosts have to buy a present so tell us to turn at the electric pole and follow the road. we three gringos turn at the wrong pole. walk 30 minutes up gorgeous mountain road the opposite way past pigs, pineapple plants, and banana trees. Lady picks up a ton of trash for her art. we’re having a real good time when we meet a man coming down the mountain who asks where we’re going. we tell him. his face drops, says we’re going exactly the wrong way. going back down, we meet a Mexican lady climbing the mountain with her old parents, she asks us in English where we live. we say Oaxaca. she says no, where do we live in the states? we say we don’t, we all three live in Oaxaca. she laughs, says she lives in California and is visiting. why wait for Godot when you can meet the Buddha on a Mexican mountain road and you don’t even have to kill him?

tuba under blue sun tarp – foto by smith

our hosts Elvira and Tomas are way worried about us. we’ve disappeared. Tomas even climbs to the top of the mountain to look for us. we ask a passing pickup for a lift. get in back with big bottles of clear bootleg liquor. pickup stops and picks up a couple with a girl and a boy. the girl is tied on the mother’s back, the boy keeps staring at me. i’m grinning one of my pure joy grins. pickup stops again, picks up our hosts.

our hosts Tomas & Elvira in back of pickup truck – foto by Lady K

Elvira & most of second hitching family – foto by Lady K

me against bootleg moonshine, father of 2nd family – foto by Lady K

get to village in time to watch a procession come down steep steps from old church and cross to village square accompanied by drums, tubas, trumpets, baritones, saxophones. a 15 year old girl leads them, wearing a fairy tale hooped skirt ballroom dress.she carrys a baby doll, and is accompanied by four symbolic suitors, each with a large red flower. a Strauss waltzes plays over the loud speaker and the girl and 4 boys do a symbolic courtship dance where she puts the toy doll aside and accepts the flowers from the men. then quick speeches from the parents, etc, followed by more loudspeaker music while the young lady dances briefly serially with the important people in her life – mom, dad, etc. our hosts danced because they were her god parents. and since we were god parent guests, we got to sit inside at the first seating at the special celebration dinner table eating rice, chicken, mole, and drinking white oatmeal atole. music followed, and we walked back down the mountain.

Lady K & I Easter afternoon 2008 – foto by Tomas

they said it was only an hour walk up the mountain, but it took us 2 hours to walk down. i’m learning here in Mexico you cannot trust either time or distance estimates. they don’t lie exactly, rather try to give you a softer acceptable answer. of course we stopped to shoot fotos of the waterfalls and look at exotic flowers. our hostess saw a white flower in the top of a tall tree, so the husband climbed down the cliff, climbed up the tree and got it. next morning it opened in a foot wide white waxy flower with fleshy erection covered in moist oozing extrusions

once back, we three gringos collapse while Elvira & Tomas go back out to a baptismal party. they basically work 14 hours a day 7 days a week, so when they do take a rare day off for easter or christmas, they walk up and down mountains to socialize and party. these folk do not have down time. a lot of work, very little money, a lot of life. but if you’re going to be poor, this is the place to do it because water pours from the mountain and food grows everywhere. we saw lime trees, lemon trees, granada trees, pineapple plants, vanilla vines, squash, pumpkins, beans, corn, honey bee hives, ginger, strawberries, coffee trees, cinnamon trees, chickens, turkeys, beasts of burden, on anon.

we’re in a time machine, life before electricity and wrist watches.

Little Shop of Horrors wanna-be – foto by smith

12 inch tree flower, Tanetze, Mexico – foto by smith

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