Memories of days gone by

Eronga
Town of Erongaricuaro.

NINETEEN YEARS ago, I received the first and last visit from family members above the Rio Bravo. My mother and sister. I picked them up one evening at the Guadalajara airport and, as we drove to a downtown hotel, my sister asked:

Are most of the people who live here Mexican?

She was 59 at the time and had never been to a foreign country. It was her first and last trip outside the United States. She’s 78 now and, I imagine, will never leave her homeland again. She prefers the craziness of California.

After one night in the Guadalajara hotel, we took a bus to the neighboring state’s capital where I was renting a house. A couple of days later, we boarded another bus to the mountaintop town where I live now and stayed in a hotel for four nights.

We were tourists.

And during that time on the mountaintop — before I moved here, mind you — we took a taxi to a small town on the edge of our large lake, a town with the mouthful of a name Erongaricuaro, also known simply as Eronga because it’s easier to say.

We walked around a bit, but it began to rain, so we returned to the main plaza to catch another cab, but no cab was to be found. We sat on a bench and waited … and waited … and waited. No cab appeared. It was about to get dark.

A chicken bus pulled up, one of those ancient, smoke-belching, retired school buses that were common in these parts back then. They have since disappeared, replaced by smaller, nicer, more modern forms of local transportation.

We climbed aboard the chicken bus and returned to our hotel on the mountaintop.

Two days later, we went back to the state capital for another night, and then we bused to Guadalajara again for their flight back to Atlanta. Neither ever returned, but they did come that once. My daughter has yet to visit.

Yesterday afternoon, we drove to Eronga, parked the Honda on the small plaza, bought ice cream and sat on a plaza bench, the same steel bench on which I sat with my sister and mother 19 years ago. Facing across the street, I snapped the above photo.

I think about the visit of my mother and sister every time I sit on the plaza of Erongaricuaro, which I do now and then because it’s not that far from the Hacienda. But on that late, rainy afternoon 19 years ago, it seemed to the three of us that we were in the middle of nowhere. And then there was that ride on the chicken bus.

My mother is long dead. My sister lives, I think, in Arcata, California, and my daughter lives in Athens, Georgia. I have no other Gringo relatives.

But I’ll always have Eronga.

Photographic memories

I’VE LABORED the last few days switching photos from one internet provider (SlickPic) to another (Flickr). There were over 500 shots, so it took quite a while, especially since I passed some of them through a service that gussied them up.

I reduced the 500+ to 425 but only 248 are visible to the public. You can see them here.

When my second wife kicked me to the curb in 1995, I left behind almost all photos taken during the 19 years I spent with her. And when I moved to Mexico in 2000, I culled even further. Most photos I have now were shot since I moved south.

But not all.

There are lots, and almost all are digital, i.e. online, nowhere else. One reason I moved to Flickr, which is far better than it used to be, is that it’s free (up to a point), and the photos will not vanish one year when I fail to pay. That could happen when I’m dead, and I want my child bride to have access to them.

During this process I came across some photos I’d not noticed in years, and I’m going to show a few to you. The first was taken in Mexico City in the 1970s. I was sitting with a French friend I’ve known since we met in the Air Force in 1963. He is a legal immigrant.

Torre
Atop the Torre Latinoamericana in Mexico City.

That’s me on the left, of course. I weighed about 225 pounds. Nowadays, I weigh about 165, making me rather skinny at 6′-3″ tall. I prefer the adjectives svelte, lean or trim. Skinny doesn’t sound good. I trimmed down around 1980 with a bit of effort.

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Felipe in drag.

And here I am beardless, a bit earlier than the above photo. I’m in the French Quarter of New Orleans, an extra in a movie titled Octoroon. The movie won no Oscars. Quite the contrary. It went straight to drive-ins. I was only in the first scene, walking down a sidewalk.

Oddly, I’ve always wanted to be an actor, and would have done theater work in New Orleans or Houston except for the fact that my newspaper career always had me working evenings, and that’s when theaters present plays. I never had a chance.

Thwarted by fate. I coulda been somebody!

And here is a photo of me and my mother that was taken during a visit to Georgia shortly after I relocated to Mexico. She died in 2009 at the age of 90.

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Now let’s look way back to 1956. Here I am in, I think, the 7th Grade. I’m the kid in the middle. The boy on the right is Larry. A few years later, he lost a leg in a grisly highway accident during a nighttime hayride.

Are you old enough to remember hayrides?

Another boy, a friend of mine, was killed in that same accident. I had been invited to go, but I didn’t, and I don’t remember why. Luck, I guess.

New Image
Look at those multicolored loafers I’m sporting.

It’s been a fun few days looking at the past.

Our spectacular pond

lake
Photographed by yours truly.

IN THE TROTSKY Museum in Mexico City there’s a framed photo on the wall, a shot of the old commie Leon fishing from a skiff in our lake. Perhaps if he’d stayed here, he would have avoided that pick in his head, the one that killed him.

Yesterday was the 16th birthday of our nephew whom we once called the Little Vaquero, but he’s not so little anymore. A birthday shindig was thrown for him at a scenic lookout that’s called the Estribo. There are two Estribos in the area, the big one and the little one. This photo was shot from the big one, which is higher than the little one.

The view, as you can plainly see, is spectacular.

I took this shot about 6:30 p.m. There are islands in the lake that are reachable via motor launches from a dock that’s not far from downtown.

Nice, huh?

Life on the streets

vendors

I’VE NOT BEEN shooting as many photos as I used to. I’m good at photography, so this is a loss to the art world. The main reason is that my best camera, a Canon, is heavy, and I  weary of lugging it in my man bag.

So I’ve taken to toting the other camera, a Fujifilm Finepix, which is far lighter, but the zoom is significantly less. I have to be closer to things. No matter. I used the Finepix yesterday to get the above shot of street vendors. I’m acquainted with those two. They are very friendly people though they look quite serious in the photo.

paulaframe

I also got this photo of Paula Romina, a great-niece of mine. It appears she was happy to see me. Maybe she was just happy to see the camera. She’s a drama queen.

I’m going to make a matte hard copy of that photo for her parents.

I have no grandchildren, nor nieces and nephews above the border and never will have. My father’s only sister was a lesbian. My only sister is a (grumpy) lesbian. My mother was an only child. My sole offspring, a daughter, is almost 53 and childless.

Our line of the family ends with my daughter. We are so conflictive and nuts, especially the distaff side, perhaps it’s for the best. Dr. Laura pointed out that it’s men who cause problems between nations, but it’s women who cause problems in families. Quite so.

What I lack in living Gringo relatives, I make up in Mexican relatives. While the generation of my child bride has passed beyond child-bearing age, the generation just after is breeding like bunnies, often without the benefit of matrimony.

If you’ve not seen my great collection of black-and-white shots, feel free to see it here.