Wednesday, February 13, 2013

No. 477 – It Beats 4 U

Performer: My Morning Jacket
Songwriter: Jim James
Original Release: Z
Year: 2005
Definitive Version: None.

The last two times I’ve seen My Morning Jacket—the two times I’ve seen them since I got into them—they played everything I wanted to hear. I mean they played everything, with one exception—this song, both times—and it’s my second-favorite. Oh well. It just goes to show you: You can’t have everything.

Speaking of having everything, particularly when on vacation, the love I had for Venice was a direct results of my first international trip in 2008, to Mexico. I had taken international vacations before—to Canada and England. Mexico was the first time I’d traveled to a country where English wasn’t the primary language.

Our casita in San Miguel was down the street from where Laurie’s aunt lived. It was a two-story, three-suite building, and our suite was on the first floor. We had a kitchenette, a private breakfast patio and a bathroom that had a walk-in shower. The guy who owned it was a Californian who cashed in during the Internet boom and moved to San Miguel into this oasis of a house that he built.

While we unpacked, giddy from the travel, Ann and her husband, Hernan, came to greet us as. The first order of business was for Laurie and I to get stocked up with groceries, so Ann took us—I was now armed with my Mexican Spanish phrase book—up the street, which turned into a walkway, to the grocery store that was on the main road where our van brought us from Leon.

We had filtered drinking water provided, so we got other basics, such as milk, cereal, pop and beer. Because I would be the only one up early enough to partake in breakfast, the cereal selection was all mine. The choice was limited—the store was small—but I decided on a Corn Flakes/Frosted Flakes combo.

In Mexico, Frosted Flakes are called Zucaritas, and I noted with some amusement that the box features Antonio el Tigre, who has far bushier eyebrows than his U.S. counterpart, no doubt to effect a more Mexican flavor. (Corn Flakes are Corn Flakes, regardless of where you are.)

Ann left us to settle in and said she’d come back in a little bit to take us into the central part of town to get our bearings and also to have dinner. We walked along narrow cobblestone streets, past colorful houses of yellow, pink, orange and purple, and it seemed all of the roads were uphill.

The central part of San Miguel is a tree-lined park called El Jardin Principal, across the street from La Parroquia, which is the main church in town and quite distinctive from any other church I’d seen or would see in Mexico. La Parroquia has a gothic flair, which reflected a local bricklayer’s trip to Europe before changing the facade.

Ann showed us the banco, so we could get our pesos, and we hiked around El Jardin for a bit. The area was pulsing with activity—but not cars. Cars and ATVs were prevented from reaching the town square. Laurie and I went the week after Easter, which Ann explained was a week of celebration.

And sure enough, several of the streets had decorations. Just outside La Parroquia, a puppet show was going on, and street vendors selling just about everything but the square of sidewalk on which you stood lined the streets.

Ann took us to her favorite place down a side street not far from El Jardin. We were a little early, so we watched a bit of the puppet show. We got there in time to see this bit where the puppeteers were in black outfits that had small musician bodies but their normal big heads. When they’d move the little bodies shook and created a funny effect. The crowd of young children squealed with laughter.

Then the scene shifted underwater, where different kinds of brightly colored fish “swam” by against a black background. Here comes el pulpo (octopus) and la tortuga (turtle) and el tiburon, who was called a bad hombre and chased the other fish around. All the while, one puppeteer would wave his white-fingertipped hand upward as he walked by to portray bubbles. The kids were spell-bound. So were we, but we had to go. Laurie and I made a mental note to come back the next night and see the whole thing.

We had dinner at Posadita and sat on the roof in the warm open air with a view of much of the city and the open desert beyond. The temperature that day was 88, but it felt like 72 because of the high mountain air. San Miguel sits at 6,280 feet, or 1,000 feet higher than the Mile High City of Denver.

I don’t remember what I had, although I’m sure it was a combination of beef, cilantro, onions and tortillas, but I definitely remember the margarita—greenish-white, translucent, citrusy and served in a tumbler glass. It was a respectable drink, not like the cartoonish (and all-too-sweet) frozen crud they serve at too many Mexican places in the states.

As we dined, the sun set, and lights started to dot the landscape as well as the sky. I could have sat there all night, but our long day—combined with the margaritas at high altitude—was having its effect. But what would happen four years later in Italy happened that day, I had been smitten with San Miguel on the first day. Viva Mexico!

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