Sunday Night Thoughts #6: The Best Things in Life

expiatorio guadalajara

Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench. – Tao Te Ching

A strange thing happened to me just now. I went to pay for a chai frappe in one of my favorite cafes here in Guadalajara, and my card was declined. At first I thought, Something is wrong with their system. There’s no way I don’t have enough money to buy a chilled beverage that costs three dollars. But then I checked my bank account. I logged into Charles Schwab, oh, the trusty Charles Schwab, and saw that in fact my bank account was at $2.67.

Instead of starting to panic, however, I became strangely calm. I became like a man on a sailboat who’s sailing straight into a storm, and he knows there’s nothing he can do about it but take the sail down, tighten the keel (I know nothing about sailing), put a lifejacket on, and hope for the best. Of course, my situation’s a bit different. I’m heading into a financial storm, but I can take direct action to mitigate the strength of that storm. In fact, if I take the correct action, I can even make sure the storm never hits and I simply sail off into the sunset, gnawing on a piece of raw tuna.

I’ve weathered financial straits in the past, and always come out of them better. In fact, those of you who know me will know that these financial straits are self-imposed. In a way, I want to be in exactly the situation I’m in right now, even if it confirms my suspicion from earlier today that my dinner tonight will consist of Cup o’ Noodles (spicy shrimp? spicy chicken? spicy anything) and possibly a tinga empanada and possibly an apple. Interestingly, these apples are imported from Washington State, almost definitely harvested by migrant laborers from the country where I currently am, and always make me a bit nostalgic/homesick. Since when can an apple make you homesick? When I make my millions I’m going to enjoy a steady stream of Red Delicious smothered in pounds of (unsweetened!) peanut butter. I’m going to live in a tiny house on a plot of land somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, and I’m going to surf everyday. And also probably keep chickens.

The point, though, that I don’t have to make millions to do this. And I don’t want to make millions. Because right now it’s a gorgeous evening here in GDL. I’m thoroughly looking forward to my grocery store walk, which will happen sometime in the next hour. And every time I get low on money I realize that the best things in life really are, proverbially, free. Like a nice walk at sunset. Like a chat with a friend. Like sitting on your couch and writing a blog post. Like drinking a chai fra–

Oh wait, that one actually does cost a few bucks.

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El Mono Silabo

mono silabo guadalajara

I’m at el Mono Silabo, a cafe in the Americana neighborhood in Guadalajara. I’d never come to this cafe before because it’s two doors down from El Rincon del Mate, the one mate cafe in Guadalajara and possibly in all of Mexico, and where I go at least several times a week. But today El Rincon del Mate doesn’t open till 2:30pm, so I thought I’d give this place a shot.

I’m glad I did. When I walked in there was Cuban music playing, and the courtyard was awash with light and people talking. Guadalajara is full of buildings like this; they don’t look like much from the outside, but inside there’s always an open air courtyard filled with plants, and the sounds of the street become a memory. Sometimes there’s a fountain, and always the din of soft music and conversation. El Mono Silabo has a big room off to the side that’s filled with floor to ceiling windows that let in the breeze, and also shelves of books. I love being surrounded by books. It feeds my soul, much like the jugo verde, or green juice I just ordered, that feeds my body.

I just finished giving my last English conversation class on Saturdays. This was the first job I ever had here when I arrived a month and a half ago. I’ll tell you what it paid now, because it’s over and I’m less embarrassed. Fifty pesos an hour. I’ll let you do the math. When you do you’ll see why I referred to it as my “volunteer job,” but when I accepted this job it was because I knew it was the right thing to do. The pay was secondary. It was a way to hit the ground running (see: jogging [see: slowly]), to meet people, to have meaningful interactions. And it’s also opened doors. I’m now one of two Spanish teachers at the American Consulate here, which is another job I accepted at the same company because I figured it might open doors. I’m still not quite sure what doors these might be. So far it’s just another underpaid job. But it’s also cool to meet people from the consulate, to see that world, and if I hadn’t accepted that job that never would’ve happened.

The reason I quit the English conversation job is because I now have a lot more online work, and this work pays over three times as much as what the Saturday conversation class was paying. This is not to say it pays a lot, because it doesn’t, but it pays a respectable wage for Mexico. I’m still not in the financial position to get my own place. I spent all of my savings in Sayulita, so I’ll have to wait till mid March, unless I somehow sell an article to the New York Times or other such massive publication, which might be hard since I’m not submitting articles to such publications. But I have this strange feeling that I’m going to come into a decent amount of money soon. Have you ever had that feeling? It’s a good feeling. It reminds me of the J.D. Salinger quote:  “I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.”

That’s kind of how I feel right now.

I’m debating whether or not to order a coffee, or a frappe, but really just enjoying the music that’s drifting in from the adjacent courtyard. My nostrils are being intermittently assaulted by some kind of sewage smell from the street, and I’m not sure where it’s coming from. I’m supposed to work on my novel today, at least 1,000 words, and I can’t be bothered. All I want to do is take a nap. Which is fine. Because it’s Saturday, and Saturday’s in Mexico are for cafes and naps.

Crucial information: 
El Mono Silabo
Calle Miguel Blanco 1405, Guadalajara
See photos

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From Christian Pulisic to Lonches: 5 More Things I Love

I’m trying to keep the positivity of yesterday going. (I think) I learned two things from yesterday: write even more, be positive, and do away with preconceptions of what I think this blog should be, or what I think I’m capable of as a writer. I might start posting twice a day on some days, and the reason I might do this is it would make me write more, even if people wouldn’t necessarily read it more. I need to get my 10,000 hours in. 

But anyway, here are 5 more things I love:

1) Christian Pulisic

He’s my favorite soccer player. He’s the best American soccer player to have ever lived, and he’s only 19 years old. I went to Germany to watch him play, and this trip resulted in five of my favorite days in 2017, staying in a tiny town called Florsheim am Main just west of Frankfurt, talking to my housemate Zelda only in German, attending the Dortmund vs. Mainz game, and going to the Frankfurt Christmas market. I also have a blog dedicated entirely to this young phenom, which you can check out here.

Flörsheim am Main, Germany.

2) Marta’s Lonches

I’ve now mentioned these delectable sandwiches in several posts. They cost 28 pesos, which is about $1.50. Getting them and talking with Marta, the owner of the little corner store that sells things like fruit and cheese and candy and toilet paper, might be the highlight of my days. Most recently she told me about a meditation class she attends Monday nights that only costs 50 pesos and is guided. She calls me “vecino” (neighbor), even though I don’t live near her.

3) Mexican Spanish

Last night my housemates and I sat in the courtyard drinking beer and talking about, amongst other things: drug cartels in Mexico, Spanish rap (i.e. from Spain, not just in Spanish), and La Bestia, the train — or series of trains –that traverse all of Mexico from south to north bringing immigrants from Honduras and other places in Central America and Mexico to the US border. This train is incredibly dangerous, incredibly famous, and passes fairly close to our house, or at least close enough to hear its whistle, and I had no idea.

As I sat there listening to this conversation and sometimes participating, I remarked on how much I love Mexican Spanish, how beautiful it can sound to me, and the spot I will always have for it in my heart, since my Spanish was first solidified in Mexico (Mexico City), and it’s the Spanish I know best.

4) Reading

This may seem a bit general. It may seem a bit obvious. But since I got to Guadalajara I haven’t had a book; that is, I haven’t had a printed book. I’ve been reading on my phone a bit, but reading on your phone is nowhere near as satisfying as holding a book in your hands. Then yesterday there was a basket of books at the Starbucks I always go to that said, “Free. Take one.” and so I did, I took Satyricon by Petronius, and it instantly elevated my quality of life. I like reading, and since I’m in Mexico I like reading Spanish even better. Thank you, Starbucks, for unwittingly gifting me a friend.

5) My aloe plant

A friend gave me an aloe plant and, like the book I got yesterday, it’s also elevated my quality of life. It keeps me company. I have to care for it. Right now, for example, it’s sitting in the courtyard because I feel like being in my room is killing it. I cannot kill this aloe plant. It must live at all costs. Today I will look for a bigger pot for it, since, like me, it wants to grow, it wants to flourish, it wants to be the maximum expression of its aloe self. In a word, it wants to be actualized.

So there’s a little more love. And maybe, since it’s Friday, I’ll also write another post this evening. Also, since it’s nearing the end of the month, I’m going to start bugging you guys about sponsoring this blog on Patreon. You can pledge as little as a dollar a month, or more if you want. Right now I have seven patrons, contributing a combined $20 a month. My goal is $1000 a month. I won’t stop until I get it.

Have a wonderful day!

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5 Things I Love


I haven’t done this so far on Ordinary Nomad, but I’ve decided to delete a post. I’ve deleted the post from this morning, which was about my dislike of Hispanic accents in terms of spoken English, and also my dislike of gringo accents in spoken Spanish. Where do I get with hate speech? There’s no need for this. It just alienates people. It makes you sound ignorant and bitter, two things I never want to be. Which is why I’ve deleted the post, and in it’s stead written a post about 5 things I love.

(in no particular order):

1) Roberto Bolaño

Currently my favorite author, tied for #1 with Karl Ove Knausgaard. Right now I’m re-reading Los Detectives Salvajes (The Savage Detectives in English). My love for these two authors knows no bounds. They’ve been my favorite authors for at least two years now, though Bolaño has occupied that ranking for many more, basically since I discovered the book 2666.

2) Karl Ove Knausgaard

I’ve written about this author many times. He’s Norwegian. He’s conflicted. He smokes a ton of cigarettes. None of these things make him a better writer, of course. The only thing that made him a better writer was writing and writing and writing, and just when he was ready to give up, writing some more. And he certainly made it.

3) Tamales

Acelga, mole, elote, I don’t know if I’ve ever tried a tamal I didn’t like.  The best one I’ve had this go-round in Mexico was outside an Oxxo convenience store coming into GDL from the west. It cost 12 pesos.

4) The Final Scene from Whiplash

This last weekend my friend Kevin introduced me to the movie Whiplash, from 2014. I’d never seen it. In fact, the only thing we watched over and over, at my and his brother’s request, was the final scene: jarring, inspiring, haunting, original, upsetting, beautiful.

5) Bainbridge Island

My home. Every time I go back there I’m filled with calm from the moment I step off the ferry. Stepping off the ferry in the evening has also provided my current favorite smell to date: salt water mixed with pine trees.

So yes, better to write about things you love than things you hate. I apologize if I offended anyone with the previous post. I was frustrated. I was confused. I was sitting in a Starbucks. 



My Other Favorite Cafe in Guadalajara

You learn a lot about someone when you share a meal together. – Anthony Bourdain

I already wrote about my favorite cafe in Guadalajara, a place called El Terrible Juan that has cute waitresses and serves coffee that isn’t horrible. In fact, yesterday I tried their aeropress for the first time and would describe how I felt afterward as, “Not massively disappointed.” It still wasn’t great, and the fact of the matter is coffee in Latin America generally sucks, but it was palatable, well-prepared, and tasted at least semi-recently roasted. It also made me feel like a mad genius for the next couple of hours, which is the mark of good coffee. Bad coffee makes me feel anxious and like the world is crumbling around me; good coffee makes me feel like the world is crumbling but that I’ll emerge from the rubble unscathed.

But on to Rendezvous, my other favorite cafe. Rendezvous lies on the corner of Calle Colonias and Calle Libertad, and was the first cafe/restaurant I ever went to in Guadalajara. It’s one of those places you walk by, especially at night, and the lighting is chic and romantic and cozy, like the only people who go there are bohemian artist types who somehow don’t smell bad, and you think, “Damn, I want to be there.” And so you go there, and you realize the product isn’t expensive and that it’s good, the pizza for example only costs 50 pesos ($2.68), a glass of wine 40 pesos ($2.14), and the music good and often live and people are having a good time and are generally bohemian artist types (aka the modern version aka graphic designers), though whether they smell good or not I haven’t confirmed.

Rendezvous is supposed to be a French cafe/restaurant. There is nothing French about this place except the name. Sure, some of the drinks have names of famous French people. Yesterday I ordered a “Monet,” which was some kind of fruity tea with lemon and honey. I don’t exactly see what’s French about that. And the menu includes things like pizza and nachos, which again don’t strike me as particularly French. The service is the only thing that might be vaguely French, in that many of the servers seem slightly arrogant and are wont to forget about you for hours (see: minutes) on end. It’s the kind of place where you order one thing, they bring you another, and the general feeling is, “Look, I know what you ordered. But I also know what you need.”

Rendezvous is only open in the evenings and lies in the prestigious Chapultepec neighborhood of Guadalajara, a block from the American Consulate and across from the fresa Mercado Mexico, a place where people go to spend too much on yoga and Asian food prepared by Mexicans who have no idea how to prepare Asian food (Note: Latin Americans generally have no idea how to prepare Asian food. I went to an upscale “Thai” restaurant in Bogota one time and they served Phad Thai with linguine noodles).

If you go to Rendezvous, be prepared for wonderful ambience, live music (on the weekends), decent food, great prices, and waiters who might not be incredibly attentive but will make you love them anyway. I’m falling more in love with Guadalajara everyday, and this cafe/restaurant is one of many reasons why.



Libertad 1903, Americana, 44170 Guadalajara, Jal.

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The Climate in Guadalajara: An Essay

This morning I woke up in a my little shit-hole room I like more and more everyday, turned off the white noise for colicky babies that has changed my life completely and allows me to sleep perfectly — almost perfectly — at the very least it allows me to be excited about going to sleep, because I know I won’t hear the neighbors talking, and if a dog barks — and a dog will bark, at some point in the night a dog will flip the shit out and sound like it’s trying to murder someone — it barely penetrates the fortress of white noise I’ve engineered in the form of my phone sitting equidistant between my person and the window from which the noise comes.

I lay in bed for a moment, as a I usually do, disorientated. “Where am I? Why am I in Mexico?”  I thought. Then I thought about how I should best go about seizing the day. I decided to do what I usually do: Turn on the hot water heater and lie in my bed rating Instagram Ads for Appen until the water gets hot.

Yesterday I got an email from Appen. It said, “This is to serve as a friendly reminder that you’re not allowed to work outside of your home market country.” My home market country is the United States. I am not in the United States. I am directly violating this rule, and yet I need the money and this avarice has led me to dishonesty. There is no other way to put it. I am a dishonest person. I’m a liar. I’m a conniver.

What impressed upon me as I got up to turn on the hot water heater this morning, however, was not my dishonesty with Appen, or my precarious financial state, or even that I’m finally recovering from a crippling weekend in Sayulita, or myriad issues from my personal life, but that the temperature was perfect this morning, a crisp 52 degrees Fahrenheit, but not cold because the house around me wasn’t cold, and the sun, even though it doesn’t get all the way into the patio, somehow warmed things up. It was perfect. It’s always perfect here in Guadalajara, and that’s because the climate in Guadalajara is magisterial.

Today, for example, the high is 76 degrees. Seventy-five if you’re lucky. It rained last night, which cooled everything down. When it started raining I was in La Teteria with my friend Sandi, drinking a matcha frappe and again remarking on the perfectness of the climate. It was probably in the mid 60’s. It’s rare in Guadalajara to not be able to wear a short-sleeved shirt, though from what I understand in the in the months of April and May it gets too hot. This is because summer is coming, but the rains have not yet come. In June the rains come and cool things down again.

I turned on the water heater, lighting the pilot light first and turn the knob to “heat” and holding it there a few seconds before letting it go and watching the flame flare up, fill the heater, and then die down into a compact inferno designed to heat 30 liters of water as quickly as possible. Then I traversed the patio again, the crisp air cooling my skin, and lay in bed and rated Instagram ads.

In the mornings in Guadalajara, in winter, it’s advisable to wear a sweater. I’m currently wearing a blue sweater with blue pants, violating one of the cardinal rules of fashion. Sometimes I wear a black fleece. Sometimes, when I’m teaching, I simply leave the house wearing a long-sleeve dress shirt. Either way it’s perfect. If I get too hot wearing the fleece, I simply take it off. And maybe leaving the house in just a dress shirt I’m too cold for a fraction of a second, but it’s literally a fraction of a second, as soon as I start walking it’s fine.

The best times in Guadalajara are without a doubt after a rain. The rain cleanses the city and cleanses your soul. After a rain the city smells not like an arid wasteland (though to be fair it never smells like an arid wasteland), but like a lush oasis somewhere in Southern Algeria, a place you’ve trekked many days to get to, and just when you were about to die of thirst and contemplating ripping your camel open to drink its blood, you came upon an oasis, first seeing it from afar, the date palms swaying in the breeze, and you thought, “Damn, another mirage,” but it wasn’t a mirage, because soon you heard voices, and the date palms disappeared, and then you were kneeling by a fresh fount, quenching your thirst, the cool water mixed with the blood from your dry lips. You stay in the oasis for a week, regaining your strength. You meet the leaders of the village. One day by the well you meet a beautiful girl and fall in love. You must continue with your journey, though; if you’re meant to you’ll be back.

Now I’m in Starbucks, which has its own little musty microclimate. It’s still perfect. I could sit outside, but I want to be shielded from the noise of the cars by the din of the cafe and the melodic voice of some kind of singer/songwriter that I’m sure has long hair and is obnoxious but who all the girls love. After I’m done writing this post I’ll leave, back into the world, and again the weather will be ideal. It’s easy to understand why a city like San Miguel de Allende became so popular with expats, because the climate is similar to here. The snowbirds come down every winter. Some of them have stayed. But in Guadalajara there are no snowbirds. Guadalajara’s climate is not only perfect temperature-wise, but temperament-wise also. It is the city that forgives. That city that frees. The city that cleanses.


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How to Drive More Traffic to Your Travel Blog

The title of this blog post is a bit of a misnomer, because I don’t actually know how to drive more traffic to your travel blog. That’s why I’m writing this post, to hopefully get your help driving traffic to my travel blog, and also expound on the ways I’ve tried to do it in the past (without much success).

Here are some methods I’ve tried:

1) Facebook

Facebook is the easiest way to drive traffic to your blog, especially if you have a lot of “friends.” Note that I don’t have a lot of “friends” on Facebook, because I eliminated my account from 2009 to 2015 and thus my “friend” count, compared to a lot of my “friends,” is stunted. The good thing about Facebook is that you don’t have to feel bad about self-promotion. All Facebook is is self-promotion. People say Facebook is about community, about sharing stuff, but really all it is is each one of us throwing our proverbial pebbles in the proverbial pond, trying to get people to notice us. It’s wretched; I use it everyday.

2) Instagram, Google Plus, Pinterest, Twitter

Again, if you have a lot of “followers” or a lot of “contacts” or “friends,” these can be great methods. I personally don’t have a huge “presence” on any of these “sites.” But they’re good for the occasional grass roots marketing campaign, the occasional publicity.

3) Reddit

Spamming Reddit from time to time is a great way to generate short-term traffic spikes. My biggest ever traffic day on Where’s Wetzler came when I spammed a Seattle subreddit and got something like 500 views. Which is a bit annoying, because 500 views is not a lot. I got a message from the coordinator of that group saying that my post was in violation of their group rules. God, how I wanted to send her some kind of diatribe saying what a loser she was for caring about something like that, for devoting even a shred of her neuron power to such a meaningless issue. But then again that would’ve basically been like calling myself a loser.

4) Facebook Ads??????

The question marks are because I’m pretty sure this might be a decent way to generate traffic — and apparently not that expensive — but I’ve never tried it and thus don’t know. At some point I’ll have to ask myself why I’m so hellbent on generating traffic, though I already know the answer. To make money. To feel good about myself. To feel validated. Imagine if I ran a travel blog that got 10,000 unique views a day. First of all, that would generate a lot of revenue on Google AdSense and Patreon and PayPal, and also it would just make me feel good. It would make me feel like I was something. Would this feeling be entirely empty and probably just cause more blackness in my life? Obviously. Is this kind of validation the thing that every ancient sage said to strictly avoid seeking? Obviously. But I need to know for myself. And thus for now I will continue to seek it.

Friends, if you know any other ways to slam traffic into this blog like an out of control semi on a steep mountain road careening toward a barrier, let me know. You can email me. You can write something in the comments. You could even say, “Hey, Mark, I know how to do stuff in the header of your blog, like scripts and stuff like that, SEO stuff, and if you give me your login info I’ll do it for you.”

Until then, I’ll keep doing what I’ve always been doing, letting my fingers flit away, and posting passive aggressive messages on Facebook. If it’s not working, you’re not trying hard enough.


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Sunday Night Thoughts #5: Sayulita is a Cesspool

Sayulita has got to be one of my least favorite places in the world. It’s a cesspool. I didn’t realize how much of a cesspool it was until this last trip. And it’s actually literally a cesspool, because the town doesn’t have adequate sewage management so all the waste from the entire town just runs down one street and pools before slowly seeping into the ocean. I’ve smelled few things more foul.

But I don’t want to talk about Sayulita right now. I just got back from there. I’m exhaused. I might have an ear infection. I spent too much money even though my friends paid for pretty much everything. Frankly, the only thing I want to do right now is go to sleep. But my desire to see this blog be successful trounces sleep. For example, did you know I’ve already made $1.50 off the Google ads on this site? No, you did not know this. But now you do.

This is Sunday Night Thoughts, which means I have license to just say whatever pops into my head. Tomorrow at 8am I give a class online, and then another at 10am, and then during the day will try to qualify for a new job from Appen which not only would pay USD but would allow something like five hours a day of work. Which means I could potentially be working six hours a day making US dollars. Which means I need to take the qualification process for this job seriously. And then in the evening I’m hanging out with a friend from Mexico City. When I got back to within 30 minutes of GDL today I stepped out of the car and instantly felt feelings of well-being. The perfect climate. The sun painting the rocks orange. What a perfect place, at least for now. For now it is perfect.

Thank you, subscriber number 11, whoever you are.

It’s time for me to go to bed now.

I don’t remember when I was this tired last.

I love tamales.

Especially tamales de mole rojo.

And today I had one that was pineapple.


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I’m Going to the Beach

I’m going to the beach today. Which means I must apologize because this post is going to be a bit hurried, I’m supposed to meet a guy named Joshua at the Central de Zapopan on the west edge of Guadalajara at 11am and I want to allow at least an hour to get there, just in case there’s traffic or construction or some kind of protest, which is highly possible, not to say likely.

The place we’re staying in Sayulita should be pretty decent:

Nice and cheap, which I like, and also doesn’t have wifi. At first I was bummed about this: No wifi? How am I going to check my Instagram every 3.4 seconds? How am I going to check Facebook? How am I going to watch YouTube chess videos? But then I realized that not having wifi is not the end of the world. I mean, I can think of a few things that are worse. Not a lot. But a few things.

Sayulita, in case your Mexican coastal geography is poor, is basically due west of GDL:

It’s a gringo town, which means there are a ton of gringos, and the prices are ridiculously high. I’ve gotten used to how cheap things are in GDL. I’ve gotten spoiled. Spending even $5 on lunch in GDL would be outrageous. But I’m sure Sayulita prices are the same as the US, though since there are locals living there there must be places that cater to these locals, which means there must be places that are cheaper.

I was excited to surf in Sayulita, though it looks like there won’t really be waves. There weren’t waves last time I was there. Does Sayulita ever get waves? Someone also told me the sewage system in Sayulita isn’t — well — that basically there isn’t a sewage system. All the waste from the town goes right into the ocean on the beach right in front of the town. Honestly, I’ve only ever had lunch there, but I kind of hate Sayulita. But luckily we’re not staying in town. Casa Cascada is on a 15-hectare property just outside of the town. It has a pool. And there’s no wifi.

And I don’t know what a hectare is.

And now I should probably go. I want to get a 15 pesos fruit cup before hitting the road, since I haven’t eaten anything today. Last night I got invited to a get together at an apartment in Chapalita and a group of us sat on the roof and, since it was Valentine’s Day, each gave a short speech. Mine was terrible. I said something about how being up on the roof gave me a different perspective of GDL and made me like it more. And then Kike, one of the guys there, caught wind of the fact that I was a Spanish teacher.

“All right, proFEsor,” he said, “Enlighten me. What’s the word in Spanish for when the sun paints the clouds orange and pink in the late afternoon?”



I had no idea.

“Arrebolar,” he said. “What’s the word for the smell of rain?”

“There’s a word for that?”


And so I sat on the roof thinking for a bit about not matter how much I ever know, there will still be a sea of ignorance extending in front of me.

Which is fine. By the end of today, the actual sea will be extending in front of me.

Review: Starbucks, Chapultepec, Guadalajara (A Lesson in Din)

The first thing I noticed when I entered the Starbucks on Chapultepec, on the corner of Lopez Cotilla and Chapultepec in Guadalajara, was that it smelled musty. Luckily, I’ve since gotten used to this smell. I noticed it the first four or five times. But now, I come here everyday, so I live in the must. Love the must. The origin of this musty smell is unclear. The cleaning regimen here seems to be second to none. I often see a young man with a mop. The bathroom has a code so not just anyone off the street can walk in, though to be fair they haven’t changed the code since I’ve been here, so if I was ever in the area and needed a loo I could just walk right in. I can only assume, then, that the musty smell has something to do with the ventilation, or lack thereof. It smells a bit like a dirty bus station. But in the best possible way.

Someone criticized me yesterday for coming to Starbucks everyday, saying that in Mexico Starbucks was only for trendy people who wanted to take selfies and also that I should support something local and Mexican, and I defended myself vehemently. Granted, I had no defense against the fact that maybe I should be supporting something local. And when I say “defended myself vehemently” I don’t mean rationally or articulately. Mostly I mean that I raised my voice and became slightly aggressive. “I need a controlled environment when I write!” I said, “And Starbucks gives me that controlled environment. It’s the same everyday. I know what to expect. It’s anonymous.” I kept ranting for a few seconds more and then the argument ended in a stalemate as it was time for breakfast.

Despite the musty smell, this is a good Starbucks. It’s big and comfortable, with plenty of seating, both inside and out, and has the perfect amount of din. Din is the mix of sounds coming from the baristas and people ordering, the sound of people talking, and the music coming from the speakers. This particular Starbucks boasts a perfect din. It’s not a quiet din! In fact, as far as dins go, this is one of the louder dins. But this is classic cafe din. If you were to make a YouTube video of “cafe sounds” (and people have done this), this would be a prime candidate. The only thing I don’t like about the din this morning — and this is rare — is I hear English voices in the din. Two American girls. They’re intruding on my territory, and they must be removed.

As was bound to happen, some of the employees now know exactly what I order: A small Youthberry tea in a ceramic cup and an apple. It costs, after my for-here cup discount, 36 pesos, or $1.92. Some would consider this expenditure extravagant, but I consider it necessary. Again, this cannot be stressed enough: I need a controlled environment for writing, and one that’s not my house. I can’t write at my house. That’s like hanging out in your bed all day. Beds are for sleeping! Nothing else. Houses are for things like relaxing and watching TV and chilling on the couch, but they’re not for writing.

I will not be back here tomorrow, as I’m going to the beach. As far as I know, there’s no Starbucks in Sayulita. I’ll have to find the closest equivalent. And come Monday, I’ll be right back here. Back with my manzana and my Youthberry tea. Back with my din.

Throwback Tuesdays: The Camino de Santiago

Several years ago I walked the famed “Camino” de “Santiago,” a 500-mile “walk” through northern “Spain.” The pictures today are from the “last” part of that “walk.” I “took” them. With my “camera,” which was actually just my “phone.” All of these pictures are from Galicia, the northwestern-most region in “Spain.” Galicia is known for rain and for people speaking Gallego, which is a sort of “mix” between Spanish and “Portuguese.” I hope you “enjoy.”
Horses like to roam free.  This horse is roaming free vicariously through the cars above it.
The area after Miraz, quite possible the most striking part of all of Galicia.
Caldo gallego, sometimes made from cabbage, sometimes from “naviza” (which the internet is telling me means “turnip tops”).  Either way it’s delicious and a good way to raise core temperatures up from “critically hypothermic” after a long day on the Camino.
A forest scene somewhere in Galicia. The “mist” is actually tiny water droplets suspended in the air and not mist at all.
Eucalpytus trees are not native, but they are abundant. Eucalyptus trees like to grow near water. There’s a lot of water in Galicia..

I stayed in a monastery the other night and didn’t get to see any monks.  The thing that most stands out from the experience is how deathly dark it was in our room and how the Spaniard who I hated at the beginning and is now my friend who I hugged when I saw him today farted as he fell asleep.

Speeding by.
Masai warrior.
Where I was in Abadin.  Now I’m a little bit closer.
Gallego is a fairly exact mix of Spanish and Portuguese.  The only thing I know how to say is “Fai moito frio” (it’s cold) and “¿Bolsa poñemos? (would you like a bag?)

This strange contraption is called a “cabozo” and is used for storing grain.  I have no idea why they have the oriental-looking points on the top and when Hans asked a guy about them he didn’t know.  “Tradition,” he said.

Hans, the 65-year-old Norwegian? guy I walked with from an entire day and ate dinner with that night.
“Plato combinado”.  What to order if you’re looking for a cheap meal/coronary thrombosis.



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Doña Marta’s Lonches

Doña Marta doesn’t know my name, but I know hers. People call her “Doña Marta” or “Señora Marta” or, if they’re on really close terms with her, “Martita.” Of course, I would never dream of calling her by her first name, but that might change in the next few months because I eat her sandwiches everyday. Marta sells “lonches” out of her little convenience store in the Americana neighborhood of Guadalajara for the reasonable price of 28 pesos ($1.50).  They’re essentially sandwiches on soft baguettes filled with things like pierna (basically pulled pork), and chilaquiles (soggy tortilla chips covered with green salsa and melted cheese). If you saw Marta’s store from outside, or even went inside, you would never suspect she sold high-grade, culinary ecstasy. You would think she sold Coca Cola and toilet paper. This is because she does.

In Guadalajara and only Guadalajara, sandwiches of this kind (on baguettes) are called lonches. Everywhere else in Mexico a lonche is more like the sandwiches commonly served in the US on sliced white or wheat bread. Lonches, then, are similar to the Mexican torta, but whereas tortas commonly drift into fast-food territory, lonches are a class above. In Guadalajara it’s not uncommon to go into an upscale restaurant and see some kind of lonche, possibly cochinita (another kind of pork), accompanied by salad — and with the word “aioli” lamentably somewhere in the description — for close to 100 pesos. This doesn’t happen with tortas. Tortas are usually sold on the street.

But Marta, and the one employee she has in the kitchen, does not know what aioli sauce is (praise Jesus). She doesn’t say things like “balscamic reduction” or “I need to julienne these vegetables.” This is not to say for a minute the quality suffers. The ingredients are fresh. The lonche de pierna is topped with slices of avocado, strips of jalapeños, tomato, and homemade red salsa. The lonche de chilaquiles, or, as I like to call it, my reason for getting up in the morning, is a more involved process and usually necessitates a fork. I like to try to let it sit there and let the salsa soak the bread and essentially eat it as if it were a bread salad or some kind of stew, but impatience usually results in salsa-covered hands.

Everyday the hardest decision is which lonche to order. This dilemma is solved by alternating, and also by going there every day, sometimes twice. She still doesn’t know my name, but by now Doña Marta asks me how I’m doing, and I’m always honest. “Work sucks,” I say, or, “I don’t know that many people here in Guadalajara.” One time I said, “Doña Marta, your sandwiches are the highlight of my day,” followed by, “Is that a little sad?”

“No,” she said. “No no. We must appreciated the everyday things.”