I’ve decided to kill Bill. Bill is my aloe plant. And I’ve decided to kill him.
It’s the only way he can live.
Never listen to anyone, ever. People love to give you advice, and 51% of the time they don’t know what they’re taking about. Unless you’re at a blackjack table in a casino. I don’t know if dealers are obligated to give advice, but they will. This is because no matter how perfectly you play the blackjack table, if you play long enough, you’re going to lose. So blackjack dealers will give you advice.
People told me all different kinds of things about watering my aloe plant. “Water him every 2-3 days,” they said. “Water him once a week.” “Water him once every three weeks.” “Water him when you notice the soil is dry.”
But I have a new tactic: Never water him, ever.
Right now Bill is sitting in the courtyard, slowly dying of thirst. But here’s the deal: Bill was built for exactly this kind of situation. Bill’s ancestors come from the desert, where they sometimes had to subsist for long periods of time without water. Apparently, a scarcity of water doesn’t hurt aloe plants; it makes them stronger. The worst thing you can do with aloe plants is give them too much water; the roots rot.
Which is why I’m done watering Bill. Eventually the rains will come, maybe in April, maybe in May, maybe in June, and the rains will water Bill. Bill will be happy, he will live, or maybe he won’t live, in which case he was destined to die.
Not that I believe in destiny.
It’s a beautiful night here in Guadalajara. The stars are out as much as they can be in a city of five million people. It’s Friday, but I’m not going to do anything except maybe walk to El Expiatorio and sit admiring the neo-gothic architecture. And maybe when I come back I’ll watch a movie, and ignore Bill.
Friends, I’m no longer in danger of starvation. I have many of you to thank for that, your generous donations, your love and support. In fact the way things are going I’m actually making money (almost) every day, and by mid March should have enough to have my very own apartment that I can hopefully Airbnb mercilessly until I get evicted.
Mexico is a land of possibilities.
I’m at Starbucks again this morning, which should come as no surprise because I go to Starbucks every morning. This routine makes me happy. When I walked in just now I started smiling, and I wasn’t sure why. I think it was just because I was in a place I felt comfortable. The people around me felt like my family, even though I know none of them. The only bummer is they didn’t have apples this morning, which means I’m involuntarily fasting.
Whenever I meet someone new here they I ask me why I came to Guadalajara. At first my stock answer was, “I wanted to be in a place like Mexico City that wasn’t Mexico City, Seattle was too expensive, and I wanted to improve my Spanish.” My Spanish isn’t bad, in fact I probably speak more grammatically than many Mexicans, just like many Swedes probably speak English more grammatically than you, but I want to take the oral legal interpreter test in Seattle next October, which means I want my Spanish to be perfect. This month has already helped (as of today I’ve been in GDL exactly one month). Yesterday a woman at the consulate asked me if I was Mexican and when I said “No, 100% gringo,” she said, “Really? No…..”. It was flattering beyond belief. She also gave me cake. She might currently be my favorite person in the world.
The other two reasons are also true: Seattle is expensive as hell, and I felt I needed to try a different place other than Mexico City since I’ve been many times.
And though I wasn’t elated about Guadalajara, I like it more everyday. Here are 10 reasons why:
1) El Terrible Juan Cafe
This is my favorite cafe in Guadalajara. I like it because you’re surrounded by plants, it’s in a wonderful, quiet, shaded neighborhood. The staff is nice (except one girl who I think might despise me), and the product is great. They have a pulled pork sandwich smothered in some kind of aioli that I could probably eat everyday and not get tired of. The only gripe I have about the place is the WiFi is sub-standard. But who goes to a cafe to be on their devices anyway, nowadays, except everyone.
2) Abarrotes la Abue’
If I keep going to this place everyday the lady who works there might accidentally end up adopting me. I still use the formal “usted” with her and probably always will, but we’re almost on a first-name basis. The thing I get here is the chilaquiles sandwich, soggy tortilla chips in sauce with melted cheese between two pieces of rustic baguette. It costs $1.50. In El Terrible Juan I could eat their pork sandwich everyday if I had the money; at Abarrotes la Abue’ I actually eat their pork sandwich everyday.
Abarrotes La Abue.
3) Parque Rojo
My favorite thing about this park is the kids who stand around free-style rapping. It’s hilarious. All they do is insult each other and wave their hands in the air and bob back and forth. Plus the other day I saw a guy there with a chinchilla.
4) El expiatorio
Apparently the ultimate example of neo-gothic architecture in the world, though I’m sure this is false. This is like when Mexicans say Mexico City is “the biggest city in the world,” an asseveration that is patently false. Mexico City is big, but not that big. Tokyo is bigger. Sao Paulo is bigger. Hell, if you’re talking metropolitan area, Chongqing is bigger.
El expiatorio is a cathedral, in case I haven’t made that clear. Masses are held all the time. The doors are always open. And right next to the cathedral lies number five…
5) Tamales at El Expiatorio
Seventeen pesos buys you a one-way ticket to flavor country. Destination: delicious tamales served out of big silver pots by smiling women. They have red, green, spinach, mushrooms, and corn. I personally like the corn tamales because they’re sweet. But since I’m a crazy, demented health nut (and also just demented), I often get the acelga tamales, which are like spinach.
6) El Bosque de la Primavera
A good place to spend an afternoon contemplating something you rarely experience in Guadalajara: silence. This is of course because the Bosque de la primavera is not in Guadalajara, it’s just west. If you go, consider doing a temazcal with Fernando and Miriam at Casa Quetzalcoatl. When I did it I could smell my hair burning and my hands went numb, but it was, like, kind of cool, too.
Sandwiches for $1.50. Rent for $200 a month. Even the tea I’m drinking right now at “Estarbucks” barely costs more than a dollar. The Mexican pesos is weak right now, like a middle school kid pre-growth spurt held in a head-lock. Not great for Mexico, good for tourists.
8) Lack of Gringos
That said, there aren’t that many international tourists. The expats have already decided where it’s “acceptable” to live in Mexico: San Miguel de Allende, Lake Chapala, parts of Baja, Cuernavaca. Which means those places have been ruined, and every other place is still awesome. Like Guadalajara. (Oh, I forgot: This one was supposed to blow your mind. That title was actually just an imitation of all the awful headlines seen on the internet today).
9) Tortas ahogadas
Imagine a wet burrito, but instead of a wet burrito a wet sandwich. Here’s what they do: They take a torta (basically a sandwich on french bread filled with carnitas), and douse it in a mild red sauce. I mean douse. Drench might actually be a better word. Or drown, since ahogada means “drowned.” The end result? It basically because like eating stew — a delicious, sandwich stew.
10) Calle Libertad
My favorite place to walk at night. Leafy, airy, cool. Not too much traffic. Great cafes and restaurants like La Teteria and La Cafeteria. And it’s also the street leading home, which is why I’ve chosen it to end this blog entry. Hopefully the post hasn’t been too good, because then you might come, and I might have to take number 8 off the list.
Writing at night is different. I’m not used to writing at night. I’ve gotten in the habit of waking up every morning, walking to Starbucks, getting my Youthberry tea in a for-here cup, and then writing.
Starbucks, as I’ve mentioned before, is the perfect place for writing because of the anonymity. Everything’s always the same at Starbucks. It’s a controlled environment. I like a controlled environment for writing.
And now I’m back at my house, sitting next to the drone of the refrigerator. The comforting drone. I’m eating spinach, which is a strange bedtime snack, but it’s all I have in the refrigerator. I’m still resisting setting up shop here, because a big part of me is so desperate to get out. My new room is right by the garage/entrance to the neighbor’s house. I hear everything they say. I hear when they have the TV on. I hear their tiny little dog that freaks out, which causes all the neighborhood dogs to freak out, and pretty soon it’s a symphony of frustrated canines. Tonight I’m going to try putting some white noise on. Last night I tried to do it but the electrical socket, because it was wired wrong, blew up very nearly in my face and caused the electricity to go out in the whole house. I think it might’ve even caused the electricity to go out in the neighbor’s house, which was probably a good thing. I’m trying to decide which white noise to put on. Rain sounds? A brook? A waterfall? Wind? A fan? There are 10-hour long YouTube videos of just about every sound you can imagine. The internet is a strange place.
Tomorrow is a holiday here in Mexico, but it’s not a holiday for me. Tomorrow my ear will be kept to the grindstone. I’ll work on the novel, which is starting to take shape. At this point I’ve realized that at some point in every large artistic endeavor there will be a point where you dread working on it, where you have to force yourself. I’m at that point right now. But once I get going on it it’s decently fun. I’m proud of what I have so far.
When I was living in Oaxaca the son of the family who I was living with would always talk on the phone to his girlfriend in Mexico City at night. To combat the sound of his lecherous voice I would put on hours and hours of rain sounds. The rain is the nicest sound to sleep to. That and the ocean. I go to the ocean here in Mexico in less than two weeks. A house in the jungle, near a private beach.
Anyway, I’m tired. White noise or not, it’s time to go to bed. I hope you’ve all had a wonderful weekend. And that you have a wonderful Monday.