The Jalalabad of Central Ohio

ordinary nomad

I’m kind of digging the more journal-themed posts lately. They’re certainly easier to write because I just talk about myself. What I’m thinking.  What I want to do. Where I see my life going.

I’ve been thinking for awhile now how I can get the hell out of Guadalajara. And not necessarily to leave for good, but at least to travel more, at least to take a vacation. I would love to go to Seattle, for example, at the end of April or early May, and combine that with my cousin’s wedding in Chicago on April 28th. But the problem becomes financing that trip. Luckily, I have a bit of a plan. I often participate in research studies in Seattle. You go to the hospital, you surrender your body to science and in turn they give you large sums of money. I did one last time I was living in Seattle where they took out my red blood cells, infused them with a radioactive marker, and then put them back in my body to see how long they’d live. I love stuff like this. This hustle. I’d so much rather make $800 talking to the wonderful pathologist and exposing myself to the kind of danger that’s equivalent to six chest x-rays than expose myself to the danger of having a stagnant life. And so apparently there might be a one-day study at the end of April or the beginning of May which would essentially pay for my flight to Seattle and onward to Chicago. I don’t know how I’d then get back to GDL, or wherever I went, but there’s always hitchhiking.

So that’s been on my mind.

Another thing that’s been on my mind is not leaving this area, not leaving Mexico, but moving to a smaller town. It’s been disgustingly apparent for awhile now that I’m not a city person, that I’m country folk, and yet for some reason I continue to live in cities. But I can’t really think of a better place to live than a small Mexican mountain town (except actually about 100 other places), and I think I’ve found that town. It’s called Concepcion de Buenos Aires. It’s about two hours southeast of GDL, and it’s apparently called “The Switzerland of Jalisco.” People love to call places “The Switzerland of (Insert place).” Apparently Kyrgyzstan, for example, is “The Switzerland of Central Asia.” But what about comparisons between places with not so obvious similarities? For example, what’s the Fort Lauderdale of Eastern Washington? What’s the Des Moines, Iowa, of Northern Manitoba? What’s the Tokyo of Beijing? The Jalalabad of Central Ohio?

I found out about Concepcion de Buenos Aires because of a wonderful blog called Fulanito Viajero that’s inspired me to add a “Blogs I like” section to Ordinary Nomad at some point. In the blog post he talks about 11 impressive municipalities that most people from Jalisco don’t even know about.  There’s one called Bolaños, nestled in a canyon in the middle of nowhere north of GDL that looks not only enchanting but almost shares the same name as one of my favorite authors. And about Concepcion de Buenos Aires it says it’s a place “surrounded by forests and mountains where the faint scent of pine drifts throughout.” In other words, perfect. In other words, ciao Guadalajara.

But I can’t leave Guadalajara right now, because I’ve committed to some classes. That might be the only thing that’s keeping me here, and I’m GLAD it’s keeping here, because before I head off into the unknown again I should be more prepared. In the past I’ve always just left. But maybe I’ll do it right this time. Maybe I’ll really go for it. Maybe…

I just a lonche de pierna the size of a brontosaurus thigh and I feel sleep’s warm tentacles wanting to claim me. But I can’t be claimed. I have to teach a class in a half hour to a Colombian woman who lives in Spain. Have to keep saving. Keep plotting. Keep planning the next adventure.

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Sunday Night Thoughts #9

calle libertad guadalajara

The witching hour. The time of night when the light becomes crepuscular. When YOU become crepuscular in your thoughts and deeds. When you take a familiar route and suddenly notice that your surroundings are no longer familiar, that you’re lost. When you get home and the lights are off and all is silent. This is the witching hour. And it’s my favorite time of day.

Anyway.

Hello.

It’s Sunday night. And today has been great, but for no particular reason. I watched an episode of Black Mirror with D, a phenomenal show, and then we went to a sort of cafe with seating that was sort of outdoors and sort of indoors, a sort of open air, Caribbean feel, and I commented to her that I felt like I was “back in Cuba,” or “back in the Dominican,” despite the fact that I’ve never been to the Dominican.

When I got home I watched the Dortmund v. Hannover game, in which Christian Pulisic, my favorite player, had some wonderful dribbles. And then I worked my Instagram job, which I STILL somehow haven’t been fired from, and went out to wander a bit, and when I exited my house the light was perfect, the temperature was perfect, and I looked up at the treetops and suddenly my life was perfect, and I thought about how today will never be repeated, how each moment is a wonderful thing, and yes, one day my body will be in the ground, it will decompose, but for right now I’m fighting to add content to my life, to add meaning. I’m fighting to read poetry, to write poetry, to take pictures, to go surfing, to talk with friends, to help people, to learn, to teach, to love, to fight, to cry, and all that stuff. I’m fighting for living.

My first stop was El Expiatorio where I got a tamal rojo. I sat on the steps of the cathedral eating it and looking out over the plaza. Some people I met right when I got to GDL came up to me and said hi, and we talked for way longer than I expected, and the conversation was strangely refreshing. Then I walked to La Teteria, where I had a mocha frappuccino, talked to some friends on WhatsApp, worked a bit, and wrote in my journal. I’ve been keeping a journal religiously lately, thought I don’t know what kind of religion. It’s not catholic. It’s not muslim. It might be buddhist.

The light continued to be perfect at La Teteria. My mocha frappuccino had coffee beans in a it for decoration. After finishing it I walked into the cool, night air, down Libertad and over to Miguel Blanco, where I stopped at Aero Pizza on the way home. Tonight seemed like a perfect night to sit on the couch and eat pizza and watch a movie. I’m going to watch the new Tomb Raider movie with Alicia Vikander, mostly because I used to be obsessed with this video game and also because Alicia Vikander might be one of the most attractive people on the planet.

It’s been a pretty ordinary day, but it’s been a good day. It’s been a pretty ordinary week, but it’s been a good week. I plan for this trend to continue (minus, at times, the ordinary).

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A Cafe Dedicated to Cats

el gato cafe guadalajara

Imagine a restaurant dedicated to cats. It might be difficult, since you might wonder why anyone in their right mind (or any frame of mind) would dedicate a restaurant to cats. But that’s indeed what’s happened at El Gato Cafe, a half block from the famed neo-gothic cathedral El Expiatorio, in Gaudalajara, Mexico.

Now imagine spending time at this cafe, eating there, perusing the menu. This was the situation I found myself in the other day. I’d seen El Gato Cafe on Google Maps, where  it has an extremely high 4.8/5 rating, and since I spend 98% of my waking hours in cafes I figured I should check it out.

I went at 3:30pm, certainly not the most happening time of day, and besides the waiter standing there looking expectant, and Elton John music drifting from the speakers, there wasn’t much going on. I sat down and began paging through the menu, which brought to mind an unabridged volume of War and Peace or other such Slavic tome. I’d never seen so many coffee drinks, and all of them seemingly similar. There was the Iced Cafe Mocha on one page, and then halfway down the same page the Iced Coffee Mocha. On the same page there was also a Cappuccino with Chocolate, a Coffee with Mexican Chocolate, and something like an Iced Mocha with Mexican Chocolate (I don’t remember exactly, since I have the memory of a turtle). I opted for the Hot Chocolate with Shot of Coffee, and as the waiter was walking away I said, “Actually, can I have it cold?” He didn’t bat an eye.

I immediately noticed a curious thing about the tables at El Gato Cafe. They’re all equipped with buttons so you can page the waiter. He said, “Press it for three seconds and I’ll come right over,” which seemed a bit excessive since there was no one there and I’m pretty sure even from across the room he could hear the sound of me breathing. I noticed there was also a button labeled “Surprise,” which seemed mysterious to say the least. Letting my curiosity get the better of me, I started reaching for the surprise button, and as I reached for it I noticed the waiter eyeing me while he reached for what looked liked a clown mask and a meat clever. I put my my hand down, and he went back to making my drink.

My beverage came, which was, strangely, exactly what I’d asked for. It was a hot chocolate, with a shot of espresso, and at the last second it’d been made cold, as if an afterthought, much how I’d ordered it. I sat back and listened to the music, which had changed from Elton John to something worse. I kept on looking at the menu, since there’s not much else to do when you’re at a cat-themed cafe by yourself. I noticed many of the drinks and food items had cat-themed names, none of which I can remember now. One of them had the word “Miauuu” in it.

I finished the drink in about four seconds, since I have the self control of a Labrador retriever. Then I paid for the drink, which was prohibitively expensive, and exited out to the street and back to El Expiatorio, where they sell tamales for 17 pesos, or, less than a dollar. It was nice to be out of a cat-themed place and into a place that was cathedral-themed, or street-themed, or tamale-themed, or normal-themed, or anything else-themed, a considerable improvement from El Gato Cafe.

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Kill Bill

calle libertad, guadalajara

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.

Any suggestions?

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Couch Musings with Dandruff

el monosilabo guadalajara

Yesterday was a good day here in Guadalajara. I still haven’t moved out of my current house, which was my plan for this month. But this isn’t all bad, as I’m mostly happy in my current house. Mostly. I still sometimes want to murder the neighbor’s dog, and actually the other night lost it a little bit and screamed, “Por favor!” when their dog started barking at 11:30pm and woke me up just as I was drifting off to my colicky baby sounds.

But that’s OK. 

Yesterday I had two articles published on sites that aren’t Ordinary Nomad: 1) This article on Roads and Kingdoms, a site that’s published three previous articles of mine. This article had already appeared here, albeit in a slightly different form. Roads and Kingdoms likes to make edits, and they don’t like to consult you about them. I don’t know if I’ve ever liked an edit they’ve done, and this makes me feel like a real writer, since apparently real writers flip shit whenever anyone threatens the “artistic integrity” of their work.

But that’s OK. 

The other article was on Fear the Wall, a Borussia Dortmund blog. This blog gets TONS of traffic, because instead of writing about themselves and things like what they had for breakfast (!), they (WE) write about something people actually care about, i.e. Borussia Dortmund soccer, one of the biggest teams in Europe. I got into Dortmund because of Christian Pulisic, who, at 19 years old, is already the best American soccer player to ever exist. And at 15 he moved to Germany to play for this team, and has never looked back. I, and I imagine many other Americans, have never looked back in my devotion to him.

Which is special. 

(Note: The Fear the Wall article has 27 comments. I’m terrified to read them, even though they’re probably only about soccer. This terror stems from the comments on one of the first articles I ever had published.)

Two of my English students have canceled on me today, which on the one hand is good because it makes my day a helluva lot easier, but on the other hand is bad because it means I’ll make less clean, crisp $$$$$$$$. I need $$$$$. I live for $$$$$$. But today I’ll make less $$$$$$, because I’ll be working less.

Which is fine.

The greatest thing about one of the students canceling is now I’ll get to watch the Borussia Dortmund game in its entirety, as opposed to in its partiality.

Which is wonderful. 

And now I’ll go seize the day. I’ve already had my budin, which means my stomach is primed. My brain is primed, too, ready to take on whatever Guadalajara might throw at me. Though at this point I already have a good idea what it might throw at me: mate, a delicious lonche de pierna, a chat with Marta,  a couple of English classes, a bit of writing, a bit of reading, a tamal by the Expiatorio, and maybe even a  night stroll along Calle Libertad.

Which is…

 

 

Turning Left

el terrible juan guadalajara

“The only way round is through.” – Robert Frizzle 

This morning I woke up and did something I’d never done before when leaving the house: I turned left. Now, this might not seem like a big deal, turning left, but since I’ve been living in the house where I’m currently living, every single morning, when I’ve left the house to walk to work, or to walk to Starbucks, or to walk to similar cafe where I digitally scribble in this blog, I’ve turned right.

Of course, my reasons for turning right are manyfold. I love walking down Calle Libertad. It’s leafy, it’s airy, and if the time of day is just right you feel like you’re soaring rather than walking, such is the air of tranquility the street creates, the foliage. I also turn right because the places I usually go to, El Rincon del Mate, el Expiatorio, are most expeditiously reached by turning right. To turn left leaving my house would not only take me into a shabbier neighborhood, it would also add at least five minutes to my walk. To turn left would take me onto the busy Avenida de La Paz (I hate walking on busy streets), and it would also take my by an Oxxo, Mexico’s most ubiquitous gas station.

But of course the main reason I always turn right has to do with habit. It feels comfortable. It’s what I know. And thus any other scenario, turning left, for example, going straight and running into the building across the street, taking off my shirt and standing in the middle of the road screaming, would feel uncomfortable. We’re creatures of comfort — this is one thing I’ve figured out in my 34 years — and change scares even the most intrepid explorers.

After turning left and walking a few blocks I was immediately confronted with an arresting sight. As some of you know may know, I’m currently in the market for new lodging, a new apartment, a new abode, a new dwelling, new “digs,” as it were, and it just so happened that staring me in the face was a big banner that said, “For Rent. Shitloads of space. Roof terrace.”

Actually, it didn’t say shitloads of space, but the amount of square meters listed on the banner deserves no other moniker. The most intriguing part, though, was the terrace. Ever since a few days ago walking by a beautiful house with a veritable forest on top I’ve decided that the ultimate thing you could do in Guadalajara would be to have a terrace. I’m talking about terrace with a view and shade and most importantly, obscene amounts of plants. I’m talking about a jungle. I’m talking about a place where you step out onto the terrace and a Virginia Creeper wraps its tendrils around your neck and asks for the password. I’m talking about a place where you get lost and when you finally make it back to society you realize you’re in Belize. In short, I’m talking about the ideal roof terrace.

So of course I took a photo of the phone number for the apartment and plan to contact them sometime later today to see how many gross tons of bio-matter they think the roof terrace could support, and thus figure out if this might be the place for me.

After seeing this apartment I walked down Calle Montenegro, taking in the sights. There was a place called El Comedor that looked peaceful and elegant, with delicious food. There was a hotel called Hotel Isabel that looked suitable for visiting family members or friends, should that ever happen. And finally there was a restaurant called La Menuderia which specialized in menudo, a soup people have told me I must try but that in my obstinacy I still haven’t. And then I got to El Terrible Juan, my second favorite cafe in Guadalajara, and realized I’d been on a veritable odyssey, that my morning had been completely transformed, indeed my mentality had been transformed, and all because I’d turned left.

And so tomorrow, and later today, and for the rest of this week, I might not always turn left when I leave the house, but I will strive to do one thing each day in a similar vein. I’ve been complaining about my life getting stagnant in Guadalajara after just two months, but it actually might not be so difficult to remedy. It might just involve continuing to step outside my comfort zone, continuing to explore, continuing to meet new people, and of course, ideally, a roof terrace with a shitload of plants.

Sunday Night Thoughts #8

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” – Epitectus

There comes a time in every man’s life when he must decide what to make for dinner. Tonight I decided to make rice with mole. Now, I know this seems dangerous. I know this seems foolish. But when I was in the grocery store I was hit by a wave of inspiration, and that inspiration said, “Buy gross amounts of rice. Cook it. Be merry.”

And so I heeded this inspiration. I also bought the following items: A mango, a chocolate bar, and of course, the mole sauce. Pre-prepared. With a little chocolate thrown in (to the mole sauce) for good measure. I need mole in my chocolate sauce. Everyone knows this.

On the way home I thought about a few things, and thought about them in great detail: First I thought about how much longer I’m realistically going to stay in Guadalajara. This thought occupied my brain for approximately two minutes and thirty seconds, until it was interrupted by me having to avoid a speeding bus. Then I thought about the mango, and whether I should tear into right there, like a savage, letting the juice drip all over my hands and beard, but thus enjoying the pleasure that is instant mango consumption. Then I thought about Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, and Stephen Hawking, and Roberto Bolaño, and whether or not I should get something at the bakery Pan Regio, and about Emma Watson, about Emma Watson’s relationship status, about Christian Pulisic, about soccer in general, about my ability to score goals, about Karl Ove Knausgaard, about whether or not the mole would be good, about if I still “got it” (when it comes to cooking rice), about if I still “got it” (in general). I’ll be brutally honest with you (gently honest): I didn’t think about a lot of these latter things in great detail. The thought about Pan Regio, for example, more or less flitted through my mind. I thought about a chocolate croissant and how much chocolate I would get in my beard, and at that point I had already subconsciously started eating the mango. When I realized I was eating the mango I felt a bit guilty. But by then it was too late.

“If you’re going to say what you want to say, you’re going to hear what you don’t want to hear.” – Roberto Bolaño

When I got home I didn’t do what I expected to do, which was just rip the rice open, douse it in mole sauce, and eat it uncooked. Instead I sat down and watched some YouTube chess videos. If you’re like me, you usually save YouTube chess videos for evening time. I think it’s fairly obvious that this is the best time to watch YouTube chess videos. I watched a fierce battle between Alpha Zero, a computer that supposedly taught itself to play chess in four hours, and a program called Stockfish. Obviously, Alpha Zero crushed Stockfish. And just as I was finishing the video, pumping my fist in the air and cheering, I heard a crackling sound and realized the water was boiling over and I’d broken golden rule of rice cooking: Keep the heat low.

“There have been many opinions voiced over the past few weeks about our failure to reach the World Cup — and I hope people can understand why one of them hasn’t been mine.” – Christian Pulisic

The mole was disappointing. You need chicken when you eat mole, and also tortillas. I also wished it would’ve had a little more spice in it, or just any spice at all, but beggars can’t be choosers. That said, I haven’t begged in a long time, except for when I do it on this blog. And even then it’s not begging, but more crafty suggestion. And now I must go to bed, or at least get ready for bed. I must read The Lost City of the Monkey God on my phone and wonder whether or not I’ll ever be an explorer. I must mentally prepare for my day tomorrow.

I must wash the dishes.

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Bill and Joy (Together Forever)

I was thinking this morning about whether or not I could consider Bill, my aloe plant, an actual friend. After a thorough inquiry into what makes a “friend,” i.e. me thinking about it briefly as a I washed dishes, I concluded that yes, Bill definitely is a friend.

In fact, he might be the ideal friend.

For starters, Bill is a wonderful listener. That’s all he’s capable of. When I sit him on the table next to me and tell him about my day he never criticizes, never plays “the devil’s advocate,” never gives “suggestions” or “advice” that are just thinly-veiled criticisms. Instead, he just sits there and basks. Basking is one of Bill’s favorite activities. Basking in the sun. Basking in the afternoon heat. Because in a slight breeze. Basking under the glow of the Guadalajara stars. Basking next to Joy, my newest aloe plant (named after the sensation I hope she brings me and also a girl in my master’s program I was briefly in love with).

Joy is my newest plant. Joy is extremely healthy. She’s robust. She’s the kind of aloe plant you look at and think, Man, I almost want to cut myself. When Marta, the lady I get sandwiches from, gave me Joy I was elated, but also instantly a bit sad. What if I kill her? I thought. What if she becomes like Bill, a creature I desperately love who’s withering in front of my very eyes?  Because that’s the thing about Bill: he’s not doing much better. He also doesn’t seem to be doing much worse, but I assumed that transplanting him to the new pot with drainage and watering him less and playing him “La Follia” by Vivaldi in the evenings would instantly revive him. Does he want to die? Is Bill depressed? Sometimes I wish Bill actually was more of a talker, so he could communicate what he needs.

Another possibility has crossed my mind concerning Bill, one I hadn’t considered before: it’s possible Bill isn’t even an aloe plant. Or it’s possible he’s an aloe plant, but just a different strain than the classic, juicy, luscious green aloe plant Joy is. Right now Bill and Joy are sitting next to each other in the courtyard. I now have two plants in the courtyard. Yesterday was “watering day,” and it gave me untold pleasure to actually water them, since this is something I wish I could do every two minutes but I have to restrain myself to only do it twice a week. I have no doubt Joy and Bill are communicating, albeit in very slow, muted electronic impulses, and I would love to know what they’re saying.

Joy: “Are you…basking?”

Bill: “….”

Joy: “I love….basking.”

Bill: “Mmmm.”

Joy: “Remember that sun from five minutes ago?”

Bill: “……”

Joy: “That was really nice….”

Bill: “……”

Someone said to me the other day they thought it was great I was so concerned about taking care of Bill, but that it was important I be ready in the event he passed away. After restraining an urge to punch this person in the face, I realized they’re probably right. The sad truth is it might be too late for Bill, and no amount of love and care on my part will be able to save him. I certainly hope this isn’t the case. Joy and I would both be sad. Life in Guadalajara would go on, but I’d certainly feel I’d lost a friend. Because, at this point, as I hope I’ve made it abundantly clear, that’s exactly what Bill is.

 

A Day at Andares, Guadalajara’s Swankiest Shopping Mall

plaza andares guadalajara

How much does living the dream cost? It turns out 82 pesos, or exactly $4.40. The dream involves sitting in a cafe in Andares, Guadalajara’s swankiest shopping mall sipping a “Green Black Tea.” The dream involves watching a Liverpool Champions League game while you sip said beverage. The dream involves shade. The dream involves disposable income. The dream might involve type 2 diabetes.

Eighty pesos is a lot to pay for a coffee in Mexico. I concede this fact. A fact I refuse to concede, however, is that this Black Green Tea, one of the sweetest substances I’ve ever put in my body and probably causing all kinds of physiological mayhem, is not 100% necessary.

I came to Andares today with the idea of buying another dress shirt, since my current dress shirt count is holding steady at one. I went to H&M, where I had a small crisis due to the fabric makeup of some of their shirts. Sixty five percent polyester? Isn’t polyester for used car salesmen? This crisis caused small amounts of sweating on my part, and also some taking of selfies in the dressing room. If you’ve never taken a picture of yourself in front of a mirror (i.e. are over the edge of 50), I don’t recommend it. It’s never flattering. You always look about 16 times worse than you thought you looked. And sending these selfies to friends so they can tell you which shirt they liked is not a good way to continue the process.  In fact, the more prudent option would be to throw your phone in the garbage can.

One thing I realized immediately upon arriving here is that I really like nice places. I consider myself an adaptable person. I’m currently living a room that costs less than $200 a month in a part of Guadalajara that would never be termed “nice.” My room is next to the entryway to the neighbor’s house, separated by a thin, single pane window. Yesterday, when they left the house, they left their rabid dog in the entryway, who proceeded to bark at any sound he perceived as a threat, which is to say, any sound. At one point I leaned close to the window to shush him, which only resulted in increased growling, albeit in my direction, the kinds of growls that said, “It would give me great pleasure to sink my teeth into your thigh.”

No one would ever call my home luxurious, but I find it completely acceptable, if not ideal. That said, I also love luxury. When I stepped onto the grounds of Andares I said to myself, “Ahhhhhhh, I’m home. This is what life is supposed to be like. Is that a fountain over there? Interesting, that grass looks perfectly manicured. Is that the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen? Is that a Gucci store?”

When I travel, I’m the same way. I’ve stayed in places people would call slum-like. I’ve hitch-hiked many hours on end. Slept in airports. Slept at bus stops. And the thing I like about roughing it sometimes is not only that it builds character and usually you meet way more people the less money you spend and have much richer experiences, but it also makes you appreciate luxury. Even when this blog becomes wildly successfully, I still won’t fly business class (all the time.) I won’t stay in nice hotels (exclusively). Because when it comes to traveling, I can’t think of a single time staying in a luxurious place directly produced a memorable travel experience, but I can think of many examples where roughing it did. The less money you spend, the more you rely on your fellow humans. The more money you spend, the more you shut yourself off from the world.

The problem with living the dream when your dream is a beverage with whip cream on top is that it’s short-lived. I’ve finished my Black Green Tea, whose name I still find mysterious, and will now head back to H&M and purchase the darker of the two shirts, since that’s what my fashion consultants (friends) have advised. And then I’ll get out of here, because if there’s one thing to be taken from this post it’s that luxury should be enjoyed in sparing doses; it only remains luxurious when the rest of your life is not. It will be hard to rip myself away from this place, though. It’s so comfortable. So swanky. If Guadalajara is my frappe, Plaza Andares is the whipped cream.

The 5 Best Cafes in Guadalajara (so far)

el rincon del mate guadalajara miguel blanco

These are my five favorite cafes in Guadalajara so far. I say “so far” because I’ve only lived here for two months. Still, when you go to cafes everyday, two months is a decent amount of time. The criteria I’ve used are atmosphere, price, quality, and staff, though not necessarily in that order (though definitely in that order). 

5. El Monosílabo

mono silabo guadalajara

Atmosphere: 4
Price: 4
Quality: 3
Staff: 4

Located in the exact neighborhood where I want to live, near El Rincon del Mate (see lower on list) and the famed Expiatorio, Guadalajara’s most magnificent neo-gothic cathedral. Like many old houses in GDL, this one contains a wonderful inner courtyard patio where the sounds of the street drift in and are filtered by the murmur of happy clients and cheap, fairly delicious frappes.

What to order: chilaquiles with a coffee frappe. 

4. Palreal: La Pura Crema

palreal cafe guadalajara mercado mexico

Atmosphere: 3
Price: 2
Quality: 5
Staff: N/A

Full disclosure: I’ve only been here once, and that one time was yesterday, but even getting an iced americano was enough to know their product is second to none (and third to none, for that matter). The good thing about Palreal is it’s got beautiful wooden, richly-finished picnic tables which are perfectly positioned for the breeze. The bad thing is it’s in Mercado Mexico, which is essentially a mall.

What to order: An iced americano. 

3. La Teteria

la teteria guadalajara

Atmosphere: 4
Price: 3
Quality: 4
Staff: 5

I dedicated a previous post to this place’s matcha frappes. They’re sweet, they’re cold, and drinking one is a little bit what I imagine injecting heroin might be like. Which makes me wonder if I might somehow be able to inject a matcha frappe. Does anyone know how to do an IV?

The staff here are wonderful, especially Gustavo, an Argentinian expat I often have extended conversations with, about Argentina, about Guadalajara, about mate, and about working online. Come for a matcha frappe, stay for an afternoon.

What to order: Duh.

2. El Terrible Juan

el terrible juan guadalajara

Atmosphere: 5
Price: 4
Quality: 5
Staff: 3

It’s a sad realization when a place is cooler than you. You walk in, you sit down, and you think, Damn, everyone here is so cool. Then you look down at your undershirt which is stained from the hydrogen peroxide you used to treat your ear last week at the beach. You look at your laptop bag, which is actually an old grocery bag. And you think, Wait a minute, can I actually be here? Am I going to be out-cooled to the point where I have to just leave? But you stay anyway, and talk to the cute waitress, and order a Chemex and write a blog post.

And that’s basically my experience every time I go to El Terrible Juan cafe.

What to order: Any of the specialty preparations with any of the beans. Also, try the lonche de cochinita

1. El Rincón del Mate

el rincon del mate guadalajara

Atmosphere: 5
Price: 4
Quality: 4
Staff: 5

Prepare to check your worries and preoccupations at the door, and spend a magical hour (or two, or three), sipping on South American tea and listening to the gurgle of a fountain. El Rincon del Mate is located just up the street from El Monosilabo, also in the Expiatorio neighborhood. I come here almost everyday. If they rented rooms, I’d live here. If they rented showers, I’d bathe here. Maybe one day they’ll hire me, and all will be right in the world.

What to order: A mate clasico with a tarta (quiche) de portobello. If you’re in the mood for something sweet or unique try the terere or the mate mocha.

If you know of any other cafes in Guadalajara that are amazing please leave a 500-3000 word comment in the comments section. Any comment of lesser word count will be categorically rejected.

A special thanks to all of these cafes for providing inspiration and thus supporting this “blugh.”

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Roberto Bolaño and the Only Way You’ll Ever Be Great

I woke up this morning at five something because of an intense desire to urinate, and couldn’t get back to sleep for the rest of the morning. That is, I don’t think I got back to sleep. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. On the one hand I like to think I didn’t lay there for two hours, since I didn’t actually exit my bed until 7:30am. And even then I didn’t exit completely. I got out of bed, checked the ripeness of my avocados (I bought a bag of five yesterday for just over a dollar), opened my curtains to let in the fresh Guadalajara morning air, and then got back in bed and rated Instagram ads for exactly 18 minutes.

I still sleep with white noise for colicky babies, because it drowns out most of the annoying sounds sometimes produced by my neighbors and roommates. The shower knob, for example, is about 16 inches from my head as the crow pecks, and makes a terrible squeaking noise every time it’s turned on. Yesterday, my roommate, Rodolfo, must’ve showered for 45 minutes. After he was done he had to mop the floor, such was the deluge produced. And yet, I get the feeling this is normal for him. Maybe he doesn’t bathe often, but when he does, he really bathes. Come to think of it, yesterday was the first day I’d ever seen him bathe. And it’s not like he smells. Rodolfo is a wonderful guy. Our conversations now include jokes on a regular basis. We often talk about Bill, my aloe plant. Today the first thing I did when I got up was check on Bill. He has a new shoot sprouting right in the middle of the two main shoots, and this shoot looks fairly healthy. I still think Bill has a good chance of surviving. His main fronds, though, worry me. One looks like it might be dying. I don’t know what to do at this point. I’ve talked to several people about aloe plant care. I’ve consulted websites (*website). And everyone says the same thing: “Aloe plants are so easy to take care of.” Which doesn’t really help me. Imagine if you went to the doctor because your baby was sick and the only thing she said was, “I don’t know what the problem is. Babies are so easy to take care of.”

Last night I fell asleep reading the book La sombra del viento (The Shadow of the Wind) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I didn’t like it at first, because it seemed too simple and predictable. It had one sentence that was something like, “The first thing my dad told me….” or “The first thing I remember…” which is such a cliche sentence, something I would write, so I was ready to put it down, but the book was steadfast. What do I mean by steadfast? I mean that it didn’t deviate in tone, that it wasn’t self-conscious, that it didn’t doubt itself, that it gave you the feeling — and I’ve talked about this before — that: “This is real. I mean, it’s a novel, but it’s real. And if you don’t think it’s real, then (expletive) you.” This is how Roberto Bolaño books feel, though Roberto Bolaño takes it a step further in that he doesn’t take it anywhere at all. His books say: “This is real. I mean, it’s not real, but it’s real. And I don’t care whether or not you think it’s real. Thinking about what you thought about this novel would never in several millennia cross my mind.” This indifference towards the reader is key if you want to become a great novelist. You must not care about what the reader wants or needs. But it mustn’t be disdain. It must be indifference. And indifference is impossible to fake.

I haven’t acquired this indifference, and I don’t know if I’ll ever acquire it. I care about what readers think. When someone says they liked a blog post I immediately re-read the blog post in question, congratulating myself on my good writing (all the while wondering whether it’s really good). And when someone says something bad about a post it ruins me, even though a voice deep down wonders whether they’re wrong. And this is what I was getting at with Bolaño. It’s not like he cares about whether he’s right or you’re wrong when it comes to his books. It’s that your right to an opinion doesn’t exist.

A special thanks to Starbucks and it’s kitschy atmosphere for unwittingly supporting this blog.

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La Teteria

la teteria guadalajara

When I come to La Tetería, Guadalajara’s premiere tea house and where the song “Here With Me” by Didot is currently playing over the speakers, I usually order a matcha frappe. But sometimes, as the waiter Gustavo just informed me, who is quickly going from being just a waiter at a tea shop to a kindred spirt (he’s Argentinian and there’s been talk of us drinking mate together), they have “stock problems.” Today is one of those days. There are no matcha frappes. There are no green chai frappes. And the girl sitting in front of me, who might be part goddess and who I’ve spent the last five minutes staring at, just ordered the last piece of cheesecake.

The first time I ever had a matcha frappe at La Tetería I was on a Tinder date with a girl named Daniela. Daniela was beautiful and funny and smart, but I barely noticed, so engrossed was I in my matcha frappe. I try to limit my matcha frappe intake, because they’re kind of expensive and very sweet. Even so, if I’m bored, or feeling a bit down, or just feeling any emotion that is vaguely human, I try to make a visit to La Tetería for one of these drinks. It would be hard to have a bad time while drinking a matcha frappe. Maybe if you were bleeding from a head wound, but even then I think you’d forget about it until the frappe was gone.

I never thought I’d be a frappe guy.

Life is full of surprises.

La Tetería is located in Guadalajara’s Americana neighborhood, a five minute walk from the American Consulate and about a seven minute walk from Chapultepec, an area (basically a street) famous for its nightlife, bars, restaurants, high prices, pedestrian walkway, outdoor market, and apparently (according to Marta, the lonche lady) weekend violence. This is the area where I work, and so I walk by La Teteria at least once a day. It’s perched on Calle Libertad, a street with low traffic flanked by all kinds of towering tropical trees that provide bountiful amounts of shade. The front part of La Teteria is a cool terrace where there always seems to be a breeze even on the hottest days. There’s also an inner courtyard where I sometimes like to go at night and sip my matcha frappe and look up at the sky and think about what might’ve been, what is, and what still could be.

Today La Teteria is slow and I’ve ordered a regular chai frappe, which I’ve already finished. When I got here Gustavo and I had a long conversation about my MacBook charger, which broke last night and which I spent all morning trying to replace. We also talked, as we usually do, about his upcoming trip to Argentina.

“I’m so jealous,” I said, “I should be in Argentina or Chile.”

“But you get to be here,” he said.

“Yeah, but…”

I trailed off, because Gustavo had a damn good point. I could be jealous of the people in Buenos Aires, but I get to be here. I could be jealous of the people in Paris, but I get to be here. I could be jealous of the people in Hyderabad, or Seoul, or Tokyo, or Regina, or Montreal, or Port Orchard, or Saskatoon, but I get to be here. Here in the shade, in a comfortable chair, feeling the breeze, sipping a chai frappe. Which isn’t matcha, but almost just as good.

A special thanks to the chai frappe currently in my stomach for supporting this blog.

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