Is Interjet a Budget Airline? Guadalajara to Lima: A Review

interjet mexico city lima

Yesterday I flew the Mexican airline Interjet from Guadalajara, Mexico to the illustrious city of Lima, Peru. Which means I’m now in Peru. I’ll give you 16 opportunities to guess what I’m doing at this exact moment. Coffee shop? Damn.

Yes, I’m in a coffee shop called Cosmo Beans located in the homey Magdalena del Mar neighborhood where I’m staying for a week, drinking an americano I expected to be much (much) better. It tastes burnt. And to top it off they served what I thought was going to be sparkling water in a small glass next to the americano, which is something they usually do south of the equator and is awesome, but instead it’s just still water.

But back to Interjet. Interjet, with their marketing and logo and whole vibe they give off, seem like a budget airline. And they sort of are. But they have many characteristics budget airlines don’t have. For example, I could’ve checked a bag yesterday weighing up to 55 kilos. Fifty-five kilos! I barely weigh 55 kilos. I could’ve checked a mastiff, or a crate of iron ore, but instead I just checked my duffel bag, which is getting really annoying to travel with, but contains my tent and sleeping bag and so I can’t ditch it.

I had aisle seats for both flights, which was fortunate, because they didn’t let me choose my seat when buying the flight. The first thing I noticed upon sitting down was how much legroom I had. At least it seemed like a lot of leg room. I’d gotten up at 3:30am that morning, and was pretty out of it. But it seemed like quite a bit of legroom, and also the aisles seemed wider than normal. Everything seemed more spacious than normal. I put on the song “La Follia” by Vivaldi and we taxied to the end of the runway, and took off just as the song got intense. I don’t usually listen to music when traveling, but this was a good decision.

On the flight to Lima the flight attendants served mango granola bars and sandwiches on orange bread with lettuce that look like it might’ve been from sometime in the late 90’s. But it was better than nothing. The couple next to me proceeded to order every sugary drink they could imagine, and I realized why Mexico’s obesity problem is starting to reach epic proportions. The flight attendants were very nice but one of them was speaking in her “flight attendant voice,” i.e. a voice you could tell she used for a job she didn’t really like dealing with less-than-grateful customers. There was an Argentinian guy across the aisle who somehow got drunk during the flight, despite the fact that I only saw him drink one beer. He wore sunglasses for 98% of the flight. When we landed in Lima it looked like an inch of stubble had grown on his face, and he seemed thoroughly hammered. I don’t know what happened.

All in all the most important thing about Interjet is something I still haven’t mentioned: the price. My flight to Lima from Guadalajara cost $175, which you can’t beat. Which means all the previously mentioned things are just luxuries. Legroom on a budget airline? Free food and alcohol? A checked bag weighing as much as a small manatee?

Which begs the question: Is Interjet really a budget airline?

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Sunday Night Thoughts #11

bosque los colomos

Feeling anxious. Tomorrow’s my last day in GDL. And the two companies I worked for here both owe me money, and I think there’s a decent chance one or both might try to not pay me. Which, financially, is not a big deal, but I fear how I might react. I could see myself making something of a scene. And I don’t want any scenes tomorrow.

Sitting at home now, playing chess and thinking about whether or not to drink milk. Or have more spinach. Or have water. Or go lie in bed and read my eBook about uncontacted tribes and wonder if the neighbors’ dog is going to bark and if I’m going to have to yell at them. My flight to Lima leaves at 6am which means I have to take an Uber to the airport at 3:45am. Then a flight to Mexico City. Then the flight to Lima. Get to the Lima airport, go through customs, and take an airport to my Airbnb in the quiet neighborhood of Magdalena del Mar, two blocks from the malecon. Teach English on Thursday. Teach on Friday. Walk to Pan de la Chola and get overpriced baked goods. If I remember correctly, their almond croissants are divine.

There’s a decent chance this blog URL will change tomorrow, though I’m not sure to what. It might change back to whereswetzler.com. It also might change to something else. It also might not change tomorrow, since there’s no hurry. But I sold out calling it Ordinary Nomad. I don’t like the word nomad, since I feel it’s overused and misused. So why did I pick it? I thought I had to cater to the masses to have the blog get popular. But fuck that. That’s exactly how you kill a blog, or, at the very least, kill your soul. So the URL is probably going to change, and probably soon. Maybe in conjunction with the trip to Lima.

Had a frappuccino with J and G at Starbucks on Chapultepec. How ironic that a week before I leave I make friends. We got pizza at Little Caesars tonight and sat on the planters in front of the University of Guadalajara, eating our pepperoni pizza, drinking our Dr. Peppers. And I was truly happy. In that moment, talking to them, I was happy.

And then I came home and ate raw spinach and now I’m on the couch and it’s so damn hot and I really hope the neighbors’ dog doesn’t bark and I hope they pay me tomorrow and A’s not a jackass and that’s about it. And I hope I eat better, but that’s not something you hope for, that’s something you just do.

“I’ve always considered latte art ephemeral” Another morning at Cafe Blé in Guadalajara

ble guadalajara

I come to Blé again today because even though I don’t want to come here everyday because it would be expensive, it is more or less the perfect way to start a morning. A matcha latte. A thick piece of toast slathered with butter and raspberry jam whose seeds you can taste. My seat in the corner where I’m able to observe the rest of the cafe, observe Ulises, the owner, as he goes about his business, and look out upon the street.

Ulises asks, “Can I prepare you anything?” and I say, “Lo de siempre, el latte matcha…” and then trail off. I take my seat in the corner and pull my laptop from its case, which is actually just a tattered merino wool shirt. I plug the charger into the wall and then insert the little magnetic piece that connects to the computer. I turn it on and see that the battery’s at 19%. This is probably because I was playing chess last night before I went to bed. I’ve been playing chess against the computer more lately, because I do it on an easier setting, and thus win more, and thus it’s more satisfying. Even when the computer has one second to think between moves it destroys me. And this is one of the lowest settings. But when it’s only allowed to think three moves ahead I can usually beat it.

My latcha matte comes and I comment on the design and Ulises talks about how latte art is “ephemeral” and how some people notice it and some people don’t. We talk about for-here cups and to-go cups, and how a latte having a design and being served in a ceramic cup can influence its taste, or at least our perception of its taste. I make a comment Ulises doesn’t understand and rather than I explain myself I let it linger. My Spanish feels poor this morning. I’m unable to express even the most basic things. I probably need mate, and I probably need to play chess. I’ve been playing chess and watching chess lately to the point where I see the pieces moving sometimes as I lie in bed, waiting for sleep. Supposedly, chess is becoming more popular. But isn’t that what people’ve always said? Isn’t that what people have always said about American soccer? Though that might actually be true. It is true, even if soccer’s popularity still blanches in comparison that of basketball or football. It’s hard to be an accurate judge of the popularity of something you’re involved in.

The toast Ulises serves me is almost two inches thick. I take the spoon and hack a wedge of butter onto it, and it’s real butter, not margarine. Margarine is huge in Mexico, because people think it’s healthier than butter. This, of course, is a travesty. Margarine is a disgusting mix of chemicals and oils. It tastes like refuse. It looks like refuse. It has a disgusting sheen to it, and I actually thought the butter at Blé was margarine until Ulises corrected me. Now that I know it’s real butter, it looks and tastes like real butter. I don’t know how I ever thought otherwise.

Within a few minutes the toast is gone, and the matcha latte is quick to follow. I sit back in my chair and look at the blue door across the street. I listen to the reggae or jazz or ska or whatever it is coming from the speakers. I listen to Ulises talking to a customer. They talk about expensive coffee, and I think back to the time in Buenos Aires with A where I tried the most expensive coffee I’d ever had. It was also the best. It was a Geisha bean from Panama, and it tasted sweet and caramelly.

My time in this cafe has almost run its course, and I wish I could relive it. I wish I could walk in again and order a matcha latte and slice of toast, and greedily dig into the toast as soon as it came. I could, of course, repeat this experience, but it would be disappointing. I’ll have to wait till tomorrow, or the next day. The plate that once held the toast now only holds crumbs, and the cup that once held the matcha latte now has a green stain where the steamed milk once reached. The latte art is long gone, as if it never existed. And it’s ephemeral, or we call it ephemeral, because it existed for three minutes, or less, and then was gone forever. But I wonder if everything isn’t ephemeral.

 

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Can I Get a For-Here Cup? Flying too close to the sun at Cafe Lapso in Ciudad Guzman, Mexico.

Ciudad Guzman, located an hour and a half south of Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco, is supposedly fresa. Fresa is the Mexican word for posh or snobby. It’s usually possible to tell if someone is fresa by the way they talk. This is especially true in Mexico City, where the fresa accent is generally very nasal and makes you want to stick an ice pick in your ears.

One place that’s undoubtedly fresa in Ciudad Guzman is a cafe/bookstore called Lapso. It’s fresaness is reflected in the prices and the fact that 70% of the clientele order frappuccinos. It’s fresaness is reflected in the hipster music coming from the speakers, and the beautiful courtyard in the back, complete with plants, fountain, and a winged statue of Icarus.

There’s something extra special about courtyards in Mexico, because usually they’re somewhat unexpected, and a welcome respite from the chaos of the street. Lapso’s courtyard is one of the most peaceful I’ve ever visited. One could be forgiven for coming here, ordering a cappuccino, and spending six or seven hours listening to the birds and basking in the greenness of the plants.

Getting this for-here cup was a battle.

My only gripe with Cafe Lapso is that it lacks identity. The cafe area inside makes you feel one way, the bookstore another, and the courtyard in the back yet another. For example: When sitting in the courtyard I feel as if all is right in the world, and a little bit like I’ve just entered the Garden of Eden and will soon be ashamed of my nakedness after biting into a pomegranate and talking to a snake. But in the cafe area inside I feel like I’m in a cafe that’s trying to be cool and mostly failing. And in the bookstore area I feel angry, because there aren’t any Roberto Bolaño books.

Upon ordering I asked if I could have my cappuccino in a for-here cup, so as not to waste paper. I was dismayed to learn they didn’t have any, but then the employee informed me I could use one of the employee cups.

“OK,” I said.

“But just so you know,” she said, “If you come in the afternoon my co-workers probably won’t do it. Because if someone overhears you they might want a for-here cup, too.”

“OK,” I said.

While she was making the coffee I looked for the Bolaño books and, upon not seeing any, began muttering mild profanities under my breath. But then the cappuccino was ready and I made my way to the courtyard and all was peaceful. The sun had just retreated behind the building. From my corner I could see the statue of Icarus, standing in the middle of the courtyard and thus fully-exposed to the sun’s rays. The cappuccino started to kick in and my brain started to accelerate. I started having grandiose thoughts, thinking about traveling to exotic locations around the world. Even though my body remained below, mentally I started to leave the courtyard and soar overhead. Suddenly, I was a bird. Anything was possible .The world below was just a distant memory. I flew higher and higher, screaming with delight. But then I noticed something was keeping me from flying higher, and that’s also when I noticed the blazing sun, and felt the wax dripping down my back.

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A Demon in the Forest? El Nevado de Colima Attempt #1

nevado de colima

There are times in your life when you look at a volcano and think: I must try to climb that. You’re not sure where this impulse comes from. Possibly from somewhere deep inside you, possibly next to your pancreas. You look down at your shoes and see they’re woefully inadequate for mountaineering and think, To hell with it. I’m going to try anyway.

nevado de colima

Kilometer two. Paying respects.

I left El Fresnito at around 9am, armed only with my skate shoes and a half-full bottle of water. Almost immediately I ran into another group of hikers, two girls and one guy from Guadalajara. I asked them how many kilos they were carrying.

Fifteen, one the girls said.

 

Fifteen? Are you carrying cinder blocks? A hardcover copy of 2666 (In which case: Can we get married?)? I couldn’t understand how they could have so much weight. It sometimes seems like in Latin America the appearance of doing something properly is more important than anything else. You DO NOT go cycling without cycling shorts and a cycling jersey. You DO NOT go running without stretchy pants and running shoes. And you DO NOT go hiking without a huge, overly-loaded backpack.

arbutus madrone nevado de colima mexico

The beautiful madrone.

An hour in I was treated to a welcome sight. The Pacific Madrone, or Arbutus menziesii (to those of us who speak more cultivated tongues), is extremely common in the Pacific Northwest, but only found at higher elevations in Mexico. I like seeing them because they make me feel at home. They’re easy to spot because of their distinctive peeling bark that reveals a smooth, usually green or orange surface underneath.

It soon became apparent that the trail was not the best way to go, so I abandoned it for the longer, but much more manageable, dirt road. Things were instantly better. Instead of a struggle, it was a walk in the park. I was happy. I began to sing “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

The air began to get cooler and after about two and a half hours of walking I got to a campground called El Alcazar. It was deserted. There were bathrooms and outside them a sink, and I wondered if the sink water was drinkable. After some debate, I decided to fill up my water bottle half full, and on the way down if I saw the people from Guadalajara ask them if they knew if it was safe to drink.

nevado de colima, plantas, plants

Difficult to see, but chandeliers of succulent cacti hanging from these massive trees.

Luckily, I ran into them almost immediately. They were struggling up the steep trail I’d fallen on just a few moments earlier trying to see if one of the water tanks I’d been told had water had some kind of spigot where I could fill up my water bottle.

What don’t you take the road? I asked.

Because this is more direct, one of the girls said.

How about we get married right now? Is that direct enough?

But of course I didn’t say this. I said, The trail is hell. The road is so much nicer.

I also asked if they knew if the water from the sink was potable, and they said they didn’t think so.

You can just drink from those tanks, the guy said, pointing up the trail.

You just pull back the lid? I asked.

Yes, he said.

This was welcome news, since I hadn’t had a drink in quite some time. The guy and I peeled the lid back to reveal a rushing brook of pure, cold spring water.

water nevado colima

Ahhhhhh, water.

What a difference a small thing like access to fresh, cold water can make. Even though I hadn’t made it very far up the mountain, I was completely content with turning around and going back down. They continued to struggle up the trail with awful, sliding loose dirt, and I bounded off down the dirt road, happy as a lynx.

The trip back down was long and uneventful. I’d made it to about 2,700 meters from a starting elevation of about 1,700 meters. The summit, for reference, is just over 4,200 meters.

When I got back to the Airbnb where I’m staying, owned by a couple named Augustin and Lupita Ibarra, who’ve hosted travelers and mountaineers since the 90’s, Augustin offered me some beer. It was perfect. I decided to put my water consumption on hold, and instead take in the cold, refreshing suds.

And that was my first attempt at summiting the Nevado de Colima. With skate shoes, I don’t know if I’ll make it to the top. I might try to get a ride up further tomorrow and get closer to the summit. And find the group of girls (and one guy) I’d shared some nice conversation with.

Or maybe I’ll just stay below, drinking beer with Augustin. Both options sound pretty nice.

A special thanks to SCL for supporting this “blugh.”

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A demon in the forest.

Instatravel

“No addiction is good.” – Jose Mujica

There’s no doubt social media and various websites like Airbnb and Google Flights are changing travel, it’s just not quite clear exactly how. Every time you connect to Instagram you’re bombarded with images of happy people visiting exotic locations around the world, and feel a little bit jealous/bad about yourself. Even Airbnb makes something like staying with a stranger, something that used to rarely happen organically, completely commonplace. This weekend, for example, I’m staying with a couple at the foot of the Colima Volcano in Southern Jalisco, Mexico, and I venture to say this experience would never happen without the aid of the internet. I’ll probably take a few pictures while I’m there. I’ll probably write a few blogs.

The question is: Is this a good thing?

hashtaguear

Airport, CDMX.

Travel these days is becoming more in the hands of the people. Instead of getting in a cab, you get in an Uber, and average Jane/Joe takes you where you want to go. Instead of staying in a hotel, Average Jane/Joe rents out their spare room. I have no doubt this peer to peer system will soon extend to even more areas, though my feeble brain is incapable of forecasting where. Airbnb already has Airbnb “experiences,” where Average Jane/Joe takes you on a tour of their town, or teaches you to dance, or cooks you a fabulous risotto dinner, all for a reasonable fee.

One place I don’t think it will ever extend is to the realm of air travel.

“Hi, my name is Billy, and welcome to Uber JET. I have exactly 12 hours experience in the cockpit. Buckle up.”

But then again, what do I know? Maybe one day buying a plane won’t be that much more expensive than buying a car, more people will have their pilot’s license, and this will actually be an option.

With things like Facebook and Instagram, vicarious travel has also become much more accessible, if not unavoidable. Every time you open Instagram you’re transported, sometimes against your will, to places like Thailand, or Paris, or Thailand, and come to think of it, usually Thailand. Telling the world about your trip has become much easier, to the point where everyone is telling everyone else about their trips, all of the time. You go to Paris, take 50 pictures, and all of them go on Facebook and Instagram. You friend does the same thing, but with Rome, and her friend the same thing with Malta, and her friend the same thing with Madrid, and her friend the same thing, again with Paris. It’s a never-ending web of travel images, and suddenly, even though you’ve never been to the Great Wall, you’ve seen 6,000 pictures of it, and it no longer feels as exotic. Maybe it makes you want to travel less. Maybe it makes you go insane. I don’t know how this is affecting us.

mark wetzler ordinary nomad northern chile hitchhiking

Let me take a selfie. Somewhere in Northern Chile.

In the end, the most special travel experiences are still the ones that arise organically. You meet someone in a cafe and they tell you about some dilapidated castle five miles out of town you simply must see (followed by an exchange of telephone numbers and medium-term romance), or you meet someone at a bar and they invite you to a party the next day. The reason these organic experiences are more special is because they’re not based on some kind of algorithm or criteria. There are more mystical forces at work, like attraction, mood, and even luck, like the possibility of overhearing a conversation in a cafe. Just as apps like Tinder and Bumble have cheapened dating, the overuse of websites like Airbnb, as well as posting all your experiences on Instagram, cheapens travel. The mystique of travel remains, but I dare say not nearly as much so for the traveler who travels to then post pictures on Instagram. Not that this is a new phenomenon. People have always traveled to brag about their travels, even when it was just inviting the neighbors over for a slide show. But showing a slide to your neighbors isn’t quite the same as posting a picture on the internet for everyone to see.

menos face mas book

Menos Feis, mas Book. Santiago de Chile.

In the end, travel can’t change for you if you don’t let it. Instagram and Facebook can enhance your travel experience when used in moderation (maybe), or cheapen or even ruin it if used ad nauseam. Just try one thing: When you wake up, don’t let checking Facebook or Instagram or Twitter be the first thing you do. Get out of bed, stretch, and say the word “hashtag” a few times out loud. Then, for everything you say that morning, precede it with, “Hashtag.”

“Hashtag, how are you doing this morning?”

“Hashtag, fine.”

“Hashtag, you getting ready for work?”

“Hashtag, you had breakfast yet?”

etc.

You’ll social media blues will be cured in no time, and you’ll be back on the path to reality.

How to Get From Mexico to Chile for Cheap

near villa rica, chile

What’s the cheapest way to get from Guadalajara, Mexico, to Chile? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately.

A quick search on Google Flights tells I could fly from Guadalajara, Mexico to Valdivia, Chile (because I don’t want to go to Santiago, I want to go south) for a casual $839 dollars. But I don’t have $839. I’m not an oil magnate. I’m not a sheik. And besides, I bet I could do it cheaper….

Dear God.

So I do another search, this time using Google Flight’s wonderful map view, and see I could get from Guadalajara to Lima, Peru, for $154 dollars on April 11th. This is a much better price, since flying from North America to anywhere south of the equator is notoriously expensive. $154 dollars is a steal.

Hooray.

But Lima isn’t exactly Chile. In fact, if you wanted to take a bus from Lima to Chile, you’re looking at about an 18-hour bus ride. I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a bus for 18 hours before. I have. Several times. And let me tell you…..it’s actually kind of fun (see: awful).

And even if you took a bus from Lima to Chile you’d only be in northern Chile, and still another 24-hour, $70 hell ride from Santiago (and another 10-hour bus ride from Valdivia, or, where it starts to get green). Luckily, that’s where Sky Airline comes in.

So many hours of desert travel saved by a mere $113.

Sky Airline is wonderful, mostly because they refuse to have an “s” in their name. It’s not “Sky Airlines.” It’s unapologetically “airline.”

Anyway, now we’ve made it to Santiago. We’re in Chile!!! But we want to get further south. We want to get where the landscape starts reminding us of Washington State. Where they’re blackberries and sea lions and salmon. Again, Sky Airline is critical:

After one night in SCL, we hop on this beauty of a flight from Santiago to Valdivia. Valdivia is one of the most beautiful cities in Chile. It’s a university town. It’s on a river. There’s a market everyday next to the river and sea lions and fresh cherries and pretty much everything else you could want in life. And from Valdivia it’s a relatively short bus ride to Puerto Montt, the northern tip of Patagonia, and the fairytale that Patagonia promises.

If you’ve ever wondered how I spend my time, this post might give you a good idea. I love solving conundrums like these, and even better, following through and carrying them out. But whether or not this trip will happen remains to be seen. I’ve still got a little soul searching to do here in Guadalajara first.

Plastic Bag Nation

Plastic Bag Nation

I like to make observations when I go to countries. I like to think I’m an observant guy. Of course, it’s also hard not to make observations. Even if you were walking around with your eyes closed it’d be difficult to not make observations.

One thing I’ve noticed about Mexico is how prominent plastic bags are. This is plastic bag country. Plastilandia. Plastic Bag Nation. It’s not uncommon to see someone at a corner shop buying the following items: eggs, fruit, meat, and maybe something else like Coca Cola. The eggs are put in their own plastic bag, the fruit in its own bag, and all of this is put inside one bigger plastic bag. This is Plastic Bag Nation.

When you go to a grocery store you have to fight with the bagger to not get a plastic bag. “I don’t need a bag,” you say. They start to put your stuff in a plastic bag anyway. “Sorry, I won’t be needing a bag,” you say again. They look at you like you might’ve recently hit your head or don’t understand the concept of plastic bags. And then you walk down the street carrying your avocado and your onion in your hand.

The worst place I’ve been to in terms of plastic bags is Nicaragua. Here, not only does everything come in plastic bags, but often times once these plastic bags are used they’re immediately thrown in the street. There’s a reason for this. Back in the proverbial day, things were wrapped in plantain leaves in Nicaragua when they were sold. When you consumed whatever was inside, you simple threw the leaf in the street. No harm, minimal foul. But nowadays little comes wrapped in plantain leaves, everything comes in plastic, but this custom of throwing the wrapper on the ground has lingered. And so, if you’re on a bus in Nicaragua, it’s not uncommon to see someone eating a dish of chicken and rice out of a styrofoam container, and then to instantly throw that container out the window. Without batting an eye. Without squinting an eye. And sure, you could inwardly berate someone for doing this, or even outwardly berate them, but it’s not done with malice, in fact, it’s done with no thought at all.

Of course, the plastic bag culture is changing in many countries. It’s disappearing. In a place like Whole Foods in The States they might take you in a back room and beat you with a paddle if you were to get too many plastic bags. A lot of countries charge for plastic bags now. And more and more people bring their own bags to the grocery store, which is a good thing. In Germany people have cotton bags made from organic cotton, and these bags are expertly crafted to last several lifetimes. I know, because I’ve been using one to carry around my laptop and my personal effects for the last two months whenever I go out on the town. Hats off to German engineering.

It might change one day in Mexico. If it were to change overnight, I fear there might be a revolt. People might start stealing plastic bags. They might start making their own plastic bags. They might start wearing plastic bags. Until that revolution happens the plastic bag culture will continue. The eggs will have their home. The meat, too. At home in a never-ending sea of plastic.

 

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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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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