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.

Struggling

karl ove knausgaard

Sitting in Starbucks in Providencia talking to my friend R. R is a writer, as in R actually gets paid to write. I’m also a writer, in that I also get paid to write, though it’s not my full time job. Someday it will be my full time job. Of this I’m completely sure. But right now it’s not.

This morning I woke up and prepared mate. First I poured a bit of the leaves into my gourd, and then poured room temperature water over the leaves several times, not drinking it but rather spitting it into the sink to get the powder out.  The powder’s a result of the leaves being in packaging and getting ground into a fine dust; too much powder means an upset stomach. While I was doing this I heated the water, close to a boil but not quite, and then sat in the living room sipping the delicious, barn-flavored tea.

While I was sitting there I began to think about my upcoming trip to Lima. I’m staying in an Airbnb for $10 a night in a neighborhood called Magdalena del Mar, near San Ysidro, near Miraflores. Whenever I’ve gone to Lima I’ve essentially gone to the same places, i.e. Miraflores. This is where almost all tourists go. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, right on the top of the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You feel like you’re in Santa Monica, or Venice, or San Clemente, or Santa Barbara, or Santa Cruz, or Pismo, or Marina del Rey, or San Onofre. But you definitely don’t feel like you’re in El Segundo.

But this time I’d like to see more of Lima. Would I like to see more of Lima? Actually, I might be pretty content just staying between Magdalena del Mar and Miraflores. My Airbnb is two blocks from the boardwalk. I envision myself taking walks every morning on the way to a cafe, smelling the Pacific Ocean.

R’s talking about how she’s thinking about buying some KOK, aka Karl Ove Knausgaard, aka the author you should be reading right now, and I said, “Have you ever read him?”

“No,” she said.

“Christ, R,” I said. “Start now.”

“Where should I start?” she said.

“Book 1.”

I think the frappuccino I just drank has started to kick in, because I feel a little jittery and a little excited. In approximately two hours I’ll feel the opposite. Is it worth is? Absolutely. Because when I get home I’ll just have a little more mate.

“I just ordered it on Amazon,” R says.

“Mother of God,” I responded.

I hope R likes his books as much as I do, though that might be impossible. I think the only who likes KOK as much as I do might be Zadie Smith, who once said, “I need his next volume like I need crack.”

Not that Zadie Smith has ever smoked crack. But you get the idea.

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.

Consider, for a moment, for a nano-second, a mere wrinkle in time, making a small donation to this blog and helping me to realize my dream of traveling and blogging full time:

Become a Patron!

A Cafe Called “Starbucks,” Krakow, Poland

starbucks krakow poland

Originally published on Cappuccino in Lviv! on March 26, 2015

Now listen, before I even start this review I need you think about why you hate Starbucks. Because the coffee is bad? Because everyone else hates it? Because your little kitschy shop down the street is so much more quaint and you know the barista there? Starbucks, for whatever reason, seems to be a fairly polarizing place. Some people wouldn’t be caught dead there. Some people wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere else. Me? I like to think I’m indifferent. But when I was walking through the mall today in Krakow and I saw Starbucks I thought to myself, “I’ve reviewed all these places but I haven’t even reviewed the giant itself!” I decided it was time to spend some quality time in the most famous cafe around.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: Starbucks does not have bad coffee. Listen, its coffee might not be the best in the world, but it’s definitely not bad. You don’t get to where Starbucks is by having shitty products. Listen, I realize that marketing plays a massive role, but you have to have a decent product, too. Half the people at Starbucks are there for image purposes but there are at least a fair portion who legitimately like the coffee.

Now to the actual review.

The woman working the cash register was extremely kind and taught me how to properly say “for here” and “to go” in Polish. I think people underestimate the value of these two phrases, considering they’re involved in literally pretty much any food purchase. Listen, I realize there are more important words like thank you and hello, but these definitely rank right up there. And listen, I realize some of you may be thinking “What’s the point of learning a couple words when you’re just going to leave the country in a few days?” but listen, I love languages, and when I travel I find it fulfilling to learn as much of the language as I possibly can, regardless the circumstances.

The actual cappuccino made me realize something: Do I even have any idea what cappuccinos are supposed to be like? I’ve basically formed my opinion of what they’re supposed to be like on what I’ve been given, but I’m not sure that’s a 100% effective way to become an expert on something. Listen, trying tons of cappuccinos in different places doesn’t hurt, but I should probably do a little background research at some point as well. As for this cappuccino, it was extremely foamy. It had bubbles. Listen, I like foam as much as the next guy, but this seemed to be a bit much. This reminded me of Kredens. Listen, I’m sure the barista knows what she’s doing, but isn’t it possible that she messed my cappuccino up? Listen, I realize it’s not likely, but it could definitely happen.

Listen, I’m not here today to tell you Starbucks has the best coffee in the world, but the cappuccino I had today was definitely decent. Not great, but decent. Listen, better cafes are definitely out there, but listen, if you need a decent cup a joe in a pinch, listen, Starbucks will definitely do the job.

Cappuccino rating: 5/10

Overall experience rating: 5.1/10

Next on Cappuccino Lviv: Is Krakow the Starbucks of European cities?

 

Support this blog:

Become a Patron!

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.

Support this blog:

Become a Patron!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday Night Thoughts #3

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.

(…)

….

(Rain sounds).