May 1993

Talking to the Desert

"You talk to the desert, play with the wind - and with any luck, you don't go crazy..."

There hasn't been much work lately, in fact it's been two weeks since I've done any serious work. So I've been filling my time as I can - dreaming up small adventures and, of course, playing my geetar. I rode my bike out to the village of San Marcos one day. Threw a couple of water bottles, corn tortillas and beans in the pannier and took off. I followed dirt roads and wagon trails - stopped in villages along the way to talk and ask directions. After following a goat path up and up for a long time (the wrong path) I settled under a tree (by definition) at the edge of a red tilled field and ate my beans with some nice spicy peppers and the last heavenly swigs of my water seasoned with the salt crusted around the edges of my mouth.

But it was afternoon by now, the son no longer so brutal and a breeze was coming up the valley - and somewhere, further on along the base of this mountain I seemed to be climbing, was San Marcos. It is a village of potters, most of who speak Spanish, all of whom speak Zapotec. It is also, it seems, a village of women (with ribbons in their braids) for most of the men are in California - and on the hillsides around the town you can see the fields going back to wild, the furthest ones out all but erases, the closer ones fading. There are no men to plow them, to plant them any more. But the women still make pots - and not all the men are gone - you see some on Sundays, drunken in the streets.

I finished my tortillas, got on another goat path back down the hill and found the trail I wanted and an hour later I was in San Marcos, telling my tale. Soon I was given Cokes, watermelon and corn juice - and they said, "You really came from Oaxaca on your bike?!" and the best statement which best illustrates the difference of worlds; "Ayee, poor Eric! You didn't have enough money for the bus?"

I stayed the night with friends there, sleeping soundly on a pile of straw mats - and the next morning returned - this time doing it in a straight shot and taking a more direct route. And I was back to my house in 2 1/2 hours as opposed to 7 the day before. And man, did my butt hurt - I've decided that if I do it again I'll invest in a little higher quality seat (this one I got for $3). A couple of days later, again with beans and tortillas, but this time in my shoulder bag, and my Clint Eastwood felt hat on my head, I wandered off into the desert, among the cactus, ruins and pottery shards, down arroyos and around cliffs. I wandered for 6 hours until, again out of water, I came to a town far from Oaxaca - and got on a bus for $.75 and went home.

Good stuff to do - it gets my feet dusty and I like that. It's what one does in Oaxaca when there aren't those deep friends around to talk to, to play with. You talk to the desert, play with the wind - and with any luck, you don't go crazy.


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