Friday, April 30, 2010

the rest

Came back from Sinaloa and have had a cold. It could be worse. One of my aunts has dengue fever and a few other family members have some sort of parasite, aka the fast shits. I can totally deal with a head cold.

I bought a ton of oilcloth while in Mexico and even though I've been too sick to sew I have cut out several pieces and am ready to make new bags as soon as I have the energy.

I know my body fairly well and can feel how the sickness moves from place to place. It starts behind my eyes then moves into my throat. I always have one night I can't sleep because of the burning. Then it moves into my sinuses, I sneeze and drip like crazy for two days and finally it exits through my throat and lungs, leaving me feeling parched and often without a voice. I don't have a voice right now but hope to have it back by tonight because I have a reading at Voz Alta. I'm debuting new poems.

I've been working on two shorts stories since I returned from Sinaloa. Really trying to get my prose voice back. I love narrative but I have a hard time sticking with it. I am not as focused as I should be and often don't know how to tie the ends up. But I'm working in it. This weekend I'm taking a class at San Diego Writers Ink on Making the Unreal Real. One of the shorts I've been working on is rooted in magical realism so I hope this class gives me for footing. The story started with a Vicente Fernandez song and I've weaved a couple of my dreams into it. We'll see. I dig it so far. The other story is a little more complicated but I'm hoping that I can tell it the way I want to. Fiction is tough for me because I don't practice it the way I practice poetry. B read the beginning on my rooster story last night and told me it sounded like a prose poem. I guess that's good but I want the story to be as strong as the language.

One of the reasons I so want to get back into fiction is that while I was in Sinaloa I finally read The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Urrea. It killed me with beauty. I haven't read a book like that in years. I enjoyed the story enough and the mythology woven throughout but the language did me in completely. I wanted to wrap the prose around me and sink into the earth with it. I've read Mr. Urrea's other work and have always enjoyed his writing. I'm applying to work with him at Squaw Valley this summer. I hope to get into his workshop. Time to concentrate on fiction.

My Sinaloa trip was more beautiful that I can explain. It was busy and full of partying but I had a couple of pure moments that I will remember forever. One was Monday at sunrise in the mango orchard. The mango huerta actually, my last name means orchard. I could smell the mangos ripening and the earth, loamy and old. I was with an uncle helping him tie little packets of insect larvae to his trees to fight the plague. He was several rows away from me, singing softly to himself. Crows were circling overhead, their cries were higher than the crows I'm used to. The light filtered through the leaves of the trees and I was full of joy. Completely at peace.

Good things are coming. I feel it. Mexico still calls and I know I have to return soon, my blood is begging to go back. I should build my little house there. A place I can return to. Swing in my own hammock.

this song has been in heavy rotation as I've been writing.

Monday, April 26, 2010

dispatches from Sinaloa, just two

my cousins Brendan learning how to make tortillas
feeding the cow in the morning
on a horse in front of my grandmother's house
early morning on the raod
my cousins Brendan and Me at the wedding

Thursday April 22, 2010

Back at the ranch and happy as a pig in shit. Not even 11 at night and the family is getting ready for bed. EIght of us flew down together which was an ordeal but we made it. I have two cousins with me on this trip who are both fun guys. Neither is related by blood, they are both cousins by marriage but I love the measure of what makes someone family in this family isn’t blood; though lord knows we enough blood relatives too.

My cousin B and I started drinking at the Tijuana airport and continued on the plane. Right before the plane landed in Mazatlan I looked out the window and pointed out a car accident on the road. A big rig, a tanker was tipped over on its side blocking all lanes on traffic and lines of cars and trucks stretched out in either direction since they couldn’t pass. We landed and got into the cars, B and my cousin A and I ended up in the back of a truck for the hour long ride to the village. But the car accident I saw from the plane changed that. We realized, or my uncle driving did, that there was no way we were going to get around the truck so we had to get to the village the long way.

It took us two hours, by the time we go the village it was dark. I was over the moon. My grandma was losing her shit because we were so late. But I LOVED every second of the drive. The sun set over some coastal mountains and stained the sky hundreds of shades between yellow and red. The moon was half full and a few stars blinked out at us. There are no street lights so the only light was the moon and it reflected blue off of the top of my can of beer. The vegetation on the side of the road was black and we could only see the outlines of trees and a few tall plants against the sky. Gorgeous. It was another reminder of how happy I am to be down here. In the time since we landed five hours ago I have started to breathe easier and relax. There is something magical about life down here.

We got to my grandparent’s house and after the hellos we fell on the feast prepared for us. Two platters of raw scallops marinating in lime juice with red onion and cucumber; fresh shrimp tacos, shrimp soup, dried shrimp tacos; fish cooked over an open wood burning fire; other fish, ride, beans tortillas. Beer. My stomach is beyond happy.

During dinner we sat at the long table on the patio and joked around and gossiped. I love family, there is nothing like it in the world. I love my family They are beautiful and crazy, amazing and annoying, they make me grateful I was born into this weird clan of halfs and fulls and not-relateds.

Outside the crickets are singing, the crows haven’t started yet. The floor in the living room is covered with 3 air mattresses and the sofa ed is out. Ten people, one toilet. I don’t care. Tomorrow we go back to Mazatlan for a wedding. I am so happy to be here I want to cry.

Saturday April 24

Holy crap, this is the first moment I’ve had to write since yesterday morning. Approaching 4 here at the ranch and I am tired, sleep-deprived, hungover, soar and trying to prepare for another party tonight.

Yesterday we woke up at dawn and my uncles picked up my cousins Brendan, Andy and me and took us out to the corn fields. The corn is flowering and birds love corn flowers. We went to throw clumps of dried dirt at the birds using hemp slings. I tried and managed only to hit myself in the in head so I gave up and watched my cousins and uncles fling dirt. My great-uncle Ramon was in the “tower,” a rickety tower made of branches with a platform on it, shaded y a piece of corrugated metal. My uncle was pupper-aster to long, thin ropes that were stretched across the corn field. Hanging from each string were plastic jugs filled with gravel. Every time a flock of birds approached the corn my great uncle pulled at the ropes, rattling the jugs of gravel and shouting Hep! Hep! Hep! and the birds would fly away. I was impressed, it seemed like a very old-school but the ranch is very old school. And the corn is part of what feed them and the livestock.

After leaving my uncle to rattle and shout at the bird we drove down to the river so that my cousins could see it. It was much lower than it was last month. My delightfully crazy Uncle Jaime found a dead turtle that was mostly dried up. He took it with him, telling me that he was going to shine it up for me, coat it with varnish and make me a fancy doorstop. A dead turtle doorstop. Great. After we went back to the cornfield and gathered up stalks that were drying in the sun and filled the back of the pick-up with them. We climbed into the back of the truck on top of the stalks and drove to feed the cows. Pretty cool! I felt like I was coming home.

After feeding the cows we went to see a man about a pig. The pig that is cooking outside over flames right now. The pig whose blood I had all over my hands this morning but I’ll get to that. Going to see the pig was a lot worse than what happened this morning. The pig had to be caught then weighed. It was gnarly, the pig was not a happy pig when he was being weighed. I had a banana in my purse and fed him pieces to calm him down but he was still agitated. I told myself if I’m going to eat meat then I have to be okay with the entire process.

After the feeding of the pigs we had to leave for Mazatlan to check into our hotels and go to a cousin’s wedding. Not very eventful, my cousins Brendan and decided to start drinking early and took tequila shots had had beers before the wedding mass. It made the long mass bearable. The church was on a hill in the middle of a neighborhood and the acoustics were pretty bad; everything echoes, including the four cell phones that rang during the ceremony. Outside kids were playing soccer and goal! kept echoing throughout the mass. I wasn’t sober so I didn’t care, mass bores me anyway.

After the ceremony we went back to the hotel and had more tequila shots and beer then took a mini-bus to the reception. The garden where the reception was held was beautiful. It was a walled garden with tables covered in white and pink table cloths. Flower arrangements adorned every table but I didn’t really care because I saw the fountain of my dreams. I’ve seen chocolate fountains at weddings, and this wedding had a chocolate fountain but there was also a CHILE FOUNTAIN! I wanted to bathe in it. There was a table with veggies and fruit bowls then you could pour chile cause all over the fruit/veggies. Heaven for Lizz.

Things get blurry after that. My dad showed up. There was a band playing and beer and tequila flowed freely and my cousin Brendan and I danced. And danced. And then we danced a little more. In between dancing we drank. Then we got up to dance again. My feet still hurt. We were maybe a little bit nuts since the band played a lot of traditional Mexican music and we didn’t know how to dance to it so we tried to copy the people around us then gave up and started swing dancing. The band was very interactive and they had the crowd going. They started playing mambo and pulled out mambo sleeves. My darling drunk cousins put on the mambo sleeves and began dancing in circles around the cousins. Since he isn’t a blood cousin the female cousins were checking him out like crazy ad giving me the cut eye for hogging him. Whatever. They started playing a samba song and the drummer gave Brendan his drums and Brendan drummed away. For another song they handed out long balloons, the kind balloon animals are made out of. I don’t remember taking them, but there are some funny pictures of us with the balloons.

The wedding eventually ended with cousins asking us to go and party with them but were beat. My dad and his cousin Carlos were driving us to the hotel and my dad’s cousin decided we had to see a Cuban band play. So we stopped by. Then Carlos decided we had to go see a mariachi band so we went to go see the play. My dad and Carlos were thrilled but Bren and I were drunk and exhausted. We’d been up since dawn and non-stop. We finally made it to the hotel at 2am and crashed into sleep.

We woke up at 6am because my cousin Bren is a chef and he wanted to kill the pig we’re having for dinner tonight. He’s butchered a pig but never slaughtered it. I wasn’t that into it but went along for moral support. My dad borrowed my Uncle Omar’s Land Rover (the great all-mighty Land Rover that can’t even cross rivers. . .) and we headed back to the village. B and I were exhausted and tried to sleep and we got a blow-out. And, of course, the Magical Land Rover’s jack didn’t work. I had to call Cousin Carlos in Mazatlan to bring a mechanic to fix the tire. And the lug-nut covers were after market and had to be beaten off. After and hour and a half on the side of the raod we made it back to the village.

My uncles were waiting, drunk as fuck at 9am. They didn’t sleep after the wedding but kept drinking. A knife was inserted under the pig’s left forearm, right into his heart and he died immediately. Since I am a woman and women have specific roles, I was relegated to making tortillas. But after burning a couple I was sent outside like a bad child to help the men. I may have done that on purpose.

I stood with a coffee and a beer and watched my cousin and the uncles butcher the pig. I’ve never seen a pig butchered before and it was pretty damn interesting. I got in on the action. What struck me the most was the strange smell from the pig’s open body. It was musty and sharp, not a bad smell but not entirely pleasant either. I saw where the parts I’m familiar with in the grocery store come from.

After the butchering B and I came back to my grandma’s house and took a nap. Then we went to town with some relatives to shop. We bought shrimp, tequila, scallops and crab. I bought a clay pot for cooking beans and we came back to the house and have been preparing food to take to the party tonight. My prolific grandfather’s many many children are all in the village today to commemorate his death. It is kind of fascinating to watch the various women we was “married” to interact with each other. I have a feeling my grandfather was the kind of man who made each women feel like she was the only one in the world; despite the fact he was a bigamist and cheater. They have an air of superiority around each other.

Tonight will be interesting. I hope my liver survives. The water is boiling and there are shrimp to cook. I love my life down here.


I love Mexico, I love how when I´m here I feel Mexico in my blood, in every nerve. I love waking up before sunrise to go to the fields with my uncles. I love eating hot fresh tortillas off the grill. I love drunk relatives spilling family secrets. I love night here, the stars and moon shinking on the fields. I love the smell of wood smoke, the feel of ash on my food. My heart swells when family come calling for me to take me to their kitchens to eat or how my uncles always encourage me to drink as much as they do. I even love the uncomfortable stuff, the mosquito repellent stink, the drippy shower, the dust in my nostrils.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

in the early

I woke up at 5am this morning feeling really sad. Last night at the baseball game I sat behind my parents and I felt guilty for my odd choices in life. I know they support me but I have pretty much walked away from everything they wanted for me, tons of formal education, a stable job, marriage, kids, the whole dream. I kind of feel like a disappointment. I feel really bad for my dad who has worked hard his entire life and is now struggling with his business. He has put his entire life into the business and I wish that it wasn't hurting him the way it is now. He is such a good man, the best man I know and it hurts me to know he is hurting. Same for my mom. They are such good people, I love them so much. I sat up for about an hour while the sun came up contemplating ways I could make their life easier for them but came up with nothing. It bummed me out.

My baby sister is in town. We went to dinner before the game. She is gorgeous and funny, she has no weight to her, everything in her life is very optimistic. She laughs easily. She is 22. I felt really old sitting across from her, and jaded. I am not as much as an optimist as I used to be. I am pretty cynical these days.

I may also be in a funk and the moon is waxing and around this time of the month I get sad and cranky. And none of my bras fit. And even chocolate doesn't satisfy me.

The poem a day prompt may assuage some of my crank-a-licious-ness. I'm to write a poem either about looking forward or looking back. Yesterday I wore a poem about how much of a klutz I am and I dig it. The poem, not the constant crashing into furniture.

Monday, April 19, 2010

maybe it won't be about writing

My forthcoming Mexico trip is turning into a party. More relatives keep signing up and last night I found out one of my favorite cousins is going too. We're all on the same flight. My cousin is 28 so I'm pretty sure we're going to be pretty un-sober most of the time. My cousin is also a chef so I'm going to be making sure I steal many recipes.

Last night I went to bed and as I was dozing off, lines to a new poem came to me. This has happened in the past and as much as I try to remember the next day, I can never grasp the energy of that initial birth. I got out of bed, grumbling and wrote first drafts of two short poems then I couldn't get back to sleep. Bah. I like sleeping, I love being in my dream world. Too few hours there and I feel cheated.

Going to the Padres game with the family and B tonight. My baby sister is coming into town so we should have a good time. I look forward to the people watching. B and I found out the beer bus from our favorite bar is going to the Mariners game again this year and are super excited. Last year we had a blast and paid with very severe hangovers, lost articles of clothing and random bruising. This year we're going to try to be smart about our imbibing.

I need to stop counting my damn chickens before they hatch, man. Things fall apart.

I'm really enjoying Treme on HBO. Great writing, characters and cast. I'm also happy The United States of Tara is back. These shows will hold me over until my real obsession, True Blood, returns. I don't watch a lot of television but LOVE good shows like these.

Saul was my 90's dream man. I see him and it makes me want to put my Doc Martens back on.

Friday, April 16, 2010

my petite vulcan

The volcano is freaking me out a little bit and invading my dreams. So today's song is Possibly Maybe from Bjork, with the lovely phrase my petite vulcan. I actually dig all of the lyrics, especially I suck my tongue in remembrance of you. It was my senior quote in my high school yearbook. My freak was burgeoning then. My favorite Bjork song is Joga, I'll post that video too. I believe Michel Gondry directed it. I remember watching it at the Pompidou in Paris and having a very emotional reaction.

I didn't write my poem-a-day yesterday because I thought the prompt was stupid.

Tonight I'm going to Voz Alta to watch the Anatomy of Love.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

in the gnashing teeth of sleepy

The last few days have me exhausted. I don't know why. All I want to do is sleep. I'm been eating poorly and that may have something to do with it. My headache comes and goes but is usually lurking right above the crown of my head, ready to drop.

I caught up on my poems finally. I kind of like the poem I wrote yesterday, "almost an island." I love that poems can be anything, I took an experience I had in Key West and completely lied about it in the poem, but it is such a great lie that I almost wish it was true. Oh imaginings, how I love you. I love creating and manipulating stories in my poems. If half the things I wrote about actually happened to me I would probably be crazy. Or, if I told the truth (as Cecil has told me to), well, I'm just not going to think about that. . . Ay.

Mexico in a week. I look forward to the heat, to the sunrise over the mango fields. To the scent of wood smoke.

This song reminds me of my winter in Switzerland.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

to the death!

Last night was Literary Death Match at UCSD. I had a nice little cheering crowd, B, Andy, Ayiiia, her girlfriend Monica and a friend of theirs. A few other people I know were in the audience, it was a great crowd. I read my short story "Birds" and the crowd dug it. I was pretty nervous because the man I was competing against was really good and did a hilarious piece called "Atheist Man." The judges liked my piece, especially the line about "hemp panties" and I won the round. The final round was musical chairs and my skinny little butt lost. But I had a wonderful time. The other writers were a really talented bunch, I enjoyed everything I heard, especially Eber Lambert's hilarious story about why god has abandoned humans. It was probably one of the best literary events I've been to. There wasn't a dull moment all night. Thanks to Shaunna McKenna for inviting me to me a part of it and to Todd Zuniga for bringing the event to San Diego.

I woke up with a headache, I had a headache before I went to bed. I have an idea of what is making my head hurt but I think I'm going to ignore it. Very adult of me.

Again, I've fallen behind on my poem-a-day but I will remedy that today. I have to write either a love poem or anti-love poem for the prompt from yesterday and "(BLANK) Island.)" I can't say what my first thought was for "blank island" but it shows me that I may be starting the day off on a cranky foot and should probably fix that.

I had this song on repeat yesterday. It makes me dance.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

the shortest 3 minutes ever

Yesterday I timed my short fiction piece for Literary Death Match (tonight!! come!!!) and was frustrated that my piece was about five minutes long and the time limit is three minutes. And I have this weird thing about some rules, I like to follow them. I stop completely at stop signs, I don't eat the nuts out of the bulk bins and grocery stores, I don't download music illegally. What a nerd! So I spent much of the afternoon editing my story down and timing myself. I'm a little bummed since I cut some lines I really like but in the end, the heart of the story didn't change and I still find it funny. I will be super-bummer face if everyone else ignores the 3-minute rule. Now I can compare the ultra-light version of the story to the longer one and see what is really necessary after all.

In happier news I've won the battle with my sewing machine. I've tamed it into submission and it is now doing my will. I'm going to attempt a couple of skirts for Mexico. I realized my wardrobe is Mexico inappropriate. My shirts are too tight (though, really, not much I can do about that. . .), the skirts and shorts too short and all of my baby doll dresses give me the appearance of being pregnant. So, I may need to buckle down and go modest for a few days. Bah.

In an ideal world mornings would be like a Soul Train Line Dance.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Today is not a Carpenter's song

Even though it is raining and a Monday, but I'll probably get the song stuck in my head anyway. No matter, I freaking love the Carpenters.

Smiling after a pretty damn good weekend.

Don't forget to support me tomorrow night at Literary Death Match. I have my story ready and I'm pretty excited and a little nervous. But whatever, I love performing and I've been trying to get into my fiction so it will be great.

I bought a ticket back to Mexico on a whim yesterday. I knew I wanted to go back but then realized I really really want to go back. I know I complained but man, I got so much writing done down there. Here the days fly by and I have writing I need to do. I'm only going down for five days but I hope I'll get a couple of chapters of my novel knocked out and I hope to finish a creepy short story I started this weekend.

Cecil and I saw Greenberg yesterday and both hated it. The NYT review says it is the funniest and saddest Baumbach film ever made and I disagree. There are maybe 2-3 laugh aloud moments and saddest part is that I am never getting those 2 hours of my life back. There was an aftershock in the middle of the movie which was the most interesting part for me. It did have an incredibly awkward sex scene which was cringe-worthy but I was not in a cringe-friendly mood as B and I watched Big Fan on Saturday night and I was all cringed out. don't know which movie I disliked more. Maybe I have poor taste in film but Big Fan made me so uncomfortable I spent the last 20 minutes of the movie with a sofa pillow over my head. Life is already uncomfortably unbearable enough at time, why take my suspension of disbelief there too?

I've fallen behind of my Poem-a-Day but hope to catch up today while the weather is wet.

I'd love to see these guys on Thursday but the show is sold out.

And if you don't know what Carpenter's song I was referring to. I think Karen Carpenter looks like Lambchop.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Literary Death Match

Come support me at Literary Death Match next week! I'm excited and nervous. I haven't really competed before but whatever, it will be fun.

Lots going on these days, work is kicking my ass and writing poems every day is kicking my ass too. This weekend I have a wedding reception, a dinner party and I'm shooting for a personal day on Sunday. Massage and nothing but writing. I hope, I hope.

On Facebook I keep seeing posts from friends who are AWP in Denver. I'm a little jealous, I would love to go mingle and meet other writers but it just didn't pan out this year. And all those crowds would probably drive me crazy.

I'm thinking of building a house in Mexico on my grandmother's land. I got so much writing done down there that I am having little jealous rages inside of myself that I don't have that kind of time here. I can build a little studio apartment for about $3000. I can handle that. A place to get away and after I milk the cows in the morning I can lock my doors and write. I mentioned it to my dad and he loves the idea. We will see.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

stretch it Lizz

I woke up this morning and tried to stretch, my body is so tight I couldn't even touch my toes! I fixed that with half an hour of stretching because not being flexible just isn't an option.

I'm procrastinating on a couple of things, but at least the engines are revving. I think when I take my foot off the brakes I'll zoom, if not I'm in trouble.

The poems continue.

I love this song.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


I'm missing Mexico this morning, I miss the ranch and the way the village woke up slowly. I miss walking down the road towards the bridge, the fog rising off the mango fields. I miss speaking Spanish and cooking with my grandmother. All of those details I knew mattered. I can go back, I know, but I have things to do here and I really did miss my solitude. I think next time I go down I'll drive my truck down there so I can escape when I need to. Though last time I drove my truck down there my uncles gave me a world of shit because I, a woman, was driving a truck across Mexico.

The poetry is coming, blissfully. I have several short stories that are playing themselves out in my head. Yesterday C told me he could imagine me living down there. I would need to build my own house but according to one of my uncles, I could build a little place for $5000. I couldn't even buy a porta-potty for that up here.

Getting ready for Literary Death Match next week. I don't really get it but I'm sure it will be fun. I'm preparing a short story. It has teeth.

Monday, April 5, 2010

the words keep coming

Home a few days now and settling back into myself, though with newness, a new appreciation of things. I feel more centered. I remember when I was in Mexico 03-04 when I came home everyone told me I had finally grown up. I think I have more of that now, even a week, it has changed me.

Drove to Orange County with C today and had great conversations about writing and how I need to write more dangerously. I have a dangerous mind, my friends, and a lot of the things I could write about aren't pretty but I think I should start trying.

I've been writing a poem-a-day for National Poetry Month and happy to be back into the swing of things. I've been reading lot of poetry as well to get into the frame of mind. This weekend I found this poem by Jerry Brunoe and I've read it several times over, there is something in the music that gets to my heart. I'm not posting any of my PAD poems this year because if publishing questions but if you want to see one or two, email me and maybe I'll send a couple. I'm following the prompts from Poetic Asides. I'm part of a private facebook group of poets writing poems and posting them daily. I love ready the work, everyone has such a different voice. Many of my poems are colored by my Mexico trip, understandably.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

the last one

April 1, 2010

At the airport waiting to board my flight. What a week and what a day.

This morning I woke up before dawn, downed a couple of bowls of yogurt, wiped every inch of my body with tick repellant and prepared for the mountain. My uncles pulled their truck up and honked, my aunt, uncle and I jumped in the back, loaded down with bottles of water, fruit and energy bars. It was cold, especially driving as fast as we were. The base of the mountain is only a few miles away from the village. On our way there the sun peeked out behind the pointed mountains to the east, the fog rose off the mango fields and again I was truck by how ghost-like everything was. I knew then I would miss mornings at the ranch once at home.

We got the mountain and my crazy uncle Jaime got out of the truck, as did his 8 year old daughter Airam (Maria spelled backwards), a cousin, my aunt and uncle and I. We waved goodbye to my uncle with the truck since he had to go see about a sick calf (the calf was dead when he arrived to check on her, I found out later) and we started.

It was a climb. The ascent wasn’t particularly difficult but the trail was completely overgrown. My uncle Jaime went first, slashing down plants and brush with his machete. I was impressed. In general he impresses me, not an ounce of fat on his body, he drinks beer all day long, cusses like a cowboy and is really hard-working man and loving father. His daughter Airam followed, her pace matching his. The other cousin went after them with his own machete, attacking whatever growth Jaime missed. I went behind him followed by my aunt and then uncle.

We (aunt, uncle and I) were the odd ones out, for all of our fancy hiking boots and clothing, we lagged. None of us were used to the plants and were surprised when many of them had razor sharp edges and they slashed at our clothing. The trail was rough, loose rocks and dirt and there were all sorts of insects and we persevered. I kept my eye on my cousin Airam, every time I felt winded I grit my teeth and told myself I wasn’t going to get showed up by an 8 year old. About halfway up we stopped to rest. My uncle Jaime pulled a cold beer out of his backpack and downed it. It wasn’t even 7 in the morning. That is dedication, or something. I swallowed an energy bar and half a liter of water and then we continued.

When we neared the top it got really steep. There was a point when Jaime pulled out a rope, tied it to a tree and tossed it down to us so we could hold on to it while we climbed. If we didn’t have the rope it would have been hard going. Once we reached the top I was elated. The view took away all the pain of the scratches, the insects in my eyes and the ache my lungs. I could see the entire valley; all the little villages, each with a church spire; all the mango groves, chile fields and the river running through it to the sea. It made me really happy. I love that my father has such a rich, beautiful place to call home.

There is a cross at the top of the mountain but because of all the rain this last year the wood rotted away and the cross fell. My Uncle Jaime was one of the men who originally brought the cross to the mountain and he felt it was his responsibility to fix it. He hacked away at the rotted wood with his machete and using pieces of barbed wire he re-fashioned the cross, the cousin and other uncle helping. They made a rock cairn for the base and set the cross in it. All of posed for pictures in front of it then we began our descent.

The descent was faster but only because we slid so much on the loose dirt and rocks. My uncle Jaime carved a large “L” into a mesquite tree for me with his machete, pretty damn cool. My uncle Omar tied a rope to my aunt Silvia’s waist to help her not fall as she descended. It was pretty funny but he saved her ass a couple of times. My cousins took off and ran down the mountain but I went slowly, my legs shaking from the constant squatting and dropping. I only fell once. We made it to the bottom where my Uncle Payín was waiting.

He took us to his house where my great-uncle Ramón was cooking fish over a hole filled with coals We washed and ate. Oh I will miss the food! My Aunt Conchi served the fish with refried beans, fresh tortillas, fresh salsa, roasted chiles in lime juice and a squash she cubed and sauteed with carrots. Heaven. We had beer with breakfast as a reward for getting back in one place and without ticks. Actually, I was the only one who arrived without ticks but it wasn’t that bad. No one had more than five.

To refresh ourselves after the climb and meal we changed into shorts and got into the truck with a cooler full of beer to go to the river. We went to the spot where my father was born and set up camp. A thing about Mexico, at least the part where my family is from, bathing suits aren’t considered decent. I wore my bikini but had shorts and a tank top over. The river was cool. I waded in the let the current carry me about a hundred feet then would swim back and let it carry me back again. My crazy great-uncle stuck to the riverbank, crawling through the mud looking for crawdads. He came out looking like the swamp thing with only one crawdad to show for his work. My aunt Silvia bathed in the river too but barely. A couple of male cousins (still meeting new relatives. . .) and I were the only ones who actually swam. Afterwards we sat on the bank and drank beer and chatted. I took off my tank top to dry out which was okay but my uncle told me to keep my shorts on since bikini bottoms are very indecent. I kept looking up at where my father was born, imagining him as a baby and small boy playing in the river and catching fish. No wonder he is so salt of the earth.

We left the river so I could get ready to go home. Sad face. My grandfather was pretty blue that I was leaving. He thanked me for making his time at the ranch better. My grandmother made me pack about 3 dozen tamales to bring home. Relatives stopped by to say goodbye, all of them asking me to come back soon.

I hope I do.