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.


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