Hitchhiking to Oaxaca

One problem with hitchhiking. In a metro area of 3 million (in this case, Puebla) without subways, you’re going to lose the first couple of hours trying to get to a decent spot beyond the edge of the city.

I was lucky enough to get a ride to the main (and quite hectic) bus station. After several well-intended misdirections, I found the gate for a bus to a (presumably) good spot on the road to Oaxaca. I bought my ticket. “The bus leaves in 50 minutes,” said the ticket guy. I didn’t want to lose another hour, so I walked out to the buses and asked a few drivers from the same company. “Leaving right now,” said one, and I boarded. I find this rather typical in Mexico. Everyone is incredibly kind and eager to help, but it is difficult to help with much clarity because the whole world is winging it. It ain’t Germany (though I love both equally – and both are great for hitchhiking).

The bus dropped me right at the toll booth of Hwy 150D. The toll takers were busy, so I just walked through the gates. Like everyone else. Yes, inside the toll booth of what we (in the US) would call a “controlled-access highway,” there is a mini human ecosystem on the shoulder: tables set up selling tacos and jugos, guys with flags offering to change tires, hitchhikers (me), people walking around selling M&Ms, toll workers on break, and some people just hanging out.

It took me 5 minutes to get set up, getting my highway info out so I could stuff my daypack into my backpack, get my OAX sign ready, stake out a spot at a safe distance from the vendors and such. Lots of big trucks coming through in the right lane, making it difficult. But in just 15 minutes, someone risks life and limb to cut through the trucks. A fiftyish couple, Lalo and Erika, heading from Xalapa to … yes, to Oaxaca. One ride. Hitchhiking is too easy in Mexico. Going through Guanajuato state and then here, I have never waited longer that 20 minutes for a ride, the people on the side of the road were all helpful (none of the hawk-eyed judgement leveled at hitchhikers in the US), and my drivers all relaxed and friendly, including couples more often than not (as opposed to the US, where it’s almost all single, blue-collar men that pick you up).

At Tehuacán, we turn right and go into the mountains. Lalo and Erika speak almost no English, for which I am grateful. My hitchhiking immersion strategy is working. The flora changes dramatically from agave and organ pipe cactus to big trees. Then we slope out into white sandy, rocky terrain dotted with individual trees standing dark and green in relief. Then red clay terrain. Then fully green mountains again. We are getting near Oaxaca.

“Watch out for the negra,” says Erika. “The yellow mole and the red one, the one they call ‘coloradito,’ are great. But the negra, the negra is spicy. Really spicy.”

I doubt anyone can beat the dark, chocolaty mole I had in a middle-aged woman’s home in Puebla, but since I’ve been in Mexico, half the people have told me that Puebla has the best food and half say Oaxaca. I would find the negra not spicy at all, but in any event, I took Erika’s comment under advisement.

(One final note about the people of Oaxaca — and my new friends there can reply as needed. They are among the nicest, friendliest, most relaxed people I’ve met, but put them behind the wheel of a car and it’s like their hair is on fire. Visitors beware when crossing those streets!)

PUEBLA

       

ON THE ROAD

 

OAXACA

      

     

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Beach scene from Hippies

A beach scene from Hippies

Summary of novel: In this Age of Aquarius epic, a group of hippies moving through the sights, sounds, and ideals of the 1960s counterculture discover an LSD-spinoff that triggers past life regressions and leads to a dramatic climax.

x x x

As Ziggy ambled naked toward the water, Jazmine thought there was a hint of Apollo in his stride. “But a little skinny,” she added in her mental narrative, smiling to herself, as she watched Ziggy plunge. She’d never had a guy best friend till Ziggy, someone she could love with all the doors and windows open. But not sexually. Maybe that was her problem. She had to separate sex and love, as if love were pure and sex were dirty. Like she was defending something inside but she didn’t know what it was that was being defended.

“You look hot!”

Jazmine started out of her reverie to see a lanky teen boy with black frame glasses hanging over her.

“Thanks.” The teen boy could see she was nervous.

“No, I mean sweating hot. I’m not hitting on you, I swear.” He grinned. “We got some beers over by the Plymouth.”

“No Thanks.”

Zig was walking up, squeezing water out of his long hair.

“Hey, man,” said the kid, “I was telling your old lady we have some beers over by the Plymouth.”

“Thanks. We’re good.”

“Y’all hear about the cops out here yesterday?”

“Never seen the cops out here before,” said Zig. Jaz kept sunbathing in her own mental space, trying to put closure on her thoughts.

“Yeah, cops took my friend’s weed and sent him packing.”

Zig commiserated: “Shame, man. Cops getting into everything.”

“Hey, I know you,” said the kid. He scratched his big toe in the sand, as if he were trying to draw a secret symbol. Then he looked up and straight at Ziggy.

“I know where I seen y’all before. Y’all part of Ragman’s army,” he said, grinning a little more cautiously.

Ziggy laughed. “If we’re the army, I feel sorry for whoever we’re defending.”

“Don’t laugh, man,” said the kid. Weird, Ziggy thought. That’s the second time somebody told him that today.

“Be careful around Rag,” continued the kid.

“Rag’s cool,” said Zig. The kid had touched on a point he felt strongly about. “Rag’s the coolest guy I ever met.” The kid fidgeted.

“Ever,” Zig repeated, letting the kid know that this was not negotiable.

“I know, man,” said the kid. “But be careful.” Now he was nervous, whispery. He looked over at a small group standing across the beach by a palm tree.

“That’s the problem,” he hissed, under his breath. “Ragman’s the one thing the cops can’t stand. An idealist in the drug scene. You think they give a shit about speed and heroin dealers? Shit, the cops are dealing half the drugs in this town. And cocaine and downers? The Man loves that shit. Speed to keep people working; downers to keep’m tame. What the cops hate is LSD. And maybe pot. And kids with the vision to change things. Fuck things up. And it ain’t only the cops.”

The more the kid hissed and whispered, the more Zig became intrigued.

“What do you mean, it ain’t only the cops?” Zig asked.

“Those fucking dealers coming in with the heroin and the coke. They just want money and zombies. They’d get rid of Ragman faster than the cops. Yeah, they got their fucking ways too.” He rolled his foot along the sand, smoothing over forever whatever imaginary symbol he had started. “Their own fucking ways, man.”

“Why are you telling us this?” asked Zig.

“I don’t know. I like Ragman. I admire the guy. And your chick there looks cool.” He thought for a second. Someone from the group by the palm tree gestured to the kid. “And because I’m a fucking idiot,” the kid said, and he walked briskly off.

x x x

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May Installment of Promote Your Book!

charles french words reading and writing

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We are well into the month of May, and I thought it was time again for a book promotion party!

I want to offer an opportunity for all writers who follow this blog to share information on their books. It can be very difficult to generate publicity for our writing, so I thought this little effort might help. All books may be mentioned, and there is no restriction on genre. This encompasses fiction, poetry, plays, and non-fiction. If I have neglected to mention a genre, please consider it to be included.

To participate, simply give your name, your book, information about it, and where to purchase it in the comments section. Then please be willing to reblog and/or tweet this post. The more people that see it, the more publicity we can generate for everyone’s books.

Thank you for participating!

Keep on writing!

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Celebrate and promote…

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