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Monday, January 10, 2011

MEXICO FIVE: The Road to Guaymas

[Note: Blogspot lists these chapters in reverse order. To read earlier adventures, scroll to the bottom or click here to go to the beginning.]



Recap: Despite an earlier pledge to boycott Arizona because of its ethnic cleansing law, Mykel agrees to go to that state as part of a tour of Mexico. Mexican fans have put together a cover band of Mykel's old tunes (previous band: ARTLESS) and invited him to sing. He'll tour with Cojoba, a Puerto Rican band he loves... from New York and his new band Sin Arte.
Despite the worse case of jock itch he's ever had, Mykel, wearing a Fuck You Arizona t-shirt and combat boots, has boarded a plane for Phoenix. (His doctor warned him against those boots-- but not the t-shirt. Mykel feels that ten days can't do much harm. Mykel will be wrong.)
On the plane, he sits next to a snot dripping yuppette. In a day, Mykel's got the bug... lodged in his chest as a stomach-wrenching, hacking, cough.

In Phoenix, Mykel meets up with Gilberto, who he teaches to lie to get a car rental with a debit card.

Then on to Tucson.

There, he stays one night in Mexico-town with Güera (guitarist for Sin Arte), her dog Mona, a big guy named Beef, the band Cojoba, and Ivan from La Merma, who will also play bass in Sin Arte.
The first show is in Tijuana, a long drive from Tuscon. We've traveled in a rented car from Tuscon to San Diego. WE is Mykel, Gilberto, the driver and tour organizer, and Cojoba. Sin Arte, won't be playing in Tijuana, but will be doing the rest of the shows in Mexico-- and a couple in Arizona.

It's a trolly ride from San Diego to the border. Then a long trip across the border, through a winding series of bridges and tunnels, through Mexican customs and immigration.

We're worried about being late. The show starts at 9. We're supposed to be at the club by 8. Our friends from the Tijuana band VERBAL AGRESSION are coming to meet us on the other side of the border. Yeah, right. We walk. And it's far.

By this time, Mykel's boots are beginning to rub the back of his heels. Although the food is great, his cough is so severe, it's tough to keep down. And he reeks of the tea tree oil he's been applying to his balls for the jock itch. Between that and the cough drops he's constantly sucking, he smells like a eucalyptus forest.

After a hell trek through the most dangerous town in North America... second... in Mexico... we get to the club, and it's closed. Mykel can no longer walk because his boots have turned his feet to hamburger meat. The newly crippled Mykel still loves the show that finally takes place. He also gets to meet SOLUCION MORTAL, a notorious Mexican band who he's “known” through letters for more than 25 years.

The bar has the worst mensroom in bar history. Just a trough, in open view of everyone! Luckily, Taina stands guard as pee-shy Mykel does what needs to be done.

Added bonus: he sees Kuicho, one of the guys from Sociedad Discriminada. He met them in New York where they got him the drunkest he'd been since sleeping in his own vomit in college.
Kuicho is a great guy. Funny, always sloshed, coked, or something. Often he sinks to unintellegiblity and carries on profound conversations where other people don't understand one word of what he's saying... in English or Spanish. He's always fun. And one of Mykel's favorite people.

After the show, there's a fifteen hour drive to the next show in Guaymas. Sin Arte will make its debut there. The other members are meeting this crew in Guaymas, coming from Arizona. Probably, the only sleep will be on the road. There's a slight chance we'll make a brief rest stop in Hermosillo for, at most, two hours of horizontal rest.

Then it's out of the car and on stage immediately. That's punk rock. The problem is, the crew... at least Mykel, doesn't know how they're getting from Tijuana to Guaymas (prounced Why mas?). They're all soused, except Ray. They arrived by trolly. And there's no way anyone in his right mind would drive a bunch of drunks 15 hours through the Mexican desert.

No way? Hah! This is Mexican Punk Rock.

I forgot to mention in the last episode, that Mexican mosh pits are scary for completely different reasons than American mosh pits are scary. In the U.S., I'm afraid of getting in there because there are monster meatheads, who swing their fists and use their bodies like football tackles. The idea is to do as much damage to your fellow moshers as possible. If someone falls, you help them off the floor. That is not out of kindness. That is setting up bowling pins after a strike. You don't do it out of kindness. You do it so you can knock them down again.

[Aside: The human body is a mathematical equation. The sum of mental acuity and physical size/strength/breadth must equal 100. So if some one is 20 in physical size, his/her brain power will be 80. Someone 80 in size will be a moron. This rule holds for every country on earth... especially in the moshpit]

Mexico too has its meatheads. There are lumbering Mexican oafs with brains the size of rat turds. But besides that, everybody smokes. Not only do they smoke, but they swing their moshing fists with lit cigarettes in them. The swinging cigarettes are rendered only slightly safer by the spillage of beer from open cups also swung freely in the pit. If you're lucky, you'll be covered with beer so the flying cigarettes will have nothing to start a fire on. The safety of any beer-doused cigarettes, however, is nullified by the danger of hydroplaning dancers on the beer soaked floor.

One of the major maniacs on the dancefloor in Tijuana is a tall guy, not as thick as the usual blockheads, but as full of swinging cigarettes and beer... and a camera. I don't know how he does it, but he manages to throw his arms, head and body around, a cigarette in one hand, a beer in another, and his camera in a third. He's especially wild during Cojoba's set. Snapping photos while he's whipping the camera around like a medieval mace. I check my Spanish-English dictionary for the word asshole-- and sure enough, there's his picture.

Cojoba in Guaymas on No Sleep!
Fast forward: The show's over. We're looking for each other on the street outside the club. There's Gilberto, Ray, and Javier. We still need Taina and Moe.

Where's Taina?” asks Ray. “Where's Moe? They know we've got to get to the next show. It's just not responsible... their disappearing. And more than that, how are we going to get to the next show? Nobody knows. This should have been better planned. And if I cudda charged my iPhone. It's got a GPS. How're we gonna get to whatsitsname with no GPS? We'll never find it.”

If I were making this up, it's just at this point that Taina and Moe would appear and we'd move on to the next bit. But I'm not making this up, and Taina does not appear. The person who appears is Kuicho.

Kuicho says something I can't understand. I assume it's just Kuicho being Kuicho on something chemical. I assume wrong. Gilberto understands him.

He's going to be driving us to Guaymas,” says Gilberto. “He's got a pick-up truck we can fit two in the front seat, three in the back seat... and the equipment in the back.”

Kuicho's truck is parked in the driveway next to the club.

But there's six of us,” says Ray.

Somebody will ride in the back,” says Gilberto, “with the equipment.”

Somebody?” says Ray. “It's freezing out and you're gonna ask somebody to ride in the back of an open truck for fifteen hours?”

If I were making this up, it would be me who would volunteer, or be bullied into the back of the truck. But I'm not making this up and it's at this point that Taina and Moe appear. They are not alone.

This is Jaguar,” says Taina, introducing the guy with them. It's the asshole from the dancefloor. “He drove all the way from Los Angeles to see us. He's a big fan. He wants to follow us... like The Grateful Dead. He'll drive us to Guaymas... and he has enough weed to last all night. There's his car.”

She points to a 1970s white Chevrolet, parked behind Kuicho's truck.

You're gonna ride fifteen hours with somebody you just met?” asks Ray. “That guy's been drinking... everybody's been drinking. You're gonna ride with him?”

This time Ray is not alone in his complaints. “You're not going with that guy,” says Javier in Spanish. I can't tell if he's worried or jealous. “You're coming with me in the truck.”

No,” says Taina. “It'll make things much easier if we go with him. Moe, you're coming too, right.”

Moe nods... slowly.

I'll go with him,” I volunteer.

There's more discussion. Javier gets in the truck and tries to pull Taina into the back seat. She breaks his grip. Then they're gone. Moe and Taina... off to the white Chevy... inside the car with Jaguar... waiting for us to pull off the driveway so they can follow.

Pulling off is not so easy.

You're gonna let this guy drive?” Ray asks Gilberto. “We just pick him up. We don't know him. I saw him drinking inside and who knows what else. And he's gonna drive us for 15 hours?”

I know this guy,” says Gilberto. “He's my friend. I've known him for years.”

And I know him,” I say. “He slept on my couch.”

Give me the keys,” Ray says to Kuicho. “I'll drive.”

Kuicho shrugs, hands Ray the keys and sits in the passenger seat. That leave Gilberto, Javier, and I to the back seat. Javier is sprawled half-asleep over half the seat. Me, I have my hands down the front of my pants, scratching the horrible itch.

I'll sit in the back,” says Gilberto.

I push Javier aside to make room.

No,” he says, “I mean the back.”

I read on that the part of a pick-up truck where you put things you pick-up is called the bed. For Gilberto, it's going to really be the bed.

He climbs on the truck bed and lies down in the cold among the guitars and suitcases.

In the driver's seat, Ray fumbles a bit, finds the key, then starts the truck. “Which way,” he asks Kuicho.

Now the thing about Tijuana is there's really only one main road. We're on it. Outside Tijuana, there's one highway. After awhile it forks West along the border, and South... That's it. Except for the fork, there's only ONE ROAD from Tijuana to Guaymas. A housewife with a roadmap couldn't get lost. Just go one way to the fork, and head south.

Maybe, if we have time, we'll stop in Hermosillo. The guys from Sociedad Discriminada are from there. Gilberto tells us they have a whole house for us. Kuicho says the house has their practice space and enough beds/couches for a large orgy. We don't need an orgy. We need is sleep. An hour. Just closing my eyes. Ah would that be heaven.

Which way,” Ray asks again.

Kuicho vaguely points off into the distance.

Ray shakes his head, makes the sound commonly transcribed as tsk tsk, backs the truck up and onto the road. The white Chevy pulls up around us... and stops.

Those two girls are taking their lives in their hands,” says Ray. “And so are we. If I had a chance to charge my iPhone, we'd be able to...”

Kuicho grunts and points to the road.

Ray drives a bit. The white Chevy is nowhere to be seen. Kuicho fakes nodding out and falling asleep against the window. There is a traffic light ahead. Red. Ray stops the van as Kuicho's head plonks against the glass.

Where now? Where now?” Ray asks. “Do I go ahead or turn at one of these lights?”

Kuicho opens his eyes. “Get out,” he says very softly, but with a menacing touch.

Huh?” says Ray.

Get out,” says Kuicho, sliding into him and opening the driver's side door.

Now, we're all annoyed at Ray's complaining, but the guy has a good heart. I like him. He's got adventures to tell, and he is one of the best punkrock drummers on the planet. I don't want to just dump him in the second most dangerous town in Mexico.

But Kuicho has another idea. As he forces Ray out of the driver's seat, he opens the passenger door. Ray gets in and Kuicho takes off again. Right to a gas station. He rolls down a window and talks to the guy pumping gas.

¿Cómo llega a Guaymas desde aquí?” he asks.

What the fuck?” I think. There's only one highway.

See,” says Ray, “I told you. If we had my iPhone we cudda checked the GPS system. We're lost.”

Le estamos cagando el palo,” says Kuicho to the Spanish speakers. It means something like “I'm fuckin' with him.” He nods toward Ray.

We're on the highway. It's starting to get light. I can just make out the vague outline of the cacti along the road. The desert brightens as the sun slowly rises.

We drive from Tijuana East to Sonoyta. Then we head south. Jaguar's white Chevy weaves across the road behind us. Slower and slower, getting further and further behind. I can see them in the sideview mirror as I lean my head against the window coming in and out of consciousness.

Kuicho slows down a bit to let them catch up. I lose sight of them in the mirror.

Suddenly, Kuicho pulls over to the side of the road. “I think there's a problem,” he says.

We sit and wait a minute. Two. Ten.

The white Chevy pulls behind us. We hear female voices. The girls run out of the car. Ray moves over in back. Moe gets in with him. Taina gets in the back seat of the truck with Ray, Javier and me.

We nearly died,” breathes Moe.

See, I told you,” said Ray.

Shut up,” says Kuicho... in Spanish.

The white Chevy sort of follows us down the dark highways toward Guaymas. The highway is a toll road and there's a toll. The first one I've seen in the country. We stop and Kuicho pays it.

BLAM! The truck shakes. Someone has hit us from behind. Hard. We turn to look. It's the white Chevy. No one moves.

See, I told you,” says Ray.

We see the Chevy pull onto the shoulder. The front smashed, apparently disabled. Well, I guess this Jaguar will be hunting prey some other night.

A dozen or so miles ahead is a police checkpoint. They're all over both sides of the border. Cops stop cars to check IDs, drugs, guns. They don't worry about illegals on the Mexican side, but I still have my passport ready.

Ahead of us, already stopped at the checkpoint, is the white Chevy. How did he pass us? He was sitting in a disabled car on the side of the road. We left him in the desert dust. Now, he's at the checkpoint. The cops seems to be going through everything. This guy's got a ton of marijuana on him and the cops are going to find it. It'll probably cost him at least a twenty to buy his way out of this one.

The inspectors wave us through. They got enough to do with Jaguar.
We pass the white car and continue the ride.

Jeezus,” says Ray. “It's lucky they stopped that guy. He nearly killed us at the toll booth, and now...”

Stop! Stop the car!” shouts Taina. “I can't take it. I gotta sleep.”

Kuicho pulls over to the shoulder and the doors open. I step out to agony on my blistered feet. The cold sets off a coughing fit. For some reason the coughing sets off my horrible genital itch. I'm a mess. Taina and Javier also get out of the truck. They pass me and climb into the back of the truck with Gilberto. Into the bed.

I get back into the back seat of the truck. “What's with them?” Ray asks me. I shrug and cough some more.

I must've dozed off for a few minutes, an hour. A few hours. The sun is high above the horizon, giving the desert landscape a shimmering surreal quality. My stomach growls.

Tengo hombre,” I say, complaining about my hunger.

¿Dónde está?” asks Kuicho. “No chinga en el camión, me distrae.”

It takes me a few seconds to understand. As I often do, I said tengo hombre (I have a man.) instead of tengo hambre (I'm hungry.) Kuicho asked me not to fuck in the van because it's distracting.

We're nearing Puerto Penasco, pulling into a roadside stand... a combination of an Alabama barbecue pit and Lord of The Flies.

The sign. Biembenido's El Bagre with a picture of a catfish on it. I'm pretty sure El Bagre means catfish. In Spanish, bienvenidos means welcome. But whatever that sign says is as wrong as my tengo hombre!

Yeah! My kind of place! Local illiterates in the middle of nowhere. I bet the food's great... just like those similarly illiterate places in the deep American South I visited with Sid Yiddish last year.

I bet right. The food is nice and spicy, the ambiance terrific, the owner/bartender/master of ceremonies is exactly like you'd expect him to be.

He's under a sign “no se fia a nadien,” which I think means “I don't trust anybody.” (Except it's spelled wrong.)

OK, you say, I see why it's like an Alabama barbecue pit, but what's Lord of the Flies got to do with it? Were there flies there in the middle of the desert?

If I can figure out how to embed a video, you'll see it here. Just click on the picture for the video. If it doesn't work, click here for a look.

From Mexico/AZ Tour With Cojoba

I'm not a squeamish guy. I've eaten barbecued larva, whale blubber, poisonous blowfish. Flies do not make me nervous. But for some reason, despite the delicious squid... my cough starts up again. A spewing, hacking, gagful cough. 

Halls and band-aids!” I breathe. “Can you get Halls and band-aids in Mexico?”

Hey gringo,” says Gilberto over his morning Tacate. “You think you're in Africa someplace? We'll get you some Halls and band-aids. Sin problema.”

Next farmacia, they fix me right up. Halls, of course is Halls. Band-aid, I learn is curita. And the Mexican ones have built-in antiseptic. The little pad that covers the wound is covered in some red medicine. I peel the socks off my bloody feet, cough at the sight of my mangled heel, ankle, toes. I use the whole box of band-aids covering the mess... and with the built-in red, it looks like I stepped on a landmine.

Jezus Mykel,” says Ray, looking at my bandaged foot. “You should see a doctor.”

Naw,” I tell him, coughing, then grimacing through the pain. “It's punk rock.”

Back in the truck, Kuicho takes shotgun. Taina and Javier get in the open back. Ray and I get in the back seat. Gilberto drives.

We arrive in Hermosillo. My friends from Kuicho's band, Sociedad Discriminada are there. They've prepared a whole house for us to stay, both for this nap, and for the night after tomorrow when we play with the famous LA MERMA in town.

(La Merma is probably Sonora's most famous band... and the subject of a recent documentary film. I appear in it for almost 45 seconds!)

The house in Hermosillo is like a normal suburban home anywhere in the world. Bedroom, livingroom with TV, kitchen, refrigerator stocked with beer, and crickets. TONS of dead crickets. All over the bathroom floor, on the beds, on the bedroom floor, on the couch, everywhere.

I'm not sure they really are crickets. They look more like cicadas, but who knows? They call 'em crickets. The sight of the so many dead insects has a different effect on each of us.

I'm amazed. Kneeling down to look at the little creatures, I wonder not so much why they're here, but why they're all dead. What happened? Was it like Pompeii in miniature?

Ray complains, “Jeezus! Are we gonna take a nap in the middle of a bunch of dead bugs? Fuck. I'm glad I've got a sleeping bag, but this is not what I call deluxe accommodations.”

Javier looks up at the ceiling... either to see if there are insects there or in reaction to Ray. It's hard to tell.

Taina says, “Punk rock.”

Moe says, “I don't give a shit about insects. I'm so tired I'm seeing double. I gotta get some sleep.” She runs into the bedroom, flops down on the bed and that's the last we hear from her until it's time to leave.

Gilberto says, “I've got to take a shower!” And runs into the bathroom to take his clothes off and step nakedly on the bugs.

Only Moe and Ray actually sleep among the crickets. The rest of us have a beer, or two... or...

In an hour and a half we're back in the truck. Gilberto, hair dripping wet, drives. The rest of us take the same spots we had earlier.

We arrive in Guaymas about two hours after the show's scheduled to begin. That means we've got plenty of time. I don't see the rest of Sin Arte, and we're going to have our debut! But it's still early.

R U on Ur Way? I text to Berenice aka Güera, in Tucson.

Inside, the club is divided in half. One side is the performance area (no drinking here). The other side is the bar. It's filled with punk rockers-- drinking.

Among the drinkers is this fat guy, looking like a peaceful Buddha among the drunk punks. He will turn out to be a key player in the Guaymas part of our adventure. I don't know his real name, but everybody calls him Sabo. Like in Sabotage.

Ola Mykel,” he says to me.

When I shake his hand, a weird vibration travels through my body. It's as if I'm shaken by an electric force coming from this guy. It's not an electric force. It's my cellphone vibrating. I have a text message.

Sorry Mykel, we can't make it 2 Guaymas. Ivan kicked out of Nogales apt. Moving all day. C U N 2 days N Hermosillo. Bessos Berenice

That's depressing. We'll only have one show in Mexico instead of a tour. Damn! But that's punk rock!

I see someone else I know. The guy from the La Merma video. Yeah, the singer, Claudio. Wow! Even if I can't play, I can meet a legend! And I'll see HIM play the day after tomorrow, in Hermosillo. La Merma is on the bill with Sin Arte. We'll be playing together!

Yeah! It's great to meet you,” I tell him. Then feel embarrassed. He must get that all the time.

After a couple beers, I need to check out the men's room. Wow! Unlike the horror of Tijuana, this one has a real door and even a stall where I can be private enough to produce. In the show room, by the stage, there is a puddle near the wall, and a long drip that reminds me of Tijuana, and Taina's defense of me.

Taina!” I call, “take a picture of this. No one who knows me will believe it... right there in public.”

Soon after, the room fills up and the show begins.

More later.

[This is part 5 of Mykel's Mexican adventure. To read the rest, click on the right spot:

The story of the Yellow Chili Pepper is here.

1 comment:

JIM HAYES said...

didn';t know solucion mortal was alive...i wanna follow you like the grateful dead....great stuff as always mykel