6/25 Gorham Grind, Main St. Gorham 10am-1pm
6/27 Champion’s Sports Bar, Travis James Humphrey hosts, 9pm, Biddeford
6/29 Portland Farmer’s Market, Monument Square, sometime between 9am and 2pm
7/7 Dogfish Cafe, Free St. Portland, 8 to 11pm
7/13 Longfellow Arts Center, Maine Songwriters Association showcase, 7pm
7/15 Gritty’s Freeport, 8pm
7/16 Yarmouth Clam Festival, 4:30
One of the things I love the most about Mexico is that there is music in the streets all the time. From people practicing their favorite American rock tunes in their living rooms with the windows open, to mariachis, strolling trova singers, to jazz, to banda bands, to those god awful party bands with all the horns that don’t actually know any of the songs they are playing, or for that matter how to play their instruments.
Some of the best and worst experiences I’ve had coming back to Maine have been as a street musician. For the first time ever, I have enough gigs (plus playing on the street most days since I have no prospect of work in Maine at the moment) that I am feeling a little burn out. I don’t want to sing any of the songs I know, but then I do one particularly well and the feeling subsides. I had the chance to participate in the 4th annual Music in the Square in Eliot Square Cambridge last weekend. For me, the event was ruined by weather, another event happening that drowned out our busking style festival, and a general feeling of malaise and the creating music is hardly ever worth it.
One event that has been worth it is playing in the Portland Farmer’s Market in monument square. This week I snuck in after a trio of tuba, banjo, and clarinet. They are a professional group that has held the same spot on Wednesdays for years. Everyone respects their time and their location, and they have created an institution of free, impromptu music. The banjo player stuck around as I started to play for a bit. He listened thoughtfully, picked up one of my cards, and said, “That, young lady, is some quality work. Not that it’s mine to give, but you have my official permission to use this spot.”
Working through gigs that have no monitors so the hired-hand bass player who was counting on hearing the changes is desperately trying to watch my left hand, trying to wrack my brain for one more fast song to sing over the din of young drunk folks who only want to hear Old Crow Medicine Show covers and don’t know who Neil Young is, and generally feeling like the drunk version of Bad Blake, that one comment from a respected musician can be enough to hold onto for a little while.
Now back to busking. I was busking down by the Casco Bay Lines last week, and a man who clearly didn’t listen to anything I sang, distantly reached into his pocket to throw some change in the tip jar without slowing down or looking in my general direction. One thing that most real street musicians are not, are beggars. Although the money is a necessary and motivational part to continue making music, people stopping to enjoy, a smile, and a compliment are equally appreciated. I think that people are afraid if they stop, they are going to be obligated to donate money, at least for me, that is definitely not the case. Although it is highly appreciated, the point is to create an atmosphere. To expose people to new music, and hopefully find a few people that connect to my version of the art.
When I asked my students and a couple of friends what there is to do in Zapopan, the response was – nothing. There is a big church and that’s it. I was skeptical of this answer given that Zapopan is huge, bordering the entire eastern side of Guadalajara. I figured my expert bus-hopping, adventure-seeking skills would find something. But my students were right, at least as far as taking the TUR bus to downtown Zapopan – there is a big church, and nothing else. Now, I’m sure if I went with a friend who lives in the area, there must be much to do, but on Thursday, it was good that I had some exceptional company, or I would have been sorely disappointed. We took a long walk around, and found what is usually found in the wealthy parts of cities – no life. Life where the rich people live everywhere in the world is often done behind closed doors and locked gates, it’s not for the rambling likes of a ruby and her companion.
From the comparative lifelessness of Zapopan, we headed back into the centro for a walk around the streets closed off to traffic for Thursday of the Saints: churches overflowing, street venders hawking plastic toys and tacos, and a general crush of souls.
I had been contemplating last week how if I come back to this area that I might want to live in the city, but our after hours jaunt after finding Cafe Breton closed may have proved me wrong. The modern, bustling, beautiful city by dusk rolls over as the sun goes down to show a seedy underbelly of filth, poverty, and desperation.
The next morning my new travel partner and I headed to the small town of Tequila. Any agave based drink not made in this town and couple of other licensed places is not actually tequila. It is the home of Jose Cuervo, Suaza, and several other factories – and to be honest – not much else.
It’s the type of place not really worth visiting in and of itself. It’s more for groups of Tequila aficionados and travelers who feel like getting wasted for the day. It’s one of the few places in Mexico where public drinking is allowed, and we started the day with an interesting drink called Pachecadas which is a mix of Tejuino and cerveza. It sounded horrible, but was extremely refreshing – and a tad bit expensive. We were neither interested in spending the day wasted, nor all that interested in the actual factories, but a walk around town proved pretty fruitless. The only things for sale are tequila, and tequila related products. It was hot dry, and the ice in our Pachecada turned out not to be very clean, which, I’m sure, you can imagine the consequences. A mid-day nap under a tree was in order.
After a good nap, we decided to try to find the logical thing in a town called Tequila – a good margarita. This proved harder than it should have. A place on the square had what seemed like really inexpensive margaritas until we realized they didn’t appear to have any tequila in them, which actually made them exceptionally expensive refrescos. Finally, after a bit more of a walk around town, we found a great place near the bus station called La Casa de Don Kiko, which serves a (cheap) lovely drink made out of sparkling water, lemon, and a few other things that hit the spot so well it lead to the kind of conversation only tequila can. While I was trying to memorize the many, many ways to say F*^& in Spanish and how to use them, we realized we were about to miss the last bus and made a mad dash, swearing in the language of tequila the whole way.
Although the travels of the last few days were somewhat disappointing in locale, they proved what the real magic of Mexico is, and that’s the kinds of connections and relationships people are open to here. I’m lucky to have landed in Tlaquepaque, and it’s still proving to be my favorite place in Mexico. Pueblitos Chavos and all.
I am in a new country, a new city, and a new language yet again. This is one I think I can wrap my brain around though. After years of Asian adventures, please join me on the next adventure teaching English in Central Mexico.
As you can see, I did arrive safe and sound in Tlaquepaque just in time for an evening stroll, some street gorditas, and a margarita.
By the time I finish editing the photos, I don’t have much left to say. The town is very nice, the rommates alright, the room definitely has something to desire, but over all the house is fine. Have a meeting at school tomorrow. For now, just take a stroll with me.