Tijuana

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Moss Under My Feet

Playas del Tijuana – April 29, 2017

Maybe a true traveler doesn’t really know why traveling is so essential, it’s so much a part of one’s soul. I sure don’t. Maybe it’s an addiction, or a neurosis. There are the usual “excuses”: to broaden your horizons, see incredible sights, blah blah. That’s all true. A great friend of mine, Josh Rosen, and I were talking once and the subject of my getting up and hitting the road soon came up. He said, “Yeah, it’s about that time, eh Jess?” We laughed and I was soon gone.  

It’s like asking why I breathe, though I did feel that getting down to sea level from 6500 feet up might help the breathing difficulty I was experiencing in the mountains. After three years in San Miguel de Allende, I found myself thinking of all this as it faded away in my rear-view mirror. A town is really just a collection of boxes. It’s the people inside that count. San Miguel de Allende has some particularly beautiful boxes. But it’s the people I love and miss already. This is the digital age, though. Pretty easy to stay in touch with the ones I’ve come to love. It’s not the same, but it’ll have to to.  

As I dig my toes in the sand here on the beach just outside the infamous Tijuana, Playas del Tijuana, I’m thinking about how Tijuana itself got it’s reputation. I read that during prohibition it was easily excessible to Southern California. The booze flowed and so did the women, gathering in what is now the red-light district known as the Avenido Revolucion. It’s only a small area and doesn’t deserve all the attention, as there is a city with over a million people thriving outside of it, experiencing a renaissance of sorts, though there’s been a major crime spike of late. Tomorrow I move to a new place, my secluded beach home near Ensenada.  

I’ve have lived close to the beach before in Bali, LA, even Coney Island! I left San Miguel with my heart thumping, most of my belongings in the trunk and backseat of the car being driven down by a separate service. Going the minimalist route this time. I realized while liquidating before this move that I had gathered a lot of “stuff” (see George Carlin) After watching a documentary on minimalism, It would be my mission to lighten my load. Now before adding anything, I ask myself “Do I need this or do I simply I WANT this? Will it enrich my life or simply weigh me down?” I had acquired so much this time around that I looked at all my stuff and wondered, “Where did all this shit come from?” 

As usual my trusty sidekick, Princess Tofu, has endured. There was some squawking and meowing on my way to the airport. Then, the drugs kicked in and all that quieted down. I tucked her under the seat next to mine and the plane took off.  She’ll be cross eyed for about a day, then back to her loving, sober, purring lap-cat self again. When we drive down, she’ll ride shotgun from the back seat, stealthily watching for bad hombres and hoping we might someday stop for some tasty road kill. 

Tomorrow I move to a new place, my beach home outside or Ensenada. I’ve have lived close to the beach before in Bali, LA, even Coney Island! I left San Miguel yesterday morning heavy heart thumping, most of my belongings in the trunk and backseat of the car being driven down by a separate service. Going the minimalist route this time. I realized while liquidating before this move that I had gathered a lot of “stuff” (see, “George Carlin”) 

For now, I’m going to watch the sunset, head over to the doggie park across the street to get my daily Doggie Fix, then walk down the beach to a pizza shop where the guy made his own adobe oven. Best pizza I’ve had outside of New York City.  

I’ll have my car delivered in the morning, pack it up and head on down the coast to my new home near Ensenada. Let’s see how long I last there. Can’t let too much moss grow under my feet now, can I? 

#107 – La Habana

The following is the final chapter of my memoire, “The Kid Who Got Away.” Some readers may recognize some it from my Facebook posts while I was in Cuba.

Part One

She is the soil of my ancestors, the home I’ve never slept in, the mother that never birthed me yet who’s spirit courses through my veins. She is an enigma wrapped inside a mambo, a sidewalk dominoes game, a sensuous peek at a nylon-clad thigh, a toothless grin holding a huge cigar, a unique patois of Spanish that I’ve heard since my birth. She is someone I have never met and have always known. Just like New Orleans, she struts her stuff as she dances by, always with a wink and a sly smile hinting at the possibilities.

The spiritual rumblings began about two weeks before departing my home in San Miguel de Allende. I would awaken as always to the purrs of my two feline alarm clocks, Tofu and Boudin. As I lie there staring at the ceiling listening to the sounds of Colonia Guadalupe awakening, I wandered down the streets of Old Havana, the sights and sounds filling my mind’s eye. Something would stir inside me. The tears would flow down my cheeks as I imagined walking those Habana Vieja streets. I would force myself to heed the advice my friend Ruben gave me, “Calmate Jesse!” (Calm down Jesse!) That was not easy once I actually landed there.

I was overwhelmed by emotion and could barely speak as I disembarked the Interjet flight, the humid air filling my lungs. The sour-faced woman at Customs asked me if I had traveled to Africa. I heard her as if through a fog and couldn’t answer. She said it again and when I told her I hadn’t and said, “Next.”

Visas to Cuba are easy to get from Mexico. The Cubans don’t stamp your passport. They give it to you on a separate piece of paper and stamp that as you enter. That way the jankee government won’t hassle you when you re-enter the U.S. They stamped my visa and I entered Cuba.

I leaned on a wall to steady myself. Several older women were sitting nearby at a table that looked only semi-official. They wore no uniforms. Each reminded me in some way of my sweet little grandmother, Evelina. They could sense my distress and asked if I were ok. I told them I am a Cubano but have never been here. They lit up and welcomed me home. They appeared to be genuinely happy. I cannot express the feeling of joy I felt being welcomed by these three sweet old ladies.

The adventure began as soon as I exited customs.

I was supposed to be greeted by a taxi driver holding a sign emblazoned with my name. Upon greeting me, he would whisk me off to the my new apartment in Old Havana. Never happened.

After two hours, I gave up and asked a woman at the hotel desk if she knew of a room I might rent for the night. It was getting late and I was wondering if I might spend my evening sleeping under an overpass somewhere. She helped me out and I wound up at a reasonably priced apartment building. It was there that I first learned that the hustle is full on in Havana. I was hustled for Cuban cigars, women, etc. I told them thanks but I would find my own women and cigars.

I had to get out of there before anyone else knocked at my door. I showered, dressed and hit the streets. There I met Jorge.

Jorge was straight out of Buena Vista Social Club. He had that old, old Cuban accent that made him sound as if he had a ping-pong ball in his mouth. A character straight out of Hemingway, he had me laughing the entire time

After a somewhat hair-raising ride in Jorge’s ancient taxi, we sped across the bay through a tunnel, winding up at El Cañonazo, an old Spanish fort overlooking the bay. His exhaust system, like most in Havana, emptied out into the cab of the car. I ate at a restaurant with the same name, El Cañonazo. Great food and a GREAT band, also named Cañonazo. The female singer brought me to tears.

My waitress spoke fluent English. We had a long conversation about what it’s like to live in Cuba. She told me, “You have to learn how to live without.” She said that the thing to do is buy a house. In order to do that, you must marry a Cubana so that it can be bought in her name. The hard part is finding someone you can trust. Hmmm…

I asked her why all the Cubanos I’d met thus far, including herself, seemed so happy. She said that Cubans must be happy, with all the difficulties they’ve had to bear in their long history. “Under these conditions, one must be very sad or happy. We choose to make music, dance, sing and laugh.”

Hemingwat at the Floridita

Coochie Coochie

Cool, Clean Cuban Trumpeter

CUBA8

Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.”

Boudin for blog 107

Meow

 

 

 

SMA Buscing

It’s May and that spells summertime in San Miguel de Allende. It’s hot, 34C (93F) during the day. The climate is very dry so it’s important to hydrate. I drink 6 to 8 16-oz. glasses of water, one bottle of electrolytes, two smoothies, and a vegetable juice every day. I pee a lot.

SMA Blog #106SMA Blog 106 (3)

I first fell in love with the rain during a monsoon season in the jungles of Malaysia. The thunder shook my molars. The rain pouring down on the thatched roof sounded like ping pong ball sized hale hitting the hood of an old Chevy pickup. It lasted for days on end. All you could do was sit there and listen.

In a week or two it will start raining here. Two violent thunderstorms already came through last night and early this morning. Soon, temperatures will drop and everything will smell clean and sweet, as the hills and parks turn greener. The sound of rain hitting cobblestones is very soothing.

The last six years or so have been very challenging for me physically. Three surgeries and a six-month long treatment for HepC have been daunting obstacles. The HepC treatment has been the worst. Ahead of me are six more weeks of extreme fatigue, insomnia, depression, high blood pressure, blah blah blah. I’m just not my old hi-energy, git er done self right now. If you add to that the fact that my lower back is in serious spasm and I am now flat on said back, I am being forced by circumstances into healing mode. It really is no big deal. It’s just something I have to go through to get to where I need to be. My mom is 102. If she can do it, I can do it.

I am determined to finish my book…NOW. It’s too painful to sit at a desk, so I am forced to spend a lot of time on my back, legs propped up with pillows, my back on ice, dictating into my iPad. I then edit it all by hand (thumbs, actually) then keep on pushin’.

It’s ironic that I’ve had such a deep love affair with Frieda Kahlo for some time and am now writing the way she painted.

This is all made easier by the fact that I am in glorious San Miguel de Allende, a town built on crystals, healing hot spring waters and an “easy-does-it” culture.

_______________________________

The following is an excerpt from my memoire, “The Kid Who Got Away.”

I am a very spiritual person. No, I don’t throw the I Ching before I make important decisions or check the Tarot cards before making dinner choices. I simply see everything in spiritual terms.

I am not a fan of organized religion. I respect an individual’s right to and need for it. There’s a certain sense of community it can offer, a feeling that one belongs to something greater than one’s self, in addition to a feeling of security in an uncertain world. There is wisdom and enlightenment at the core of every religion. Organized religion is just not my cup of green tea,

I have always been rebellious, demonstrating from an early age a disdain for authority. Maybe it’s like Prince once said, “A strong spirit transcends rules.” Perhaps it’s a character flaw. Maybe I’m just a jerk. Rules have always seemed like cages to me, traps set by those who would control me.

Religion and rebelliousness are like oil and water. They don’t reside well in the same environment. This has caused me problems throughout my life, sometimes truly embarrassing ones. Here’s an example:

My mother’s side of the family, at this writing the ONLY side of the family that I have any contact with, is very religious.

Family (1)

We gathered in Tampa for my mother’s 100th birthday. I decided to bring my guitar and sing my mother a couple of songs. I chose to sing her one of mine, “More Than Life Itself.” After the applause died down, I offered a heartfelt tribute to her, thanking her for all she had done. Throughout my expressions of gratitude, I could see and hear her complaining loudly about what a difficult kid I’d been and how much trouble I had caused her.

That pushed my buttons, as she’s done for so long. I said, “I play in a lot of bars, clubs and honky tonks. When asked to sing happy birthday…” I lifted my guitar and broke into a rousing rendition of Jimmy Buffet’s “Let’s Get Drunk and Screw.” This was not received well. Afteer a mixture of light applause and stunned silence, I passed by my son-in-law Rondells’s table as I returned to mine. He said, “Nice choice, dude.”

Yep, oil and water.

Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.

Meow

Meow

Blog #105 – A Ghost Story

The following is an excerpt from my memoire, “The Kid Who Got Away.”

A few months ago, I began a story that I never finished. If you haven’t read it or need a refresher, I’ve re-printed it here in it’s entirety, including it’s “ending.”

Gipsy and I returned to a Katrina-ravaged New Orleans and our old carriage house in the French Quarter. We had only just begun to unpack our boxes. We had only moved in several days before evacuating. Her apartment had been completely destroyed, mine had been under eight feet of water for three weeks. Once again, my Angels were working overtime. All of my belongings were safe and dry in our new digs.

Just around the corner from trendy Royal Street, our house at 624 Dumaine Street was built in the early 1700s. A two story 1600 sq. ft. carriage house with skylights and a newly installed modern kitchen, it had huge french doors that led out into a beautiful courtyard filled with tropical plants. It was magnificent. The only sounds you could hear inside were the “clop-clop” of the mule driven tourist carriages and the bells of majestic St. Louis Cathedral. We shared a wall with Madame John’s Legacy, the mansion/museum where the now-famous fire scene in “Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles” was filmed.

The first thing that made me feel somewhat uncomfortable were the looks. The other occupants of our little compound would greet me each day as if expecting a different response to their “Hi Jesse” than the one they’d been getting. Eventually, I asked, “Why are you looking at me in that way?” The response was not what I expected.

One day, my neighbor Jimmy Nolan asked, “Have you noticed anything strange going on in your place?” I said, “No.” even though I had. “Well, somebody hanged himself in your bedroom and most couples who’ve lived there have gone through a terrible breakup.” Hmmm, I thought, maybe that explains the eerie vibe we’d both felt since returning, the sounds of someone walking just above us late at night, and the cats.

Magic and the Walrus were sitting peacefully on the couch when their heads snapped to attention. The door to the atrium (my office) to their immediate left opened up. In tandem, they watched something we couldn’t see move slowly from their left to their right. Their heads stopped as they gazed in the direction of the bathroom door to their immediate right. It opened slowly then slammed shut.

On another occasion, Gipsy was bent over washing her face in the bathroom between our bedroom and the guest room. Straightening up she noticed me standing in our bedroom staring at her. She said something to me and bent back down over the sink. She suddenly stood up straight and looked back at me. I was gone. She then realized that at that very moment, I was in the middle of my second set at Margaritaville, just as I had been everyday since returning.

I was lying in bed one afternoon and actually saw him/her/it, whatever. Without warning, I suddenly felt as if I were being choked. I could feel the life being squeezed out of me. My anger rose and I fought back. It was only then that I saw a leathery grey mask of a face hovering over mine. I roared and it faded, along with the choking sensation. It became obvious that we need help.

It came in the form of Mr. Glover.

Early one evening, we heard a light tapping at the door. I opened it and a diminutive creole man tipped his black bowler hat and introduced himself as Mr. Glover. He informed me that my friend Brandi,

Brandi

the lovely Voodoo Priestess up the street at Voodoo Authentica had informed him of our heint (ghost) problem. Mr. Glover was the go-to guy when it came to expelling troublesome spirits. I had been told that all sorts of people throughout New Orleans, doctors, lawyers, politicians and everyday folks all sought him for help with pesky spirits. The French Quarter is loaded with them.

We explained our problem in great detail. He told us that there were lots of heints on our particular street. He said, “Lots of ‘em are just hangin’ around, causing trouble.” He assured us he could help. We were so desperate that we were willing to try anything. After all, we were in New Orleans’ French Quarter and, when in Rome…

He reached into his satchel and pulled out a huge bundle of sage, a bottle of camphor and what looked to be a very old bible. He lit the sage and asked us to stand together. He then passed the smoking incense around us in a circular motion, up and down, front and back. We were completely engulfed in a cloud. All the while, he recited the 23rd Psalm. “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.” etc. He then led us to each corner of every room and closet, carefully placing some camphor in each corner, repeating the biblical recitation and the circling smoke.

When Mr. Glover was satisfied that he had covered every corner and had exorcised the heints, we gave him a small, voluntary donation and he was on his way, with a smile and a doff of his bowler. The peace we felt in our big house in the French Quarter was palpable. We felt free of the negative vibes that had permeated every square inch of the house. That night, Gipsy and I were passionate lovers again. Our house felt tranquil. No apparitions or strange noises disturbed our sleep at 624 Dumaine Street. At least not for a while.

We didn’t know that the bad ones could hide.


nolatravelinman

Something terrible has happened in New Orleans. The city is in mourning. There’s a little less light in every sunrise in the Crescent City. Allan Toussaint is gone.

New Orleans is like a patchwork quilt. Each patch in the quilt is different, some intricate, some simple, each unique in what it adds. There’s a common thread running through it all: the music. When an integral patch of that quilt gets ripped away, the entire fabric shudders. The quilt is just not the same.

Allen Toussaint was a presence. If you saw him walking down the street, or driving by in his trade mark Rolls (usually on his way to the studio) you felt as if he were a PART of the street, those buildings, the cathedral, the city. He still is. I will always remember him as a humble, soft-spoken, classy dude. RIP, Mr. Toussaint. You will be missed in ways you could never have imagined. Your impressive legacy lives on in the music.

Mr.AT

Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.

DSCN0156

Meow zzzzzzzzz

Blog #104

The following is an excerpt from my memoire, “The Kid Who Got Away.”

This account grew out of a discussion a former bandmate (we’ll call him “Brian”) and I had last year at my home in San Miguel de Allende.

In the early ’70s, we visited opium dens throughout the far east on a pretty regular basis. Drugs had become an integral part of our nomadic lifestyle. Opium dens were so much cooler then hanging out somewhere smoking joints with groupies and listening to Hendrix blow out your ear drums. They were just like Hollywood depicted them: shelf-like levels with people reclining on their side, small wooden pillows propping up their heads, while their pipes were refilled and lit. All you had to do was lay back and enjoy the ride while sweet opium dreams tip toed across your mind. For Brian, it became a problem. He was hooked.

He had connected with a wealthy young Chinese woman during our six-month residency at Singapore’s Ming Court Hotel After our six-month stay at Singapore’s Ming Court Hotel. That finished, we headed for Bangkok. All of us, that is, except Brian. He and his girlfriend took off for London. His goal was to book some gigs for the band in Europe. He was gone a long time and found upon his return that there was no room for him in the band in Bangkok. Brian hit the drugs with a renewed zeal. He was going down fast and we could all see it. He dropped by the club one night while completely out of it and asked to sit in with the band. He was such a mess that my partner Slim took him outside of the club and asked him, “Do you want to shake this stuff.” When Brian said yes, Slim hit him square on the jaw, knocking him out cold. He picked him up, carried him to his house and locked him in a room. It was cold-turkey time.

It worked for a while but, depressed by the band’s rejection, he returned to Singapore. Opium dens were illegal under it’s repressive regime. Lee Kuan Yew brought the hammer down heavily on anything that smacked of a counter culture. There were signs in every government office stating, “Long haired persons will be served last.” There were regular visits by a government official with a decibel meter checking the noise level at each club.  In order to obtain a working visa we’d had to supply a photo of the band looking like the good, wholesome boys we were not instead of the hippie travelers we actually were. So we pulled our hair back and presented this:.

BFP 004

Officials turned something of a blind eye toward the few opium dens that still remained. They pretty much existed as a homage to the Chinese culture of the past. It was an unwritten rule that the dens were only tolerated if the visitors were Chinese.  For a skinny white hippie to be seen making regular visits to these places was very uncool. On his way out of a den one night, sure enough, he got busted. The Feds  arrested him and he was sentenced to prison where a “Midnight Express” nightmare awaited him.

There he was issued the usual prison uniform. It was basically just a big adult diaper. He was then escorted to his cell, a cramped, claustrophobic room with about one hundred other inmates, all Chinese. He was not a welcome visitor. The cell was lit by a single hole in the ceiling which provided sunlight during the day. There was a single hole in the floor for everyone’s bodily evacuations. There was no bedding. Soon, the beatings began.

He’d had a fair sized roll of money when he entered prison. It was confiscated and “held” for him until his release. They watched him closely. As soon as Skywalker came off his in-prison cold turkey experience, they dragged him out of his cell and offered him some heroine. He said that he was now clean and wanted nothing to do with that shit. The guards held him down and beat him mercilessly until he acquiesced. They brought him some of his own money, beat him until he asked for some smack and “sold” him some with his own money. They then held him down and shot him full of drugs. He was back in the race.

They then returned him to his cell. They would peer into his cell and laugh as the inevitable withdrawal began. Eventually, he would beg for more and they would “sell” him heroine paid for by his own confiscated money. If he protested, he was beaten. This repeated cycle of withdrawal, begging and beatings went on and on and on, seemingly forever

All this time, his girlfriend was trying to locate him to no avail. Eventually, she bribed the right official and the right judge and secured his released. His 3-1/2 years decent into hell had ended. The night he stepped out of the federal prison, he saw his girlfriend there waiting, raised his arms and cried out, “Free at last!” It was then the local police grabbed him, handcuffed him and locked him up in a local jail where his nightmare continued. They saw him as a cash cow and wanted their piece of the pie. Six months later, he was released after another fresh round of bribes, this time to local police and judges.If it weren’t for the persistence and deep pockets of his girlfriend, he would have probably died in that prison.

Thank God for wealthy young Chinese girlfriends.

 Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.

Blog #103

The following is an excerpt from my memoire, “The Kid Who Got Away.”

(This concludes the story I began in Blog #102)

I was very successful in Bangkok. My band was playing regularly in our club, “The Electric Shadow.” We were often pictured on magazine covers. Our posters were everywhere. We were living the life.

BFP1BFP2

I was happy, but things were getting hairy in Southeast Asia. I knew it was time to leave. Of course, that would require bribes. Probably, LOTS of bribes. My wife Savitri had been arrested years earlier for gambling. I paid to have her record expunged. We had never been legally married. Now that she had a clean record, I bribed a Thai official at the American Embassy for a marriage certificate and visas for her and our children. Her daughter Anjali was not legally my daughter. I had made the decision to bring her to the States, despite her grandmother’s protestations and her mother’s ambivalence. Another bribe secured a birth certificate stating I was Anjali’s legal and biological father. I was NOT going to leave her behind.

All that was left was my securing an exit visa. That meant finding Anand. That would prove to be easier said than done. That meant either hiring a private army or somehow finding Anand alone, without his goon posse.

I sent my family off to wait with my mom in New York and began inquiring discreetly about his habits and whereabouts. After a hefty bribe, one of his guys told me that he went to the racetrack every Tuesday, always unaccompanied. He went there alone because he would head straight from the racetrack to the house of his “Little Wife” (his “chick on the side”), a woman named Noy over on Sukhumvit Road. There the Fat Man would indulge in a little afternoon delight.

I went to the racetrack and there he was in the grandstand. He was very focused on a race and didn’t notice me in the crowd. On his way out he took a shortcut under the grandstand and headed for his car. I saw my opportunity. I slammed his fat ass up against a concrete wall, my face inches from his. He reeked of fear sweat and Old Spice. I felt like puking but I was angry, VERY angry. He was the only thing standing between me and my family. I informed him of my predicament and made him an offer he could not refuse. He whimpered and simpered and acquiesced. I was to buy a one-way ticket on that night’s midnight flight out of Bangkok on the Russian airline, Aeroflot. I was to bring a carton of filtered Marlboros and a bottle of Johnny Walker Red as a bribe and an indication that I was his guy.

I had just a few short hours to get my affairs in order and head out to the airport. As I stepped out of the taxi at the airport, the thick Bangkok night air hit me like a steaming hot wet towel across my face. I was scared, VERY scared. I was all too aware of Anand’s potential for treachery. I knew I could be walking into a trap. There was no way out but the course Anand had set for me.

As I walked through the nearly empty airport, it seemed like every eye along the way was casting a suspicious glance in my direction. The atmosphere was tense and heavy. I felt like everything was moving in slow motion. I suspected to be whisked away to a Thai prison at any moment.

I was led to a sparsely furnished room. There was a picture of Bhumibol Adulyadej, the beloved King of Thailand. In a corner stood a Buddhist alter with joss sticks pouring their perfume into the air. Five men were staring at me as I stood alone with a small suitcase on the floor and the requisite bribes in either hand.

I was asked for my passport. I hesitated. I knew that once I handed that over, I was at their mercy. I asked in Thai who the boss was. One smiled and stood up. He took the bottle and cigarettes and said, “You are with Anand?” I nodded and the tense air grew just a bit lighter. I gave him my passport. It was stamped and I was escorted to the waiting aircraft. I was the last passenger.

I didn’t relax until the plane lifted up toward a brilliant full moon. Bangkok and all it’s memories fell far below me. I had gotten away once again.


nolatravelinman

It’s 4:00 A.M. I can’t sleep. I could feel it coming on, alone in bed. Tears have  been frequent visitors in the past few days. They come each time I stop and think: I have finally pulled the trigger on my trip to the motherland: Cuba. One of the main reasons I left New Orleans and headed south of the border was in order to connect with my Latin roots. The goal was always Cuba. I spent about an hour working out my travel itinerary with Interjet. The flights are so amazingly cheap! Because of my residential status in Mexico, there’s no problem with a visa. I’ve been dreaming of this for so many years that it all still feels like a dream. I’m in a very emotional state.

Cuba2Cuba1CUBA8CUBA11

I’ve needed to get out of San Miguel for a while now. It’s the type of place you need to leave occasionally. Then when you return, you appreciate it so much more.

I’ll take a bus to Mexico City, spend a couple of days there, then fly to Puerto Vallarta for a little beach time at a friend’s condo. After a week there, I’ll fly back to Mexico City and hook up with my flight to Havana. I’ll spend a couple of weeks there (including Christmas and New Year’s Eve!) then return to Mexico City. I’ll spend a day or two there then fly to San Francisco and visit my granddaughter along with my dear friends Barry and Maya. After that it’s back to Mexico City for a couple of days, then back to San Miguel de Allende and a private engagement with the band on Jan.16, which just happens to be my birthday.

Now the studying begins in earnest. I’ll double up on Spanish lessons for the next month, read the pages and pages of info I’ve gathered about Cuban history, geography, social life, music, etc. I’ve been collecting this treasure trove of life in Cuba over the past two years. I’ll plan out some of my time while I’m in Cuba, leaving lots of time for unplanned adventures.

I’ve been given a lot of contacts that will help me hit the ground running. For $20 a day, I’ll have a taxi driver all day and night each day that I’m there. I’m told he’s “in the know” and can get me to all the right clubs and great music. Before I go, I’d better brush up on my bachata and merengue dance steps.

When you dream of something just about your entire life and you turn it into reality, it’s a little challenging to accept. Every time I think or write about it, tears fill my eyes. I’m actually going to Cuba, to see, feel, touch and taste her. Life is pretty amazing, eh?

 Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.
 SoloKittie2
Meow

Blog #102

The following is an excerpt from my memoire, “The Kid Who Got Away.”

The Bangkok of the late 60s/early 70s was a wild and very corrupt place. You could get ANYTHING for the right price. Immigration was no different.

Things were getting pretty hairy by 1973.  I had a family to think of.  My concern grew as I watched planes fly low over my house, strafing students as they peacefully marched in protest against the leaders of a coupe that never delivered a promised constitution. “Protestors shot” Viet Nam was a wreck and threatened to spill over into Thailand. Laos and Cambodia were no better. It was time to leave.

The only way you could stay in Thailand without a permanent visa was to pay someone with connections to send your passport up to Laos, pay a bribe and have the passport stamped with a new visa. This was costly but the only way to do it. My guy was Anand a slippery, swarthy  character seldom seen without his armed security guys. He reminded me a lot of Sidney Greenstreet’s portrayal of “The Fat Man” in Casablanca.

I needed an exit visa. I climbed on my nephew Chong’s motorcycle and we headed for the Dept. of Immigration. As we entered the parking lot, the corruption became only too obvious. The average salary was maybe $500 a month. The lot was filled with expensive, late model American cars. Hmmm…

I presented my passport to the official and requested an exit visa. He checked the records and said he couldn’t find any record of my getting ANY extensions and told me to “…sit right there.” He went inside a bigger office and had a heated discussion with what seemed to be his boss. Visions of Thai prison began to dance menacingly in my head. Overstaying you visa was a serious offence. I whispered to Chong, “Let’s get the fuck out of here,”

We slipped out the back, and took off on his motorcycle. We promptly proceeded to pop a wheely and crash in the parking lot, We righted the vehicle and headed back. I had no exit visa and knew that Immigration would be hot on my tail. Those menacing prison dancers began whipping themselves into a frenzy inside my head. I knew what I had to do.

(To be continued in Blog #103)


nolatravelinman

One of my songs, “Better Alone” is a self-assessment in which I sing, “I’m a complicated man with a short attention span.” It’s true. I am a very unpredictable, restless soul in constant need of a challenge. Like most Capricornian goats, I just can’t stop climbing.

Over the years, this has caused friends, lovers and family a lot of pain and frustration. I’ve given up long ago trying to predict my own actions. It’s almost as if they are dictated to me by my angels and I try my best to follow through. I simply trust myself and put one foot in front of the next, keeping my eyes open for the signposts. They are often too small to see. Sometimes they are disguised as something that barely stands out from its surroundings; or someone whispering directions or simply pointing the way. Often, I am too busy, too distracted, or simply just too dumb to decipher  my next marching orders. Luckily, my angels are patient. The  wanderlust has hit me. I’m feelin’ mighty antsy.

So, I’m writing more. I’m trying to move my band, SpyBoyZ, up the food chain to bigger and better venues. I’m gonna hang in Mexico City (or D.F., as it’s known as here) for a bit. As a former New Yorker, I think I may just need a respite from this beautiful, sleepy little pueblito called San Miguel de Allende. I need to get me a little sensory overload. I’ll meet some cool people, eat some great food and listen to some good music. I may even make some of my own. D.F. is one of the great cities of the world. So much art, so many museums, so much stimuli. Yep, Mexico City here I come!

I’m also planning my trip to Motherland Cuba. Looks like sometime in December and January. Yeah, Christmas in Havana sounds pretty interesting to me. After that, a week or so in Walnut Creek, CA with my three year old granddaughter…

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Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.

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Meow

Blog #101

The following is an excerpt from my memoire, “The Kid Who Got Away.”

While Washington and Baton Rouge politicians were plotting her demise; and Ray Ray Nagin was coming up with one wild and crazy idea after another, all the while lining his pockets with gold dipped in the sweat and tears of Katrina survivors, I rolled up my sleeves and dug in. I knew we would rebuild and renew but SHE, our beloved New Orleans as I knew she would never be the same. The wind was out of the sails and the Ghost Ship New Orleans would float out on the tide towards the sunset. A new and different iteration would rise from the ashes.

I told this to a few friends, all in denial. They said I was dead wrong. I was not in denial. I’d heard the survivors tails of loss and pain. I had read the writings on the water lines, heard the whispers of the ghosts, heard thousands of forgotten ones begging for a little hope and fresh water to drink, heard mother’s and babies cry out as they drowned in attics. It was over. It would never be the same.

New Orleans was a good though tire old whore; and she was OUR whore. She was the kind of whore that you could take your problems too and get an honest answer from. One you could almost trust to keep your secrets, then get a reliably good roll in the sack. She was the kind of whore that a dad would take his virgin son to for the kid’s first rodeo. She was a mirror of who we really are. Sadly, all whores die eventually. New ones take their place and life goes on. I miss her, still.


Nolatravelinman

So I’m setting up my gear for a gig here in San Miguel de Allende at a cub called Paprika. Folks walk by. Many of them know that I’ve been feeling little under the weather so they hug and kiss me and tell me they’re happy to see me, hoping I’m feeling better. I’m happy to see every one of them show up to my gig, whether I remember them by name or not. I lie and tell each I’m feeling fine. Why sadden or concern them? In truth, am totally out of it.

I have to take my HepC medicine daily and it alternately makes me feel exhausted, nauseous, light-headed, sometimes even depressed. Frequently, all at the same time. Then, Tuesday I get hit with a case of Montezuma’s revenge like I’ve never experienced. In bed, weak, not wanting to eat, just feeling like crap, I just want to sleep. My girlfriend calls the doctor and he makes a home visit (they still do that here).

Our keyboard player Doug Robinson told me that some friends might stop by to jam and that I should be there. I am determined show up. I feel like El Cid, dead but strapped to his horse, leading the charge while wooden planks hold his carcass upright. Like Woody Allen says: 90% of life is just showing up. So here I am at the gig.

While I’m setting up, another woman walks in with a kind of frumpy hat on and kisses me and says that it’s so nice to see me. It’s been a while. I had canceled a gig a few weeks back and then the following week, the band was at another club.

The woman walks away a few steps and something strikes me as familiar about her. I look closer and she smiling at me. It’s Bonnie Raitt! Sweet Baby Cheesum! I haven’t seen her in 20 years. I grab her again and hold her, exclaiming how wonderful it is to see her. She seemed much more at peace then I’ve ever seen her.

We begin to play and in walks Marsha Ball. I get the feeling that this is going to be quite a night. After the first set, I take a break and talk with Bonnie, reminiscing about all kinds of stuff. it becomes clear that Marsha wants to play. She gets up, comes over and sits down (we had to create a makeshift seat for those legs of hers). I say, “What do you feel like doin’, dahlin’?” She comes up with Muddy’s “Got My Mojo Workin” and we are off to the races.

She did a couple more tunes than indicated that she was done. What’s to be done once you’ve brought down the house? The joy coming off that woman while she was playing was palpable.

Doug and Marcia

I finished the gig, said my goodbyes and the van came to pick up my stuff. I headed back to my Hacienda in the Hood then went up the hill to my girlfriend’s house to spend the night. She’s definitely earned her stripes this week, cleaning up after me, cooking for me and generally helping me to heal during this arduous medication process. What I forgot was that it is the beginning of the San Miguel Festival. Living in San Miguel means it’s about to get real. Party time it is in San Miguel de Allende.

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My girlfriend owns a boutique hotel in a 300-year-old building just above the Jardin. The Jardin, which is just outside the Perogia, just so happens to be party central. The fireworks went on quite loudly right there outside the cathedral till about 1 AM. Then, silence. Great! I’m going to get a chance to get some sleep.

At 4 AM all out hell breaks loose. Every church in the valley begins ringing it’s bells. I was witness to the loudest and most extended display of fireworks I’ve ever been around anywhere in my life. The bells and fireworks went on continuously until after 6 AM. Sometimes it sounded like it was coming from the courtyard outside of the bedroom.

Let’s just say I didn’t get any sleep on the opening night of the San Miguel Festival.

Be excellent to each other and remember: Think twice before hitting “Send.

photos by Jim Knoch and Christian Diaz

Happy Birthday Beautiful Little Girl             IMG_0184 photo by Arlan Smith

Bad Ass Ghosts and Bad Ass Cats

My girlfriend, Yolanda, has a passable knowledge of the English language. I can mangle my way through enough Spanish to be understood, though I have seen lovers of the romantic idiom weep openly as I speak. Our Spanglish makes it possible to communicate, at least on a basic level. Subtleties are best avoided.

The other day she said, “You destruction my life.” I thought to myself, “Yeah, that pretty much sums up the feelings of more than a couple of women who have entered the “Jesse Zone” for more than a fleeting moment.” I tried to convey to her that this is good thing, that she was doing the same to me. I reminded her that she had my head spinning during the initial courtship period. She laugh and seemed to enjoy remember how she had me wondering if I should shit or go blind.

Remember what I said about “subtleties?” I should have stopped at the point where she laughed. Then I made the mistake of trying to convey that out of the pile of crumbled materials we would help each other create better, stronger, wiser people. She looked at me as if I had just grown a penis our of my forehead. I kept trying, forgetting that the first step in getting yourself out of a hole is to stop digging.

So much for subtleties.

I spent the night at her house up on the hill and returned to find a dead four-inch long brown scorpion. :

Very fast. Nasty sting.

I don’t like scorpions. Never have. This is the first one I’ve seen in a year and a half in Mexico. My “Possibly Sweetest Lap Cat in the World” tabby rescue has a trophy area. Inevitably, some creature will wander into an area within his reach in the back yard as he is seemingly lazing in the grass. BAM! He’s captures it, tortures it for hours and, uneaten, leaves the carcass in his “Trophy” area, proud to demonstrate his stealth-like abilities as a preditor of the wild to what he thinks is an adoring Pop. It can get pretty disgusting.