One thing I’ve discovered about living in Mexico is while any given morning might start out in a majorly sucking way, typically from a poor night’s sleep, all I really need to do to turn it around is to get outdoors. And after about the third or fourth warm smiling exchange of good mornings, my day does a 180 and I am a newer, better, happier man.
Take this morning. No sleep. And if that wasn’t bad enough I discover that the online billpay for a credit card somehow didn’t happen (and who knows why?) like it should have 3 weeks ago.
And no sooner after I got that resolved by calling one of those most annoying 800 numbers and talking to my bank’s customer service department, only to then get a text message from my cellular provider telling me I need to recharge my account by the 28th (although I paid up yesterday). Sigh.
My morning run was ruined so I decided to do some more stuff on the internet which is when I looked up the publishing firm that contacted me a couple of days ago saying they wanted have a look at my second book – the company obviously trolls the eco.copyright.gov website – only to discover they are a self-publishing company and in the infamous words of Frank Zappa, ‘Only in it for the money.’
Whoever said,’ when we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago,’ was spot on. So I opened up a good book and made myself a second cup of coffee until finally enough of the gloom and doom lifted which was when I decided to walk the two blocks over to the Telcel office and see if I couldn’t fix the cellular billing problem. And just so you know, I positively loathe doing routine administrative shit especially when I have to sort through some idiotically conceived, bureaucratic coma inducing set of arcane plans and services.
But this Mexican customer service was surprisingly most excellent. What she explained to me didn’t make a whole lot of sense but she was patient, helpful, and kind. The long and short of her message was – yes, while I did pay yesterday, I still need to touch base with them on the 28th to see if the promotional plan that I am on is still going to be in effect after that date. That made sense but I could never figure out why I have to do it precisely on the 28th of April.
Still I left the office in a good mood, shook hands with the manager on the way out who asked me if I understood everything ( which I thought was immensely kind). I headed down the street and turned the corner on to the northside of the plaza where I was going to have a chat with my doctor buddy when the jeweler three doors up beckoned me in and asked me if I wanted to see a few of his antiquities (the doctor had pre-introduced to him my interest in Mesoamerican artifacts).
He invited me into his back office and then proceeded over the next hour to produce an incredible array of treasures. He had Aztec, as well as other pre-Columbian civilization’s antiquities, in the form of masks and figurines and some of which were truly breathtaking.
Figurines in the form of nursing mothers, women making tortillas, mothers with infants, and more. He produced half a dozen life sized masks, some with most of the original pigment intact. One mask had incredibly well defined scary pointy teeth. And not one of the pieces had broken bits. It was all of the highest quality. Museums would be proud to own some of his pieces.
He also showed me some prehistoric tools that he had collected mostly in the form of mortar and pestle kind of things. And if I wasn’t quite dazzled enough already he started hauling out his coins.
And we’re not talking about the average coin collection here. Oh, no. He pulled out boxes of Spanish and early Mexican minted silver coins some of which were dated late 18th century. He had gold doubloons and pieces of eight. Have you ever seen a real piece of eight? It is literally the one-eighth pie shaped piece of a larger silver coin.
He had sets of coins not numbering in the dozens but in the hundreds. He was literally shoving stacks and stacks of silver coins in front of me. And he pulled boxes out of his desk, boxes from cabinets, and he even handed me several stacks of books containing coins. He had early US gold coins. He even had Roman era coins.
And if that wasn’t enough he took me into the back (back) room and kicked open some big bags that were lying on the concrete floor that contained yet even more ancient silver coins. Coins from the era of Maximilian. Coins with the imprint of Spain’s Philip V (late 17th century).
As incredulous as it all might sound, I am not making any of this up. I have never (ever) seen or heard of such a collection in the possession of such a seemingly ordinary man. He even had other stuff that boggled my mind like a commemorative minted Aztec calendar that was in the form of a 1 kilo coin made out of solid silver; still in the box with the accompanying letter of authenticity.
He at times would walk out of the office to greet family or customers in the front showroom leaving me alone with his treasures. Was that trust, a test, or just plain insanity? Would he have missed a single piece of silver out the thousands that were lying around in open sacks and boxes like so much treasure in Ali Baba’s cave? The question is purely intellectual as I am no longer interested in possessing much of anything these days not to mention those things which do not belong to me.
I was a little light headed when I left there marveling over the ancient ceramic dust that still clung to my palms and fingers and it was almost lunchtime so I walked the two blocks over to the Mercado and had some of Beto’s delicious carnitas. I got one taco made out of rib meat, one from the crunchy cartilage of the ear, and a taco made from the gelatinous snout; washed down with a fresh glass of orange/carrot juice. Tasty. I’ve learned to garnish my tacos differently depended on the payload to maximize the flavor coefficient.
I stopped off at one of my favorite vegetable stalls and got a big bunch of spinach and half a dozen large white onions. I got to joke with the friendly proprietors and say hello to a few other people as I made my way out of the Mercado and back to the street.
Almost to my house I ran into one of my favorite people, Pancho who was being trailed by his wife and 78 year old mother who always gives me a cheek to kiss.
What a morning.
What a positively lovely morning.