Every 6 months I have to leave Mexico to renew my tourist visa. The path of least resistance has mostly been Las Vegas. It is a mere 3 hour nonstop flight away but it still adds up to a fifteen hour day that is excruciatingly brutal to a person like me who detests confinement and who also is exceedingly impatient (shame on me) with repetitive processes.
Every time I am forced to travel – And I hate the forced part as much as I do the confinement – I prefer to just get it the fuck over with and do it all in a two day turnaround. Meaning I leave my town in northwest Michoacán on the morning of Day 1 and return the following evening of Day 2.
Up at 5 am, in the cab by 7 am for the 2 hour drive to the airport in Guadalajara. Then it’s check-in, security, a burger, followed by an hour and a half wait for my flight. Three hours airtime. Then one and a half hours getting through US Customs and Immigration followed by a long intra-airport bus ride to get to the other side of the airport from which to catch the city bus uptown. Painful. And I hate every last fucking minute of it.
Note: I am generally not a profane man but I find the use of the word fuck to be almost obligatory applied to the vulgarities inherent to certain classes and conditions like those I attempting to describe here.
I can’t believe I crossed the Pacific 46 times back in the ‘90s. But here I am older and I suffer the confinement, rules, and security with even much less patience now. But in my defense, back in the ‘90s travel was much more gentle. Less security (much less), business class: free cocktails, plenty of leg room, spacious reclining seats and 747s – the upstairs anyway – gave more the illusion of a club than the straightjacket rigidity of coach. And I love 747s. They are a truly awesome airplane.
Anyway, now when I travel I am usually somewhat incapacitated: usually grumpy, sometimes hungover, almost certainly sleep deprived, generally agitated due to a lack oftentimes from sufficient intake of dietary fiber to promote a healthy voiding. Add this to the effects of the night before – constantly anticipating the dread of the alarm chime – to where the combinations of which typically create a ruinous personality in a zombie like fog that carries for the entirety of the trip.
And all the travel back in the ‘90s made me a complete and helpless insomniac, to where it became so bad at some point that when I’d wake up in the middle of the night to go pee, I never immediately knew which side of the bed to get off because some of the time I didn’t know where I was.
And I was in oblivious denial to it. I had lived out of a suitcase for the better part of 10 years and I was so addicted to travel I didn’t know any different much less know the possible ruinous implications to my long term health. The effects proved to be mostly mental to which I still have an occasional flashback as I partially wake up some nights not knowing where the hell I am. Or sometimes I dream I am back in the US and want to find my way home to Mexico only to realize when I wake up to pee that I am in Mexico, safe in my own bed.
But back to Vegas. Given my mental degradation this past trip, I had only a couple of lucid thoughts; both negative. First, riding the uptown bus there I was surrounded by sickness. Everywhere I looked there was someone with bad hair – greasy or cracked and dry; it amounted to the same, signs of supreme unhealthiness and lack of hygiene. Pale skin. Bad skin. Too many middle-aged people with canes. Everyone was either too fat or they had that wizened hillbilly meth addict sallow wanness to them.
Maybe I was hallucinating but just about everyone in Las Vegas looked like shit. I say hallucinating because that frequently happened on the ends of my Pacific crossings. Like I’d hit the airport in LA after something like 24 hours with no sleep and I began to notice after my third or fourth such trip that people’s faces began to take on a slightly feral cast.
The other thing I noticed was all of the urban decay. Get just a couple of blocks off the strip or up north into the old downtown section and there were many houses and buildings that were decidedly shabby and worn down but in a bad way. Not in that elegant benign neglect sort of way a traveler experiences in the developing world.
No. And it began to bug me to try and ferret out why the decay differed from say Mexico to America. I can only reason from experience that poor places in Mexico while rundown still maintain a positive imagine of shabbiness inasmuch as while the buildings, neighborhoods and houses might be all ramfucked together with lots of unsightly patches of exposed chipped and weathered unpainted brick, protruding rusty steel, rock piles and other broken shit littering yards and pathways you know that it’s okay; you’re in Mexico and people – poor as they might be – are free to do what the fuck they want. And I respect that. The poor people in Mexico by and large are a healthy happy lot (which is a lot more than I can say for the poor people back home).
Only in the late 20th century did you begin to see poor people in the US who were fat. In some cases morbidly fat. Fat poor people! Imagine that. The words fat and poor do not belong in the same sentence together. It should be a contradiction in terms. But let me add one more term to the sentence for it to make sense – Fat poor slovenly people. In other words, slovenly – as in not caring about one’s appearance or health. And that condition is endemic among the poor in the US.
And sadly that condition of slovenliness rolls over to be applicable to much of America’s decaying infrastructure. The houses you see in disarray with the rubbish strewn lots, and sagging old abandoned office buildings surrounded by dilapidated fences are in such a condition because the people that own them don’t care. And building codes aren’t being properly enforced. Is that laziness or budget cutting?
Either which way in the US, it’s plain and simple neglect – and whether in property or people – is all about slovenliness. It is a degradation of morals and it permeates through the entire culture. And as far as people go, it all boils down to what they are feeding to both their bodies and minds. Unhealthy food void of nutrition and mindless entertainment. And huge heaping helpings of both.
But I’ll come back to that another time as I have a proper axe to grind on that specific topic which roles into the category I call ‘Thoughts on the Modern Condition’.
Let’s just say by way of conclusion that I am profoundly grateful to be back in Mexico and given another 180 day stay of passage in this great country. And I mean just that. I am profoundly grateful to be here with utmost sincerity.