A Better Day

My friend, Clemente picked me up in his pickup truck at 8 am this morning. He called me yesterday afternoon suggesting another short venture to the nearby pueblo magico, Mazamitla up in the mountains (el. 2500 meters) about 40 km. to the SE in the nearby state of Jalisco.

The day with Clemente ended about 30 minutes ago at about 5:30 pm. His quick trip up to Mazamitla turned into a nine and a half hour adventure.

I am beginning to enjoy the humorous timeless aspect of Mexico. Ten minutes can sometimes mean something more like an hour and a half. A short trip sometimes takes an entire day. It’s part of the culture that you either despise, learn to tolerate or in time learn to appreciate. Me? I find myself  somewhere in the middle.

But what a day! Oh, what a day! For example, I haven’t seen two horses mate in 50 years. A big (big) stallion and a modest mare. I’ll include a couple of photos here but I’ll circle back to that story because it was such a typical day in the life story of old Mexico.

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The prelude
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The foreplay

I didn’t photograph the money shot because it was all over before I could even get my phone out again. Let’s just say in a few brief few seconds I witnessed the ferocity of a very determined stallion. The mare was hobbled – probably for her safety – and it happened so fast I hazard to guess that the mare didn’t receive much in the way of satisfaction.

And your girlfriend/wife complains right? Hah – and unlike you my friend, that stallion was operating – as you can see – a weapon of mass destruction.

Note: I once witnessed a stallion pissing in Ecuador a few years back. He first spread his hind legs and cut loose like a firehose. I could sense the beast was laughing inside at both Gavin and I while we stood there waiting for him to finish. He loosened a course of urine upon the ground with such pressure, such volume, and from such a huge aperture that mere men like us were humbled by the very display of such a insignificant act like that of evacuation.

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The Act (20 seconds)

As I said earlier, the morning trip was ostensibly all about a short visit to Mazamitla but I’ve discovered that Clemente, after generally proposing something simple, usually has a grander agenda in mind so it didn’t surprise me that we made a quick stop in another village called San Jose de Gracia for a visit to their Mercado.

He then asked me if I wanted menudo for breakfast but it turned out that the woman was already sold out. We then stopped at a few butcher’s stalls and before I knew it Clemente has ordered an entire beef tenderloin – for me. We’re not talking about a small piece of meat but something on the order of 3.3 kilos (7.2 pounds).

I was thinking – and briefly mentioned – like, ‘What in the hell am I going to do with that much fresh meat?’ Clemente winked and told me that he was going to show me how to prepare his delicious marinated filet mignon.

I figured, ‘What the hell.’ Clemente has always proved himself right about so many things and he is determined to teach me, as well as show me, the true Old Mexico. And the marinade he was going to share with me came from his father.

The economics weren’t troublesome. The entire tenderloin cost just 460 pesos (140 pesos/kilo) – which is $23 USD – or about $3.20 a pound. That’s quite a bargain considering if I remember correctly that filet mignon back in the US ran something like twenty bucks a pound.

This is what the marinaded prepared product of one huge hulking piece of beef turned into:

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a huge baking dish filled to the brim with marinating filets

We finally made our way over to Mazamitla and into his favorite menudo joint where we enjoyed a couple of tasty bowls of tripe stew. We both doctored up our bowls with the traditional garnishes of crushed oregano, chopped white onion, and crushed dried hot black chilies. Combined with fresh homemade tortillas it is a truly excellent meal.

After breakfast we wandered around the Mercado a bit and Clemente decided to buy a tenderloin for himself. We found a butcher who had just received half a fresh killed steer but he wanted 150 pesos per kg. Clemente told the man he’d pay him just 140 pesos if he were to take the entire thing. The butcher accepted and carved it out for him. I marveled over the extreme coincidence that his tenderloin weighed exactly the same as mine.

How do I know that? Because it cost precisely the same amount as mine – 460 pesos. Not 485 pesos. Not 420 pesos but precisely 460 pesos. Exactly like mine.

We picked up a cheap cooler and put the big bags of meat on ice then started off down the road. ‘Do you want to stop in Valle de Juarez. Just ten minutes or so for a look around before we head back?’

I figured, yeah why not, it’s on the way back after all.

We made a slow drive through town, took a lap around the plaza and then on the way back out of town we made a stop at the same small saddle shop that we had visited a couple of weeks ago. I ended up buying a beautiful yet simple leather belt which they custom sized to perfectly fit my waist. The fitting was free, the belt cost a mere $7.50 USD.

I bought a belt in Italy a few years ago and paid many more times that. That particular belt I gave away when I moved out of Washington, DC. This belt I expect to keep for the rest of my life.

Perfect craftsmanship (just like the Italian). A perfect harmony between the buckle and the belt (just like the Italian). And all said, the leather was mostly equal too although if memory serves, this belt is made from a thicker outer leather (as it is actually composed of two pieces of leather stitched together) than the Italian. So consequently I believe this belt, for that and other reasons, will develop a deeper and richer patina over time than the Italian.

Next we stopped to visit his buddy, the veterinarian, where the breeding of the horses occurred. We walked around and visited some of the horses in their stalls. One, after sniffing my fingers, gave them a friendly course lick indicating he liked me. That made me happy.

The vet and Clemente examined ancient tack that hung on several walls of the two hundred year old hacienda while I admired the photos of his grandfather and his two brothers that hung on another wall.

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A few friends stopped by and a bottle of wine was broke out by the hacienda owner, the vet, and some very congenial conversation ensued.

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Notice how this is all outdoor living? The weather was something like 23C/73F which it pretty much is day in day out in Valle de Juarez.

In case you haven’t noticed, I am trying to post more about the parts of Mexico that the average tourist has never seen, much less heard about. As for me, I am absolutely fascinated by it.

PS – My other horse-mating story contains an essential image of my grandfather and his notorious propensity for impatience. I was about ten years old and we riding around the countryside in his gray ’63 Caddy when he spied two horses off in a distant pasture. He pulled off the shoulder of the gravel road and in a very feigned patient voice asked me if I knew what they were doing.

I did, I was a country boy after all, but I couldn’t rapidly acquire the animal husbandry term of mating as quick as it suited my grandfather. He finally turned to me and in an exasperated tone shouted, ‘They’re fucking boy. They’re fucking.’

PPS – We stopped in a shop in while in Mazamitla that sold Maille Dyon Originale French mustard. Holy shit! It’s a flavor I’ve been craving for months and months. I purchased a small 215 gram jar for a mere 33 pesos ($1.65). Finally locally accessible and yet incredibly inexpensive. I was positively beside myself with joy and happiness!

Finally, cheers and blessings to you all. We must recognize that we have good days and bad days. And it is important to be mindful to always celebrate the good ones.

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