I love Mexico. And I have especially come to fondly appreciate their notion of time. It used to drive me crazy but I’ve gradually learned to just go with the flow.
Everybody all over the world whose been to Mexico knows what manana means. But the notion of tomorrow applies to all aspects of time (and measurement). Right now (ahorita) could mean right now or it could mean tomorrow, or when it’s convenient, or when whatever you asked for becomes available. Just like manana, right now is relative.
Measurement is also relative. Someone might not know what exists one colonia (neighborhood) away but they’ll assure you that where ever it is you’re looking for is cerca (close). Why? Because everything is cerca. And because everything is so close, it will take you no time at all to get there. Everything- literally everything – is just right over there. A finger point is the ultimate illustrator of where and just how close something is (however far away it really is).
Mexico is a universe unto itself. It’s ironic that time exists only to the working middle class here. To a farmer, time is relegated by sun or by the season. To the very rich or very poor, time is always a matter of convenience.
Take today. I stopped by Max’s shop to show him the work I did on the Sayula blade (removed the old handle and applied some 260 grit sandpaper to knock off the worst of the grime and light rust) when who should be there visiting but his good friend, Marco: the artist, the sculptor, and the insanely competent – although peyote driven – pilot of the big rigs.
I showed them the naked blade and explained to them I was on a quest that very morning to find the best possible piece of hardwood from which to fashion a new handle.
Before I knew it, I was on the back of Marco’s scooter and we were screaming Mexican style across town through (and in between) dense Sunday morning traffic on the way ostensibly to his woodworking shop where he had the perfect piece of hardwood.
But first we had to stop at his mother’s to get the key. She wasn’t home so we waited. He called her and we waited some more.
She finally arrived in a taxi with four other family members in tow. I got an extended tour of the house examining piece by piece every single art object – be it wood or paint – that Marco had in residence. He is one hell of an artist BTW.
We got the key, we were back on the scooter, weaving madly through traffic towards the other side of town. We arrived to find his grandfather tending his decrepit old bicycle shop next door. After lengthy salutations we got Marco’s shop opened up where we spent the next thirty minutes searching for that special piece of hardwood.
We didn’t find it so we returned back to his mother’s house to resume the search there.
We didn’t find it there either so Marco for whatever reason decided to pull out a power tool, attach a grinding wheel to it so that he could spend the next twenty minutes or so putting the perfect bevel on my blade.
His father had arrived home by that time and we had a nice chat while Marco was outside working up a dirty sweat in the hot sun. When I met him at Max’s earlier he was sharply dressed in white shorts and a t-shirt. But that all changed after looking through dusty stacks of lumber, and then running a grinder on a hot piece of steel under a burning sun.
Marco’s father – an old timer like me – admired the blade for its fine steel and craftsmanship; its Sayula heritage he acknowledged was responsible for both qualities. So it’s safe to say his father, like me – and Marco too I guess – have learned to see beyond the disguised to see the beauty that lies hidden below.
The photo posted above might not look like much but many pictures seldom capture much more than just a mere image of the object. (Witness the Taj Mahal. A building I have experienced with all my senses and walking away have come to judge it as the most perfect thing ever made by men. Photos can’t do it justice. Why? The perfectness of the materials. The undeniable exquisite symmetry. The tactile sense of bare feet on the 500 year old sun warmed marble floors. Not to mention the never before experienced acoustic properties of the the building where a single note sung might hang in the air for several seconds.)
My new knife is exactly like the Taj Mahal – only somewhat smaller and made of slightly different materials. If you can’t understand that – however silly – we’d probably not last more than three minutes in a conversation.
Quality – and to think that the overly sensitize genius, Robert Pirsig literally drove himself crazy trying to define it which however can be simply put as anything made from leather, stone, wood or steel, – hecho a mano my friend; made by hand.
PS – Turnaround time? Three hours. All to find one tiny piece of wood. Yes, we were unsuccessful but it gave me yet another view into this magical realm and much misunderstood country of Mexico.
PPS – I have a time story to tell about India. The clock in one of the major airports (Mumbai?) was broken on one of the trips while I was there and I’ve come to suspect that the lack of money was hampering its repair. I say that because most Indians are time driven like most westerners. They have spent too many years with the British not to assume a similar slave like comportment to it.