Tuesday, August 07, 2018

tuesday in the park with steve

I like chaos.

That is one reason I travel. To shake myself out of routine. Mingling in crowds. Talking to strangers. Being beset with odd noises and aromas.

But, I also like tranquility now and then. On each of my trips, I look for a place where I can sit in peace to read a book and sip some tea.

In San Miguel de Allende, there are two obvious candidates. The first is the jardin -- the town's main square.

It is an immaculately-maintained pocket park. Plenty of benches. Some shaded by well-trimmed ficus like French soldiers ready for inspection.

Some people believe a person who stays long enough at Piccadilly Circus will eventually bump into everyone they know. If that is true, people on their way there first pass through the jardin.

The park is great for watching the vagaries of our race -- especially, some of Mexico's privileged class. But it is far from tranquil.

Opening a book seems to be the universal lantern in the tower for every vendor, tourist, and beggar to interrupt my reverie. At least, the frequent ringing of the city's church bells are a melodic diversion.

I brought my Ted Kooser poetry book with me. I was in the middle of his "An Old Photograph" about an elderly farm couple ("How far apart/ they sit; not touching at shoulder/ or knee, hands clasped in their laps/ as if under each pair was a key/ to a trunk hidden somewhere,/ full of those lessons one keeps/ to oneself.") when I was pulled back to the park by a woman's voice.

I looked up to see a sour face. Fir a moment, I thought I had conjured up Kooser's farm wife. She was dressed as if she was auditioning for a role in Richard Lander's former blog.

"Get that thing out of the jardin," she said pointing at me. Or, at least, I think that it what she said. Bitterness clipping her syllables.

Now, I had many things with me. And none of them were disposed to leave the jardin at just that moment.

I smiled in my smarmiest manner, and pleasantly answered: "I'm sorry. I do not remember marrying you."

My humor was lost on this righteous crusader. Apparently, strewn pearls were not to her liking.

"I'm talking about that." She then nudged my cup of mint tea with the toe of her combat sandals. Had she had a Carrie Nation touch, she would have kicked it over.

"It is a corporate act of aggression against the citizens of the planet." For a moment I thought she was going to launch into a Jeremy Corbyn diatribe.

Then, it hit me. My tea was in a Starbucks cup. I have encountered this particular cultural stereotype before. Attempting any rational discourse would have been as futile as asking her her thoughts on NAFTA or President Trump's proposed reform of legal immigration. After all, she had already concluded that I would be on the same curling team in heaven with Osama Bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

So, I once again smiled (this time the Oscar Wilde cynical smile), and told her: "I am staying right here. My cup is staying right there. And the Starbucks on the corner will still be there long after you are worm food."

I returned to my Kooser. She must have left because when I next glanced up, she was gone. Probably shuffling off to save an uncaring world one cup at a time while exponentially increasing the sales of Starbucks coffee by other accostees seeking a market retaliation.

I read two more poems, threw away my empty cup, and strolled to my second spot of tranquility. This one truly did offer a refuge from the throbbing rhythm of San Miguel de Allende's central area.

Benito Juarez Park. It is a mere three or four blocks from the jardin, but it may as well be four miles away.

The park is the perfect place to read poetry. Even though it has several play areas for children, it is large enough to find benches in the shade far from the madding crowd.

Its design is in the Frenck style -- built around a river ravine with diagonal paths intersecting at fountains. A botanist could spend hours merely identifying the various specimens.

But I was there to read poetry. And read I did.

There is far more to San Miguel de Allende than its touristy jardin. Benito Juarez Park is one of those places for me.

Now, refreshed with some Kooser, I am back to the chaos.

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