I´ve been missing this kind of highbrow, low-fi, city sensuality. I don´t think that I´ve been properly romanced like this since Havana. Yes, Mexico has great cities, and it is rich in its own history, food, architecture, and art, but as a whole, it´s not very sexy. It lacks the afro-caribbean beats and dirty dance moves that really give pulse to a place. I guess you could say that if countries were women, Mexico might be the one you take home to meet mother, while hotty Colombia and her sizzling sister Cuba would be the ones to take you home until you begged, pleaded, and screamed `mother.´ As for the Central American countries, well, they´d just be friends.
But here´s the thing: I feel guilty about my unabashed indulgence in a city, even if it is just a small one. For the past few months, I´ve been reading books and essays about how civilization isn´t sustainable–you´ve probably guessed as much given the tone and topic of many of my posts. As I´ve lamented before, we need freeways, factory farming, dams, oil, timber, mining, and ultimately exploitation and war just to keep modern cities functioning. I know this, and I absolutely support some sort of global scale-down to village life, but why can´t we keep some things in the shift, like fashion and fine wine? I like the idea of stumbling in my six inch stillettos down a dirt road, drinking a big red, listening to a traveling troupe singing opera out the back of a horse drawn carriage. Vive le village! I say.
My internal struggle between nature Stevie and city Stevie reminds me of the book Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse. Quite relatably, the main character, Harry Haller, feels like he is half man–academic, refined, and social– and half wolf– instinctual, primal, and a loner. The two dualing personalities never allow him to feel fulfilled, authentic or at ease. He can´t relate to others in high society because the wolf always points out the artificiality and nauseating affectations of the bourgeoisie. Yet, he is morbidly lonely, on the brink of suicide in his dogged isolation and primal angst. At the end of this fantastic tale rich in imagery and philosophy, Harry makes peace with himself by taking up arms with what Mark Twain deemed the human race´s “only really effective weapon´´: laughter.
Laughter has the last word in the novel, in this post, and in life because it is at once physical and cerebral: It bridges the gap between our bodies and our minds, our wolf and our man. Let´s consider the biggest existential joke of all: We are born with a heroic drive to do great things, knowing full well that no matter what our claim to immortality may be, no matter how hard we try to create something meaningful and lasting in the world around us, we are destined to die. Moreover, it´s our unique human intelligence that opportunes us this unfortunate dilemma. But what is our body´s response to this horrific fate? Visceral, bellyaching, hysterical laughter! That´s what we do when things don´t add up. Someone slips on a banana peel? We giggle. Who´s on first? A crack up! Our freighter set off two days early without the Sprinter aboard? My computer went to sleep and won´t wake up? Kiki peed on the bed? Hilarious!!!!
Mankind´s greatest cultural contributions are born from a civilization that is killing us? Hahahahaaaa!
What can we do but laugh? -STEVIE
(Below left) As the main Spanish port on the Caribbean coast and a storehouse for treasure plundered from the local population, this bastion of the Spanish overseas empires was also a tempting target for buccaneers. It was in response to pirate attacks that the Spaniards built up the walls and a series of forts around the town. (Below Right) The haunting Palace of the Inquisition is now a museum, which displays the sadistic instruments of torture used by the Inquisitors. Eight hundred people were killed under charges of witchcraft, magic, or blasphemy before independence in 1821.
Since when have you been a witch? What is the name of your master among the evil spirits?