My intention this week is to do a series on "American Woman", the politically correct term for that bitch-goddess of songs by The Guess Who and Lenny Kravitz.
But I'm lazy today and will give you an already finished account of a holiday in Mexico.
To be in Mexico was to be in the thirties, right down to the way things must have been during the Great Depression. The 30 per cent unemployment; the art deco furniture, the complicated plumbing, the styles of life, the camposino coming back to town for the weekend, getting drunk, thrown in in jail, bailed out by his relatives; the upper-class Mexican, like the depression land baron, whiling away his life in a cloud of hash smoke and a fantasy of sexual possibilities.
And I was in the thick of it, here in Guadalajara where Valerie and I had gone on a sort of honeymoon to celebrate the test and maintenance of our love. Mexico in the thirties for sure. The medium priced hotel was exactly l933, the room with its imitation Persian rug, worn and ochre-coloured; the saggy but well made bed, the wallpaper busy with its charging cavalry of bold flowers, the clinical-style high intensity bed lamps in clusters of three, the tin plaque on the wall, an advertisement of Jugo de Naranha, orange juice with a l930's Gatsby couple sampling that great drink.
Mexico was very much in the thirties, perhaps because its real industrial and political revolution began there, along with a construction and stylistic boom, an effort to catch up with the civilized world. The revolution had been half-successful with the nationalization of the major utilities and railroads. Still, foreigners continued to invest pennies in Mexico to get their investment back in dollars.
But there was a spiritual dividend in Mexico, something that any Gringo worth his sould could recognize after some time in the country. The sun, the landscape gave you a visual orientation; the rarified air opened up your soul to intimations, veritable visions that the poets of the middle ages considered routine and the poets of today consider pure madness. Mexico puts you into a spirit of high renaissance. If you are a painter you begin, after a few months, painting like you'd never painted before. The same for a writer. And even more so for the lover. Mexico could be lightning-quick and there was a word for it in Spanish, RELAMPAGO. Lightning. And I had been looking for magic light itself over my quasi-New England town of Newmarket, Ontario.
Mexico. I was in love, and was beginning to perceive the world in love's newfound clarity.
Mexico seems to have a chronic shortage of men. When a woman loves you, she will do anything for you and ultimately, you for her for to be loved, deeply loved, is to be enchanted, and lying on that hotel bed, I was deeply enchanted, there among the cheap furniture, the landscape prints on the walls and the stunning girl with the hypnotic eyes and the high cheekbones.
Mexico, Mexico. How many foreigners miss the revelations of this fascinating land after first finding in sex the ultimate high.
Yet it was much more than sex with Valerie and me. It was a rebirth for both of us, myself realizing that I was not at all washed up physically, that I was gathering strength instead of losing it; there was something in North American life that made nances of men and shrews of women; perhaps it was the increasingly abstract and fine work that was demanded of the highest skilled workers and even of the lowliest, for all good work requires artistic ability, even laying out a garden, and there is no such thing as a ditch digger any more, no such thing as the iceman and even the garbage man has to operate sensitive and complicated equipment.
A new start, a new way. And I owed so much of it to Valerie. What had happened over those ten hard years back there? Had I been asleep? Who had I been, really: how had I missed so much of life?
My wife Loren hardly seemed real to me now. She was somewhere in the past. I'd kept a portrait of my two children in up on my Spanish colonial dresser in my Americanized apartment. They looked so heartbreakingly beautiful, their in their full fair colour in front of a green-painted backyard swing, with flowers and trees, lilacs all around. Sweet Michelle, a pixie of only four and son David, exquisitely featured (it seemed to me), seven. Their large eyes stared at me almost accusingly. I had always turned the picture face down when Valerie was in the bedroom. Fading away, my past life.
That night I had a dream of Loren, lying on her side, nude in all her compact womanhood, resting easily on her right elbow and forearm, one fine redhead's breast spilling almost voluptuously toward the crook of her right arm, the other straight out to follow the contours of a body that was soft, wide-hipped and lush. She was femininity itself , my wife, my home base. Like Venus bathing, she lay on the bank of a river but the river kept ever widening, and I seemed in the dream to be swimming ever farther away from her. I had no thought of swimming back to the bank where she lay.