From the moment I arrive in Guanajuato, Mexico the city's beauty overwhelms me. The numerous small streets and passageways host delightfully local splendors; long dark tunnels and street vendors. Upon arrival at Hotel Casa de Pita the city's color and vibrant noise pollution continue to call to me, but as I look out across the mountainous vista from my patio I wonder if I still had 'it'.
Various books, projects, and business endeavors have kept me occupied, where as there was a time when I was somewhat known for adventure. To be completely honest with you, I wondered if the Shameless Vagabond was still shameless.
I set out to El Clave de Azul at the suggestion of a friend back home to discover if I am still that man, that viajero who had traveled the world so aimlessly before. Upon arriving I'm overtaken by the bars bohemian simplicity. The walls are decorated with old posters from concerts, newspapers, and more, and the shelves are lined with a variety of old radios and cameras. My friend was right to suggest it to me, and in his honor I order the strangest sounding mezcal available and a Victoria.
It is disgusting.
However, all eyes are on me. I imagine that it's not everyday large black guy with an afro comes into this place ordering mezcal, so I finish the bitter drink to make a good impression. I order another round, but this time I tell the waiter to bring a much milder type. By now two well dressed men have entered and sit at a nearby table. They lift their drinks to me, 'salud', and begin to ask questions about where I'm from and how I speak Spanish.
Eventually, Jesus, or 'Chucho' as he asks me to call him, invites me over. He and his friend are lawyers, and as we continue to discuss they order more rounds of mezcal and beers. To my delight I see the barman slang a large glass jug over his shoulder filled with what looks like snake skins and brown liquor.
We continue to drink until we're joined by two men: one named Luis and the other who is simply called El Maestro who's apparently known for his musical talents in the city. Eventually, they invite me to a restaurant, since I hadn't eaten anything all day. I bid Chucho adieu, and head out into the night. We traverse the streets passing taco stands, bars, musicians, and everyone who had an idea for a Thursday night out in Guanajuato. We soon arrive at La Cimbra only to see that it is already closed, as a restaurant would be at midnight. However, Luis and El Maestro have a reputation. They serve us last minute drinks and allow us to go unto the rooftop. A brief chat with the chef, whose kitchen is certainly closed, leads to a nice meal for us to share.
We sit under the canopy eating, drinking, and joking, with only the adjacent cathedral's brilliance to give us light. The music echos from the streets below as a soft rain keeps rhythm. We decide it's time to visit a taco stand, and a bar where they know the owner. We quickly devour the tacos before crossing the street to a place called La Champa. We enter to see a DJ to our left providing the night's deep house grooves, while a few patrons are scattered around the room. A short man approaches me.
“This is the owner, Sam,” Luis says.
“You're from where?” asks Sam?
“Come with me you're guest working the bar tonight. But take this shit off,” he says as he points to my jacket and button up shirt. “You have to be looking sexy behind the bar.”
I take his advice and come behind the bar. Soon I'm crushing herbs, shaking shakers, taking orders, and dancing; all while making a few drinks of my own. I wink to the DJ after he asks for a beer, and even to a few mexicanas who ask for a light of their cigarettes. Eventually Luis and El Maestro say there goodbyes, but I decide to stay a bit longer. It's regretfully my only night in Guanajuato before heading to Leon tomorrow morning, and I've got to make the most of it. I'm shaking a drink when Sam puts a key necklace on me, making the entire scene official.
“You've got this shit now,” he says as we pose for a photo.
It's around 3 am or so, when he suggests I speak with a tall woman. I come from behind the bar and began to talk with her. Her name is Marie. She's exquisite and comes from Austria. I tell her some stories from when I was and Vienna and to her delight I've tried some very specific Austrian cuisines. Her cousin and another guy suggest we go have some mezcal, and I riding I wave of a certain familiar shamelessness, oblige.
You'd think the night was young the way we continue at the next bar. Soon after arriving we order a couple of rounds of mezcal and Victorias. Marie is shy about her English, but I insist it's much better than my non-existent German. The small disco is packed with people dancing, and we stand close in order to hear each other's words. The strobe lights continue change color, and as it lands on red we kiss passionately.
Breakfast at Hotel Casa de Pita is at 9am and is included. With about 3 hours of sleep and a mezcal infused disposition, I creep out of my room. I'm pretty quiet at the table for more reasons than the obvious. It's not proper to speak with food in one's month, and who would want to talk when there's a delicious assortment of fruits, tortas, orange juice and coffee. To add to this, I really don't know what to say.
I slowly ascend the winding stair cases until I am once again on the hotel's rooftop patio: where it all began. The morning's mountainous air is cool, with a hint of heat in it. It's going to be a hot day. I lounge in one of the chairs looking out once again across the city. I think of Chucho, Luis, El Maestro, and Sam. I think of Marie. I don't remember the last time I ever wanted to stay longer in a city, but it's not possible. Leon, Guanjuato and the wedding of an old friend are waiting for me. I look at the city one last time. I dwell once more on yesterday's doubts, and smile.
“I still got it.”