Diamente To Acapulco

Culture Court on the road in Mexico

the lightning of august

How many passengers? Me, Ajo, Brutus and maybe fifteen Mexicans... half empty and even so the toilet is jammed. First class, senor. Window blinds, air conditioning, reclining seats, refreshments... and a movie, senor.

Scanned for weapons by the giggling stewardess.

Rolling west, through toll stations into the dry, desert mountains. Rich green umbrella pines, cactus groves, fortress cliffs, spiked dream ridges, deep dream gorges and giant span bridges... passing over history, the graves of bandits and lost posses, federales, the carrion of cattle and crashed 1929 Packards.

Ajo's sitting across the aisle.

I lean over, say, remember that book, The Lightning of August?

Bout the Mexican generals? says Ajo.

Yes, I say. The Revolution of 1929. Jorge Ibarguengoitia.

The guy with the unpronounceable name, says Ajo. It was a gas. Those generals -- what a buncha buffoons, eh.

The Lightning of August: Jorge IbarguengoitiaVery funny novel, I say. Remember how it goes? The general who's stuck in some backwater state is summoned to Mexico City by his old mentor General Gonzalez who's just won the election, become President... but dies before our man can get there and assume his cushy position.

I remember two things about that novel, says Ajo. One, it's short, two it's very funny.

A howl, I say. These guys are like bad schoolboys.

Guy has his pearl-handled pistol stolen on the train, says Ajo. I remember that.

By the disgraced General who's sneaking back into Mexico from exile, I say. Our man buys him lunch and then this guy -- think his name is Macedonio -- says he's going for a piss but goes back to our man's compartment, steals his gun, gets off the train. Macedonio later saves our man from being shot when the revolution fails... as an act of gratitude for giving him the pistol and buying him a hot meal when he, Macedonio, was down on his luck!

Aw yeah, says Ajo. Jorge is such a funny writer. What's the, uh, narrator's name?

Lupe, I say. "Wolf" or maybe "Fox".

Right, says Ajo. Fox pushes some guy into a grave, doesn't he?

Great scene, I say. The funeral for General Gonzalez. Lupe thinks this other weasal stole the General's gold watch at the wake and is pissed because the widow says the watch was meant for him.

Pushes the guy into the grave, says Ajo.

It's dark, it's raining, Lupe's trying to get out of the cemetery after the burial and he stumbles onto this guy who's also lost, I say. Unfortunately for him, this guy becomes the next President of Mexico.

A comedy of errors, says Ajo. Mind you, I like that other novel better, Two Crimes.

Very good novel, I say. Too bad Ibarguengoitia was killed.

Plane crash, wasn't it? says Ajo.

Yes, I say. Madrid, early eighties. One of the first 747s to crash.

Both of us reflect for a moment.

Know we're flying back on the 29th? says Ajo.

Yeah, I say, so?

Y2K, says Ajo.

How is it a Y2K problem, I say.

Leap year, says Ajo. Computers might not recognize it.

the woman with the moustache

Brutus is sleeping, Elmore Leonard's latest on his lap, Be Cool. I tried to read it on the flight down to Mexico City. The usual sleaze characters, hip conversation... but will I go back to it?

Amazing how expensive books are in Mexico, I say. Who can afford to read?

Maybe that's the idea, says Ajo. Keep 'em dumb.

Go into any Sanborn's in Mexico, look at the price of books, I say.

Keep 'em dumb, keep 'em down, says Ajo.

Still a pictographic society, I say. Paintings, pottery... TV.

And singers, says Ajo. Member the old guy in the zocalo in Cuernavaca?

Yeah, I say. They like their poetry sung.

Murals, says Ajo. They like big pictures.

Diego Rivera is pure propaganda, I say.

Sure, says Ajo. Diego Rivera is the Revolution.

Now his woman has replaced the Virgin Mary, I say.

Frida Kahlo, says Ajo. The woman with the moustache.

Bi-sexual icon, I say.

The aim of communism is to remove the gender power equation, says Ajo.

The revolution just reinvented the existing religious iconography, I say. Frida was into sex big time.

You figure? says Ajo.

Can't paint, I say. Be honest.

Ajo chuckles. Looks at his watch, says, we should be in Acapulco by three.

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© Lawrence Russell

Culture Court 2000