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Monday, November 11, 2002

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

At least I dodged the cab or bus ride to the airport this time. Another couple were on a flight the same time as mine and I was able to hitch a ride with them. From the moment you step out of your car at the airport you are bombarded with threats and dire warnings. Don't leave your car or it will be towed. Don't leave any bags unattended or they will be destroyed. You can't go here. Stay out of this area. Pass through this machine. You need to be searched. There are countless seemingly benign items that, if you are foolish enough to carry them, will land you on the wrong side of the law.

The security people are almost all completely humorless, a condition that is either mandated from above or a result of performing an excruciatingly boring task or a bit of both. It was only 11 a.m. but all of this security stuff made me want a stiff drink. After a $10 breakfast Bloody Mary I heard my flight giving the last boarding call. The attendant reminded all of us non first class passengers to pick up our lunch bag before boarding the aircraft. A fucking bag lunch? It would have been less humiliating and perhaps more rewarding nutritionally had there been a clown on the ramp hitting each coach class passenger in the face with a pie. I was really hungry so I grabbed my bag and settled into my seat.

From being treated like a criminal by security you go to being treated like a child by the airline staff. "Sit down. Fasten your seat belt. Sit up straight. No, you can't go to the bathroom. Drink your drink. Eat your food. Don't stand up until you're told." At least the booze is cheaper on the plane than in the airport. Flying sucks.

From Seattle to Dallas and then on to Leon, Mexico. When I got to the gate for the flight to Leon the attendant announced over the P.A. that the flight had been overbooked and they were offering volunteers $400 cash and a flight to Guadalajara and ground transportation to Leon. Before I could look at my map and do the math in my head I had missed my chance. I had no place to stay on my first night so Guadalajara would have worked as well as Leon.

I like how Latinos will clap when the plane lands. I like how you have to walk from the plane to the terminal across the tarmac. It was a beautiful evening. I was comfortable in shirtsleeves. Now all I had to do was clear customs, get my car and find a hotel at 11p.m.

Along the highway from the airport into Leon are a bunch of auto hotels. I wasn't going to be particular as I was tired and I was leaving early the next morning anyway. These auto hotels are a walled compound. You drive inside and each room has its own garage. The one I pulled into had a sign saying that a single room (una sencilla) was 130 pesos. I had hit a bank machine at the airport so I had a bunch of pesos but the problem was that I had no idea how much they were worth. It had been a year since I was here last and I couldn't remember. I decided that I didn't care how much it cost. I pulled into a garage and paid the gal who lead me there. She also informed me that the exchange rate was about ten pesos to the dollar.

The room was clean and modern. It was actually a little too modern. There was a round bed with a mirror on the ceiling. The place looked like a Mexican version of Hugh Hefner's bedroom. The TV had two channels of porn (Very odd for this Catholic country). The room was about $13 and I was becoming suspicious. I began to think that this was one of those hotels where you go to have an affair and pay by the hour. Just to clear things up I walked out to the office and asked if the rate was for the entire evening. The gal in the office looked at me funny when I asked this and assured me that it was.

The next morning I got up early and pulled out of my little garage and as I made my way to the exit I saw that it was blocked by a heavy steel gate. So this is it. This is where someone comes out and tells me that I owe them $1,000 American or they impound my car. Someone did come out but she just asked me my room number. The gate swung open and I escaped. A $13 hotel room, even for Mexico this was really inexpensive.

I had a couple of hours to spend before I had to go back to the airport to pick up my brother and my nephew. I desperately needed a cup of coffee. Between my hotel and the airport there didn't seem to be any likely prospects so I continued past the airport to Siloa. I parked near the Cathedral Plaza and walked. One thing you can say for every town in Mexico is that there is plenty of commerce going on. Hundreds of little stores are crammed into the downtown area and street vendors cover the sidewalks. Even the nuns were selling stuff in front of the cathedral. I found a cool restaurant off the square for coffee and breakfast. I wasn't even sure when I was supposed to pick up my brother but I thought I had a ballpark estimate.

I brought the same notebook I had on my last trip here so I will probably rehash some of my thoughts from a year ago and sell them as new here. Time to go.

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