Perhaps my favorite six or seven hour stretch on this not-so-green earth is the lonely, quiet ride from Corpus Christi, Texas to Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico.
This trip, however, my wife insisted that we try a less circuitous route to Saltillo. So, we flew to Monterrey, rented a Ford Fusion, and drove an hour and a half through the mountains and the desert to the small concrete block home I lived in so many decades ago, belonging to Teresa Quesadilla.
The first thing I did upon entering the car was hook up my iPhone to the Ford's sound system. I found in my music library the song above, 'Tampico,' by the unsurpassed Beverly Kenney and I proceeded to listen to it ten or twelve times through as we covered the dusty distance southwest.
My wife, I must say, was a trouper through all this. After playing 'Tampico' two or three times, she gave me her look. But having been married almost 33 years, I have learned to ignore her occasional termagant tendencies, as she has certainly learned to ignore both the worst and the best of my moods and behaviors.
Nevertheless, enjoying Kenney as I do, I played 'Tampico' over and again. I can think of virtually no song better to listen to as I sped through the desert at 100 mph, about all the Ford could handle.
"You know, there are other songs," my wife stated laconically. "Even other songs about Mexico. Assuming you actually believe this song is about Mexico."
"It ain't exactly 'La Cucaracha,'" I answered. "But it is a song I listened to with Hector and Teresa and Guillermo Sisto so many years ago."
My wife stared at the window at the arid scenery. If she were the spitting type, she would have rolled down the window and let one go. Instead, she did what she does so well. What so many who know me do so well. She stared into her phone and ignored me completely.
Looking to assuage her bruised musical sensibilities, I threw my iPhone into shuffle, and quickly some Puccini or Rossini or Verdi or Wagner came on and as the opera began, our opera was over. We drove the rest of the way in more than a little silence.
It all seemed so familiar. The dry earth. The half-built and abandoned cinder-block homes, the faded billboards--first one for Coke, then for Pepsi. First one for the PRI--the Institutional Revolutionary Party, then one screaming in giant letters PRD, Party of the Democratic Revolution.
Either one, like Coke and Pepsi, would rot your teeth and steal your soul, but those were the choices, like the choices you're given just about everywhere in life. A dull and deadly choice of death by a thousand cuts, or death by 999.
The ever-expanding pollution surrounding Saltillo was upon us now. Like Homer's rosy-fingered dawn. Only it wasn't rosy and it wasn't dawn. It was a sulfurous rusty red and you could fairly smell the smoke.
Clumps of suburbs were here and there, with clumps of American big box stores like Home Depot and Walmart. I took an early exit off of highway 40, and swung around into route 57, skirted Santa Monica Industrial Park near where Chrysler had built their giant assembly plant for minivans. Then I took some backroads around Estadio Francesco I. Maduro, showing the old ballpark to my wife with some quiet words like, "there she is."
From the stadium, I found Teresa's house, pulling into the short driveway just as I had hoped, before six, before dinner time.
Teresa came slowly down the walk, wearing a yellow dress and looking younger than her 86 years. We hugged and kissed and introduced her to my wife. They walked into the small house while I gathered our luggage from the trunk.
Inside, there was a pitcher of lemonade on the table and four glasses.
Barbara Kenney was on the stereo.
Singing, as I imagined, 'Tampico.'