Coffee brewed, and the sky outside the kitchen window was dark with no starlight. I rubbed at the sleep in my eyes uncertain if I’d put the tights on and get on the beater bike. Forecasters said that the rain would arrive later in the morning, enough so that I figured I had time to squeeze in a road ride. I rubbed some more and thought to myself, “Coffee. Bike. Then the rest of the day will feel better.”
The knobbies on ol’ yeller enjoyed tasting snow and ice for the first time this winter riding season. In patches, the detritus of an early season passing winter storm lay on pavement and asphalt. Out in the state park, a ribbon of paved singletrack through hard ice-snow put a smile on my face. Not long after, the smile turned to grimace and “damn that smarts” cussed out from my mouth. I hit some black ice, which I saw, and the balding fatties slid out. There I was head-over-heels and feeling my right elbow hit the hard surface. I got up and pranced around my bike like a nimble ballerina, shakin’ out the “smarts” and laughing with a twisted smile while thinking, “both elbows at the end of the 2010 season!” Lucky for me, road rash wasn’t evident, as I was layered three-deep.
The remaining ten miles or so of the morning went rather unventful, which was music to my ears. I cruised on home, and the rain had yet to fall.
An hour later, I walked into a local Mexicana grocery store to pick up a few things I needed to cook up a pot of venison chili for an evening dinner party: cotija, avocado, adobo, beef broth. I had the other primary ingredients. Entering the store, I immediately saw a group of mis hermanos y hermanas dressed in what appeared to be Aztec-like dress, but not authentic to the core. They wore costumes for dancing.
At the butcher’s counter, I asked for some fresh cotija entera and asked if the dance group was going to perform in the store.
“En la tienda, no. Pero, afuera, si.”
I was reminded that tomorrow is La Virgen de Guadalupe Day, arguably the most sacred day for Mexican Catholics, and perhaps non-believers too. It has been said that “los Mexicanos no son Catolicos, they are Guadalupenos.”
I also asked for some fresh, in-house-made chorizo for a sweet potato-chorizo soup I was planning to make later in the week. Then I saw the sign for fresh tamales. I got a chicken one and was set back a buck. The dancers headed outside.
At the register, I asked the young Latina woman why she wasn’t outside watching the dancers. In perfect English, she responded:
“I was born in Texas. I don’t know these things very well. I only know about them when they happen and people tell me about them. It’s interesting, but I’m not from Mexico.”
I signed the credit card slip, walked out with my bags of food, and put them in the back seat of the truck. Watching the dancers march in their procession to the local church to celebrate their day, I was struck by the flags in the front: one U.S.A. and one Mexican. The dancers followed, and were followed by a local police officer in a car with the siren lights on, but without the ear-piercing sound turned on.
I took my tamale out of the bag, said “Que dia mas bonito!” to a family of on-lookers, and stood in wonder. They smiled, and I looked down the street, thinking…
“I’m glad I don’t live in Glen Beck’s, and his followers’, America.”
The spiciness of the tamale stung the back of my tongue. I got in my truck and was feeling in the moment. I pressed the button to put the window down, and second or two later, I had my left arm and hand sticking out of it, saying with clenched fist:
VIVA MEXICO, Y VIVA LA VIRGEN DE GUADALUPE!