Saturday, February 27, 2010

Discreet Pleasures – Hanging Out In Cemeteries

Panteón Angela Peralta

Looking up into the fading to dark azure Mazatlán sky may be the last thing on earth we see as we shuffle off our mortal coil. The angel of death is our constant companion so a trip to a cemetery to see who our future eternal neighbours may well be is always a good idea. We don’t want our constant companion in the hereafter to be someone who has reason to be in eternal damnation and spends the rest of time screaming at their devilish tormentors. No one ever wants to have a noisy neighbour.

The Panteón Angela Peralta (municipal panteón no.2) off Calz. Gabriel Leyva is the place to go. Just imagine resting next to the famous operatic soprano Angela Peralta whose voice is described as like a ‘the trilling goldfinch’. Sweet music will always calm the troubled soul. However she did not die peacefully but of the black plague. She arrived unluckily in Mazatlán to give a concert just when the plague was at its worst and most of the troupe’s members were wiped out with her. She did have time to be married to Julián Montoel y Duarte on her deathbed but did not have the strength to signal her assent so one of the company moved her head manually. Although her bones are back in Mexico D.F her 'trilling' soul still soothes the long term residents of panteón no. 2 Mazatlán.

This cemetery, as all cemeteries ought to be, is slightly unkempt and falling apart around the edges with the occasional collapsed grave and falling down mausoleum but it is quiet, cool and contemplative with some fascinating gravestones, flora, fauna and dead people’s names. Some that can show the history of this city – Juan Regenstein from Germany, Don Juan Nepomusemo Machado (Plaza Muchado), German Evers owner of the original Pacifico brewery and tombs of some of the Chinese community.

So take heart in the fact that if you are about to fall down dead and don’t have the means to be transported back to your country of birth, The Panteon Angela Peralta is as good a place as any to be placed because here, Death the final leveller, dressed up in her slightly down at heel architectural finery surrounds you on all sides. You may not even mind the occasional open grave with a gruesome sight of a wizened arm and hand extending out an overturned coffin six feet down in the dry earth.

We at MazReal have decided that when the time comes, the proximity of death will provoke within us a lust to seize the moment and lie in state on a wooden ship Viking style doused in flammable tar or petrol and be pushed off the beach at Olas Altas while selected friends can shoot flaming arrows to ignite the funereal barge on which we will be burned to a crisp and sink slowly beneath the waves into the Sea of Cortes as a firey Mazatlán sunset bursts outwards and upwards.

Who says we do not deserve to die like we were Gods.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mármol - A Town Where Nothing Happens.

Mármol is a dusty town about an hour north of Mazatlán where there used to be large cement factory. The communities economy was based on the cement factory, which invested in the population, cobbled the streets and added electricity. The cement factory is dead and has been for a while. It sits behind rusty barbed wire and the vegetation is slowly taking over.

Wandering the streets of Mármol a visitor would think a flying saucer had landed, people would have got out, rounded up the population and taken off leaving a few skinny dogs and some scraps of paper. However if you have time, like a couple of hours to sit in the plaza and wait and watch nothing happen then eventually like a snail coming out its shell, things start happening. We live our lives so rapidly that small happenings don’t make an impact on us until we slow down and move into slow motion.

The ambience in this town is conducive to being in a virtual comatose state, a state that I allowed myself to slip into and only then did I noticed things happening. Across the street a couple of boys carried a bench out the church, an old man sauntered into my peripheral vision to the left and sat down in the shade, another man walked into the church and stayed there, a dog sniffed my foot and did a piss in the dust, a boy ran from out of one house into another and a red truck passed in the distance and disappeared.

I sucked my Pepsi through a straw and a little girl sidled up to me and grinned through missing front teeth. We got talking and she said nothing happens here when half the town go daily to work in the hotels in Mazatlán, making beds or cleaning rooms or cutting grass or washing pots in kitchens. Some men she said have taken up fishing and others sit at home while their wives work in the hotels. She’s too young to remember the cement factory and to the kids now it is just a play area behind big walls and a fence. She sat next to me idling playing with her hair and got up and wandered off down the street towards a bunch of boys rolling in the dust near the gates of the cement factory.

I got up and walked to the outskirts of town where I waited for my lift back to Mazatlán. Who know how long this town will be here? As long as they keep buildings hotels in Mazatlán I suppose, and then there will be a substrata of people working and living in hotels by day and coming home to their homes by night leaving their children to play in the dusty streets of Mármol. A life I would have loved as a kid. Imagine having a cement factory and a town devoid of adults - one big playground.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Self Help, Well Being and Capitalism – The most intimate bedfellows.

Positive psychology is the so-called science on contentment, so can you really wish your way to health and happiness?

How to win friends and Influence People, the motivational guide written in 1936 by Dale Carnegie is back in the best-seller charts. In these difficult times, difficult times for rather wealthier people in developing countries, many of us are turning to books and programmes on positive psychology. The self-improving times are a-booming and the gurus are jumping on the bandwagon.

Even here in Mazatlán we are given the opportunity to embrace our inner soul through cooking and art and even find inspiration by focusing on color chakras while we create (these seven main chakras or vortices in Hinduism are the powerhouses that store energy and through these the energy from the cosmos is pulled in more strongly.)

After the economic crash there has been a rash of books and expensive weekend retreats on self-help and how to survive in the corporate world, how to be happy when you are either figuring out what it is to be successful or how to remain positive when your corporate job has disappeared and your huge redundancy payment is not enough to pay for your third house or extra Porsche Cayenne.

The key message in all this is that “happiness is what helps you lead an authentic life, it’s what can help you live “in the now” rather than deferring to the future that never comes” ie. looking on the bright side and counting your blessings.

There is even a new term called ‘bright-siding’ where the think positive mantra and upbeat attitude is so relentlessly promoted that even some doctors subscribe it to cancer patients where they end up thinking that the cancer was actually good for them and has improved their lives. Governments have joined in promoting the invasion of Iraq as being good for us. It is this reckless optimism that has ultimately contributed to the wild, free-spending corporatism that led us into what we have now.

That positive thinking dogma started in the US and has now spread everywhere and into everything even art, cooking and writing. It has become pure marketing – buy this package and it will move you forward with the goal of a trouble-free life.

“It is snake oil, it is an American idea that anyone can be anyone, it is magical thinking, it is psychology for toddlers.” says one leading psychologist and another puts it more bluntly “I would rather slam my cock in the door than read these books.” he goes on “This is the story that selfish capitalism wants you to believe. That it is our fault as individuals that this fantastically big fuck-up in society has occurred, which Reagan and Thatcher caused and which did not happen in continental Europe. We have twice the level of mental illness as mainland Europe and yet this garbage encourages people to blame themselves and take responsibility.”

But there is an appetite that exists for some sort of help in dealing with the difficult business of life. However in many peoples’ eyes it is self-help that has got us in the mess we’re in and will keep us there. And the concept of chakras works for the believers of Hinduism because their lives are steeped in it, it is part of their lives and for it to really work in our western lives we would have to give up a lot and I don’t think we would be willing to do that. Anyway our collective situation will never be as dire as those that actually gain fully from the lifetime immersion in it. It is our aspirin and their anaesthetic.

However, here at the MazReal offices we use reverse psychology, we chain our staff to their desks and keep them in a state of Dickensian workhouse squalor so that anything is better when it is time to knock off.

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