Old Hippie in Heaven

April 11, 1995|By KIRK S. NEVIN

Most of the houses and churches in our Mexican village are about 350 years old. Solid, squat Spanish-style structures, mostly two stories, flat roofs with sun-blessed patios, thick stone or adobe walls roughly parged and painted every conceivable earthtone between red-brown and red-pink. Courtyards, invisible to all shorter than an elephant's eye, bristle with potted geraniums and pampered oleander.

The streets are cobbles, a bicyclist's hell. The few trees are graceful royal palms or eucalyptus, each proudly claiming its own evening contingent of raucous shiny blackbirds. Shaggy donkeys and their equally hirsute owners deliver firewood, water, milk, bread daily. The beasts' tiny hooves duplicate the first symphony Jesus heard in Bethlehem.

Old, solid, dependable, unchanging. Except . . . many (not yet most) roof-top patios share space with giant white parabolic dishes. I've heard talk of catered Super Bowl parties.

* * *

Purchase a first-class Mexican bus ticket and you get the works -- lunch in a bag, airplane-type seats, mini-cafe with gratis hot and cold drinks, john with baby-changing table . . . Plus, always the ubiquitous video, usually a very loud R-rated shoot-'em-up in Spanish. Opaque curtains closed from station to station. This adds a frustrating new element to touring. Might as well fly.

* * *

The village dogs here look worse than Turkish dogs, worse than Moroccan dogs, even worse than the miserable dogs of India. They are totally pitiful and pathetic: tattered, filthy, flea-bitten, mangy, scarred, starving, paranoid, mixed-breed curs. I think they're reincarnated American lawyers.

* * *

The News is delivered by bus daily from Mexico City, usually by noon. Carlos sells it from his stand on the sunny side of the locale. Three pesos, four on Sunday. It's a decent rag, mostly gleaned from the international services. My only complaint: They don't carry Rex Morgan. They have Garfield, B.C., Calvin, Hagar, Cathy, Beetle, Peanuts, Doonesbury -- but not Rex & June. I've written a polite but firm letter to the editor.

* * *

We arrived here late and checked into the little hotel up the hill, just off Calle Mesones.

The first scream shattered our sleep at 12:13 a.m. exactly. I was on my feet, adrenalin pumping, ready (naked). ''What the hell was that?'' Subsequent ear-piercing bolts came regularly, spaced a minute or two apart, each followed by shouts of glee, clapping, raucous laughter. I slipped on shorts and a shirt and raced down to the desk. I witnessed a miracle: The clerk was sleeping soundly.

I smacked his knee. ''Wake up, fool! Someone is being tortured in the street! Call the police!'' He sat up, at tropic pace. Another scream, clapping, laughter.

''Those are the police. That's a pep rally. The union is unhappy about the devaluation of the peso. Please, go back to bed.''

The rally ended at 3:10 a.m.

* * *

I've worked off and on for the past decade, trying to refine and perfect my definition of heaven for the old hippie. Various elements are obvious: A peaceful and calm community where none of the people or other animals or the land are exploited; plentiful clean water for the body, both inside and out; lots of sunshine and good air; an organic garden that will produce sweet carrots.

Another requirement, one that should have been obvious: A fair number of old Volkswagen buses, preferably the pre-1980 models. They're here in Mexico, rusting and rattling, in droves. And this old hippie is in heaven.

Kirk S. Nevin's home is in White Hall, when he's there.

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