La Club Mina

Saturday November 01, 2008

[This post is a continuation of the post called ‘Las Quince Letres‘ ]

Saturday night at 10 I was sitting in the lobby of the hostel.  At dinner last night the German and the Englishman (for simplicity sake I will call them Hans and Simon) made plans to visit the disco in the mine.  I had trepidations, if it was a bar in a mine, an old fashioned belly up to the bar sort of place, I would be all over it, but it’s a disco, and I’m not all that happy about discos.  The music rarely hits my dancing bone, so I end up standing around, the loud music apposed to talking.
But damn it!  I had to visit a drinking establishment in the middle of the mountain.  Despite the knowledge of disappointment, I had to be able to say, in a random conversation, ‘I got drunk in a mine once.”
It has to do with not missing opportunities.  While I lived in New York in the summer of ‘93 I never went up the Empire State building, the Stature of Liberty, or the World Trade Center.  I got kicked off the premises of the World Trade Center for riding my bicycle through it on a Sunday, but that does not really count.
What the hell am I babbling about?  When you have the chance to do something, do it.  The skyscrapers might not be there when you return.  And even if it is stupid and pointless, it just might make a good blog entry.

Ok, back to Saturday night, my partners in discoing were not there yet so I distracted myself with looking at the bookshelves.  There are four shelves of exchange books, and I am quickly burning through them.  I have yet to find any English language books for sale in this town, so I have been reading some great books by Vonnegut, Christie, LeGuin and even an Eric Newby about his life before becoming a famous travel writer.  But I have also been reading some really crappy crime dramas and even a romance.
The two arrive and explain that that they met some exchange students from Guadalajara who want to come along, but they will not be ready until 11.  So we drink some 9-peso XX beers while waiting.
The four exchange students arrive, which is actually five, and we step out into the cold 7,500 foot Zacatecas December evening.  Everyone zips up their jackets and stuffs their hands in their pockets.
There is a little confusion, bumping into each other, before I realize that I am the only one who knows where we are going.  So I point in the correct direction and head off.  There are introductions all around while walking down the street.  The four exchange students are all early 20-something European girls.  They say their names, which instantly disappear from my brain, and their countries, France, Denmark etc…
The introductions are interrupted by the girls saying they want a taxi.  I say that it is not very far and that walking would be better.  They hum and haw, and I realize that they really want to take a taxi.  Ok, I say, there is a taxi rank just over there, but I feel like walking, so those who want a taxi can go that way and those who want to walk can come with me.  The girls and the boy with them head for the taxi stand; Hans and Simon come with me.   There never was a formal introduction to the boy with the girls.  He was about their age, but looked Hispanic.  His thick black hair jutted three inches from his head in all directions, a genetic fight between curled African and straight Hispanic.
The three walkers made quiet comments that they are students, not real travelers.  With the underlying thought that we’re better because we are real world travelers, traveling the true way, walking and seeing the locals and their world.  Which, of course is bullshit, but nice romantic bullshit.
The girls are waiting for us in the mine train.  Which is not really a train.  The tracks were removed and the tunnel floor concreted over, with a small guide groove running down the center of the tunnel, like an RC car on a track.  The engine is a small car, with an imitation smoke stack and round boiler for effect.  Despite the unreality of the train, there is a beautiful surreal feeling of trundling down a tight stone tunnel into the heart of the mountain.
After five minutes we exited at a collection of tunnels, connected with archways.  Floodlights were mounted on the ceiling, with collected cables running through eyelets in every direction.  There were two bouncers guarding the locked gate into the rest of the mine, and we entered the club.  On each side were glass cases with ‘Club Mine’ t-shirts and lighters and other stuff for sale.  There was a bored looking girl exchanging coats for tickets behind one.
In a small cavern was the bar and a suit wearing man escorted us into the disco, placing us at a counter along the wall.  The music was playing, but no one was really dancing yet.
The cavern was a large dome, maybe 200 feet across and 100 feet high.  The rock was a soft brown and the chisel and mining marks were clearly visible.  On a stone shelf 20 feet over the bar were the two DJ’s.  The dance floor was in the center of the room, and circular, surrounding this were low round tables with chairs, and then tall round tables and stools and finally a high counter running round the edge of the wall, with stools.
Simon and I looked at the few, busy looking men with trays and orange ‘La Mina’ polo shirts and orange hard hats, and decided to visit the bar ourselves.
We went and stood at the bar and they ignored us until on of the bartenders pointed toward the woman with the cash register at the end.  Simon ordered a beer and she took his money and gave him a receipt, with the bartender promptly took and gave him the beer.
I asked for ginebra.  She looked confused.  I asked again, trying to pronounce the word slowly.  She still looked confused.  I found the drink menu on the bar and pointed to:  Genebra:  Beefeaters $65, Negro Oso $35.  She smiled and took my 35 pesos.
The barman glanced at the receipt, began to spin round, stopped and looked at the receipt again.  Then he took a quick glance at me before turning around.
I guess no one orders gin here.
He grabs a bottle and pours it into a measuring glass, and I notice that it says vodka on the bottle; Negro Oso obviously makes both Vodka and Gin.  I stop him and say “No vodka.”  He smiles and says “Si, ginebra.”  I reach over and gently turn the bottle in his hand to show the vodka label.  He looks surprised and turns back to the collection of bottles. I get a gin on ice with soda water and a twist of lime.
I still haven’t found tonic water.

Back in the disco and the dance floor is filling up. Ricky Martin sings something in Spanish, and I watch the people dance, and the video on the four flat screen TV’s mounted on the wall.
The girls are dancing, and they dance well, comfortable and relaxed as they move, even though we are standing in front of the counter, between the tables, in a walkway, rather than on the dance floor.
Their male friend dances with them, moving from girl to girl, flirtatiously, but innocently.  Hans is not dancing, he does not look like he has ever danced, and he stands on the other side of the group, not drinking, and watching the happenings.  The Englishman is dancing, but off to the side, and he is dancing in a quiet insecure sort of way.  He doesn’t look comfortable, but moves because the girls are dancing, and they are young and cute, and there is probably a little hope for later in the evening in his mind.
I sit on a stool and sip my drink and smoke a cigarette.
The music sways back and forth between English and Spanish.  After Ricky Martin, is a modern version of ‘I Will Survive’ then a Spanish song, then Britney Spears.  Next is a Spanish song that must be famous, because everyone cheers at the first few thumping beats and sings along.  The whole dance floor raises their arms in unison with the chorus.
It is, of course, mostly young people, college age.  There are couples who are specifically dancing with each other.  There are mixed groups, dancing in a circle, and their eyes wander from the group, searching out partners for the evening.
There are older people too.  Married couples in their 40’s dancing easily with each other, and even one old lady, sitting quietly while three generations milled and danced around her.
The next time at the bar the cashier nodded and asked me something I did not understand, but I answered with ‘Si, Ginebra” and she nodded and took my money.  The bartender easily made my drink this time.
The gin was beginning to sink in, and I felt out of place.  Uncomfortable.  I did not want to dance to this music, it does not make my feet tap.  I don’t like dancing to music I don’t like, because I cannot relax to the music, and dance self-consciously and badly.  And I don’t want to dance badly because, well, I don’t want to look stupid.
Maybe another gin and I will feel like dancing.
Another gin and the Bloodhound Gang sing their romantic song about the Discovery Channel.  It has a good beat, I can dance to this, but as I dance people push through our dancing group.  We are officially in a walkway.  Each time this happens I break rhythm and each time it is harder to start back up again.  Eventually near the end of the song, I give up and sit back down on the stool and go back to watching the people and the laser light show.
The night drags on, and I become more and more bored with the music and the people.  Some of the local boys have drunk enough courage to come over and dance with the white European girls.
I don’t need to be here any more.  I scream goodnight into the ear of the Simon and quietly disappear, trundling into the cold night air on the train.  I shake my head at the eager taxi drivers and walk home.
I can feel the alcohol in my body, but I don’t feel drunk, not drunk enough to fall asleep, I know that I will get home and the sugar or whatever it is will not allow me to sleep for some time.  I don’t want to sit alone on my deck waiting for sleep.

Luckily, Los Quince Letres is on the way home.
The bar is reasonably full at this time of night, which I would guess at the mid one o’clock range.  There is a stool open at the bar so I sit down.  The spry middle-aged man sitting on my right says hola, and I return the hello.  The bartender looks at me and I smile and ask for ‘Ginebra con heilo’.  He looks slightly taken aback, and I repeat the request.  He gives me an ‘Ok whatever you want’ sort of look, reaches to the bottles and pulls out ‘Negro Oso’ and shows it to me, I nod and say ‘Si’.
The man sitting next to me, and I, sip our drinks, smoke cigarettes and have a conversation.  He speaks a small amount of English so it is the usual stunted interchange.
We do the where are you from question? (Los Angeles) Then how long are you here?  My answer of three months stumps him for a moment.  Why are you here?  And I answer with work.  What work? I answer with escritor y photographia.  Almost all of them ignore the photography part and ask what I write.
At this point I feel a little strange, like I am cheating, or pulling a fast one.  I am saying that I am a writer, but I have made almost no money at writing.  I believe am not really a writer until someone else, someone I don’t know, pays for a piece.  But then the other side kicks in, the side that says that I write every day, so I am a writer.  A little exchange from the movie ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ pops into my head,
Holly Golightly: What do you do, anyway?
Paul Varjak: I’m a writer, I guess.
Holly Golightly: You guess? Don’t you know?
Paul Varjak: OK, positive statement. Ringing affirmative. I’m a writer.

My newest drinking partner and I continue to drink, he works in construction in Zacatecas, and wants to know what my novel will be about, I tell about working in a bar in California, and the people in the bar, he smiles and nods his head.  I get up to pee, and pause for a moment, my hand resting on the stool, just to catch my bearings.  I guess I’ve had enough to drink.
Back from the bathroom and there is some gin to finish, and I can’t leave it, so another cigarette with my friend.  I look at the paintings and photographs on the wall.  I ask if one day, if my book is famous, I can hang the cover on the wall.  He says yes, we can find a place for your book and I nod and smile feeling good.
The cigarette and gin are done, the tab is paid and I am out the swinging doors onto the street.  A quick shiver and zip up the jacket, and with my head down, walk the single car wide cobble stoned street.
The streets are empty and well lit, so I walk down the middle of the street.  There are wooden doors, and I know that down here, near the center of town, behind the door are beautiful private courtyards, open to the sky with arches holding up the walkways.  These were the houses of the rich men who owned the mines.
On my right is a stone church, with the flying buttresses leaping almost into the street.
At the next corner a traffic light stands at red for no vehicles.
I smile at my temporary home.  The shuttered shops that sell my simple food and goods.  The thirty steps leading from one street to another, which are wide enough to make an impromptu amphitheater on most nights for brass bands and clowns.
At home I sit on the deck, for one last cigarette and look at the dark domed cathedral looming out of the night, and smile.
This place feels good.

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