We now unveil the cover of my new book Fresh Wind & Strange Fire: One Man’s Adventures in Primal Mexico. (I’m gonna need to change my pants.) I love how the warm red Oaxacan sunset pairs with the cool blue Alaskan daybreak on the cover of Sacred Ground & Holy Water: One Man’s Adventures in the Wild. Don’t You? Take a good hard look at both images and you won’t likely need any viagra prescription, but just in case that isn’t enough to get you dangerously flushed, I now present the opening page. (Drum roll please!)
Butterflies are sluts. If you don’t know this, you don’t know Mexico’s classic rock group Maná or the thousands of Latinas who sway at every performance to the sultry rhythms of “Mariposa”: a song about an achingly beautiful girl flitting from one sticky pollination to another. Butterflies are also mystical. At one such concert outside Mexico City, I stand mesmerized by the sacred butterfly Quetzalpapalotl, tattooed on a smooth brown shoulder in front of me. La bonita wears a backless red dress. Her low posterior fuzz trail guides my imagination southward to a steamy overgrown valley, but not even hunger for animal love can fully distract me from the life of crime I begin tomorrow.
Buying a fake passport is scary. Yet when morning comes, I feel more like mischievous Tom Sawyer than a serious law-breaker. Starting from the Mexican national cathedral, I walk a few blocks to 405 Palma Norte. The building has no sign and the elevator doesn’t work. Several dim-lit stair flights bring me to Suite 403: Kinko’s Printing. The fat shifty owner is called Paco. We negotiate a price of five thousand pesos for a document of government-issued components with my photo and details. I sit down for a nervous wait. The office displays a virgin, a rosary, a crucifix, an open Bible and the saint of impossible causes Judas Tadeo. The workroom is hidden behind a partition with a peep-hole aimed at the door.
My fear shames me. Just a few hundred meters from where I now tremble, one of the ballsiest men who ever lived pulled off one of the ballsiest feats ever attempted. The military genius and moral retard Hernán Cortés once ascended a forbidding staircase in this same neighborhood to the top of the Templo Mayor. Here he took in a terrifying view. Human skull walls and blood-spattered floors recalled ritual sacrifice and cannibalism. Beyond this disturbing sight, he saw innumerable legions of enraged Aztec warriors and vast uncrossable waterways surrounding him on all sides. Rather than run or hide, Hernán defined the phrase proactive leader. Kidnapping the deified Mexica emperor Montezuma at knifepoint, he governed the far flung Aztec empire for about six months as a prisoner with a hostage. Some men apparently don’t need a “No Fear” T-shirt.
After four hours of sweating and foot tapping, I receive my illicit order. Time to scram. A tube of black hair dye and a cheap hotel room transform me into an undercover gringo ready to launch my own conquest of new worlds. The following journey is true. You’re invited to join me with no danger of being arrested as an accomplice. Let’s get going….