Zentraveler experiments with Mescal in Oaxaca, Mexico

One of the great philosophers said: “life is an experiment.” That being said, since I wasn’t in the confines of a science laboratory and the travel bug bit me—- off I go without a clear destination to travel through the real Mexico. Arriving by a travel van to El Paso, Texas, I arranged for a sleeper train car to Mexico City. After being told all sleepers were taken, I slipped the train porter a crisp ten-dollar bill and was ticketed immediately.

I can’t remember exactly, but I think the trip took 32 hours. Of course you have to remember the train stops for supplies, stops for water, stops for unknown reasons, and backs up sometimes in a small town. I love this form of travel. You are stretched out in your sleeper car watching the desert fly by, watching cattle without fences, and getting a vista into the real Mexican lifestyle. Everyone is carrying something, eating something or just moving along.

The experience on the train is simply fantastic. In the dinning car we had “filet mignon” for the evening meal with real white tablecloths . With a push of a button in your sleeper car a porter served you drinks and attends to your needs with a professional attitude. Very relaxing and very refreshing. And we think we have the answer by climbing behind the wheel and driving 24 hours straight to get somewhere.

After arriving in Mexico City five or six hours behind schedule, we changed trains at the main train station and headed for the central part of Mexico. Looking at a city block of people wrapped in a maze at the train station, I called over an official looking person, handed him a crisp five dollar bill, and received our tickets to Oaxaca within minutes.

As we rolled through the valleys and agricultural part of Mexico, it continued to pour down buckets of rain. As if on a mystical adventureland— the rain and the fog lifted just over the train allowing us to penetrate the clouds as if we were flying through space. Off to sleep I went– watching the rain pound against the glass and seeing the terrain fly by as if we were in a kaleidoscope. Sleeping like a baby with the monotonous sound of the train, and the train swaying back and forth, I had one of the best night sleeps I had ever had in my life.

Just as I stepped out of my cabin to head to the dinning car for breakfast, I saw my travel friends in a frantic state. JD’s hair was standing straight up and with his best stutter attempt said to me: “The rivver is coming up aren’t you worried. We have beeeen up all night worried to death. One of the trains coming the opposite direction went into the river and it’s a National Emergency.” I pointed out to JD that I was on the land side of the train and couldn’t even see the river so I didn’t have a clue.

Just then the train slid to an abrupt halt just before the river’s edge. All passengers were ordered off the train immediately, where we waited patiently on terra firma. The train tracks ahead were totally submerged and under water. A few hours later the Mexican National Guard showed up with a truck load of workers, who put in a new section of track in order for the train to move forward. I might add they did this nasty, back-breaking task, under gun-point. The train looked exactly like the train from the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid movie.

Several hours later we tied into the old rail line and were on our way—– going down in elevation as we cruised through the rich, green, agricultural valley. Upon arriving in Oaxaca we rented cabinas along the scenic river on the edge of town. We meandered into town and looked at their beautiful handicrafts and pottery. JD still having the shakes from the train ride suggested we have a drink of tequila to calm our nerves.

The three of us tried to enter the local bar and was told, Brenda the lady, was not allowed in and that this bar was a mescal males bar only. She chose to sit outside at another cafe-bar as JD and myself went inside the mescal bar. We each ordered a shot which came in a tall skinny shot glass, whereas the bartender proceeded to sprinkle powdered red worms on the top of our wrists. “Lick it off and down the Mescal” the bartender instructed. Smooth as silk— I asked JD if he felt anything and he replied: “No Just tastes like spring water.”

About this time a tall lanky Texan named Teal bellied up to the bar and informed us about two or three of these Mescal shots would be all a fellow would need, especially if you haven’t drank this variety, which comes in daily from the Mescal Factory on the outskirts of town.” He went on to say: “that this is the dregs of the factory and they bring it in a vat,” which we could see the bartender was serving out of— using a ladle like they do at weddings.” La Vida Mescal Pura!

As we were trading travel stories, we had a few more shots and marveled how you didn’t feel a thing. Teal went on to say: “that these Mescal bars serve a social service for the locals and must be shut down at 7 p.m. sharp so they can return to their families.” Just about that time a pair of small statured Mescal Police came staggering in the door, drank a few shots of Mescal, and told everyone they had to leave. They were totally Borracho (drunk) as they blew their whistles and waved their batons.

We got the message and exited the Mescal bar mas rapido only to discover a torrential rain storm driving three and four feet of water right down the main street. With JD and myself feeling no pain, we asked each other if this mescal bothered either one of us. Out answer was a melodious: “just a singing in the rain.” We must have looked quite ridiculous walking down a street flowing with flood water—- just a singing.

The next thing I remember was seeing the bright sunlight streaming in the window. As I looked for my clothes and luggage I couldn’t find even a wash-rag. I stepped out of my cabina in the all natural only to hear JD Yell ” boy are you lucky they came in the middle of the night and carried you to high ground—- your old cabina floated down the river during the flood.” Just then Brenda asked: “If I was sick. I replied: “I feel a bit disconnected, but other than that I feel fine.” She went on to say: “JD was sicker than a skunk and was up all night throwing up.”

Right here and there I got down on my hands and knees and thanked God for saving my skin. I also uttered my infamous prayer: “Dear God If you let me slide today— I will never drink straight Mescal directly from the vat and that’s a promise; however I may slip on occasion and drink Mescal from a bottle or have his first cousin Mr. Tequila. Amen. ”

We then headed to the pharmacy and I handed the pharmacist a note which read: “too much Mescal!” He handed us an envelope of large brown pills. He sort of grinned and said to take a few of these and you will be feeling better very soon. As we walked toward an outdoor cafe I saw orange antelopes running down the street and lifted my legs like they were on air. I have no idea what he gave us, but I would lay odds it had something to do with the super lucid Mescaline plant.

After a nice lunch, Brenda was covered with hives and went to the local Doctor, who looked in the Medical Dictionary for her disease and symptoms. He then pulled out a seven inch needle and shot her in the buttocks. After that ordeal, Brenda shed a few crocodile tears and hopped the first flight back to the states.

We took the leisurely train back to EL Paso and had much time to reflect. I was told Timothy O’Leary was experimenting with acid in the general area of Oaxaca and I wondered whether Carlos Fuentes, the famous Mexican writer with his outstanding contribution to literature “Don Quixote” and in his early career wrote several short stories, where the real world is mingled with the world of fantasy, spent time in Oaxaca and experimented with magic mushrooms and mescaline.

The thing that is apparent from traveling in Mexico is the wonderful, colorful people, with their great imaginations and visions to the past and present. Their great artistic contributions and a sense of being connected. I only hope they don’t get too westernized and lose their sense of identity. Time will tell!

QUOTE: “The sun shines warmly, The spring snow clears; The jaws of the plum And the face of the willow Vie with their fragrant freshness. The occasion for poetry And spiritual divertissement Holds boundless meaning Permitted to the person Who wanders in the fields And arduously composes poetry! ”

– Daito Kokushi——dailyzen.com

THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW: How Does a Chameleon Change Colors?

Chameleons are lizards known for their ability to change colors. But contrary to popular belief, the chameleon does not change its color to match its background. It changes as a result of its mood, the temperature, or light conditions.

Most chameleons have brown or green as their main color, but they can turn to an off-white, yellow, or light green. When they are cold, their color is lighter than when they are warm.

The chameleon’s skin has several layers, with different color pigment cells in each layer. The inner layer has black pigment cells. The chameleon’s nerves control the expansion and contraction of the color cells. When the black cells either move closer to or farther from the skin surface, they blend with, blot out, or intensify other cells. This causes the chameleon’s color to change.

The chameleon’s tongue, which always hits its prey, can be extended more than twice the length of the chameleon’s body! ——-bigsiteofamazingfacts.com

THINGS YOU MAY WANT TO SAVE: Adopt a Gorilla… Save a Species!

An excellent way to help protect the last remaining mountain gorillas is to adopt a gorilla. They also make wonderful gifts for your friends and loved ones any time of year. Proceeds from adoptions directly support the gorillas monitored by the Karisoke Research Center staff.——gorillafund.org

ZENTRAVELER SAYS: Empty your mind!

Follow the Zentraveler Blog often for Travel, Health and Zen-like stories and such. Where else can you get a three in one blog for the price of free!


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