Only have a minute? Listen instead
BROWNSVILLE — The papel picado hanging from the line across the dining area seems out of place in a quiet dining area where only one table entertains diners.
My phone will soon die, so I take with me the cord to charge my phone at Bigo’s Bar and Grill at 464 Paredes Line Road. The waiter points out several outlets, but I don’t have a block with me, only the cord. I realize now that I will have to dine alone because my phone will soon die.
I step through an archway to a room adjacent to the main dining area next to walls with calming images of cups and plates in the kind of subdued colors which offer sweet escapes from the painful processes of logic and reason and analysis. Here, I can lose myself in quiet colors and shapes and the afternoon sunlight illuminating the butterscotch curtains.
The waiter in the green shirt brings me a menu and a plate of chips and salsas. I look over the menu, at the parrilladas and the huaraches and the fajitas and the Matamoros tacos. My waiter brings my tall glass of ice water and asks if I’m ready to order and I pinch my finger and thumb together and say “un momentito.”
I take another minute and decide on the fajitas de res (the real kind of fajitas — note there’s an ongoing debate over whether there is such a thing as chicken fajitas). I am ready to order. I’m drinking my water. I’m ready and waiting to order.
I’m waiting to order — and my waiter does not come. The grand and spacious dining room is virtually empty except for one table with a couple of women engaging in quiet discourse over a mid-afternoon lunch. There is almost no activity, and my waiter does not come.
I notice now that the table behind me is cluttered with crumpled napkins and spent forks and spoons and dirty knives and empty plates and one with the remnants of a meal. It’s about 3 p.m., no one else is here, the restaurant is empty, and that table has not been cleared and my waiter has not come. I keep looking at that table behind me and feel lightheaded because I have not eaten today and I am hungry.
Frustration and annoyance compel me finally to stand up and look for my waiter. I look around a door and I see him. He appears idle and I gesture to him and he nods and comes to my table and takes my order.
I wait now and the annoyance still pulls at me, but the quiet of the afternoon and the peace and the warm and gentle light in the window eases that annoyance so I can relax and enjoy the afternoon at Bigo’s.
The high ceiling gives a sense of space and peace and power and security. I am reminded for a moment now of the Alhondiga de Granaditas in Guanajuato for its high walls and the appearance of windows and walkways and the many colors.
I don’t know why Bigo’s has reminded me of the Alhondiga in Guanajuato because the Alhondiga was a huge granary and Bigo’s is a restaurant with a high ceiling and bright Guanajuato colors and there is really not that much similarity.
But I consider now that lately many things have reminded me of Guanajuato. On my trip to Morelia in May, I passed through Queretaro and I passed a wall that said, “Guanajuato Chingon.” This weekend at the Harlingen Bazaar, a young woman was selling handmade clothing and jewelry from Guanajuato, and a restaurant in San Benito had paintings of the cobblestone streets and the flowered balconies of Guanajuato. My friend Julieta has been making frequent visits lately to the city of Guanajuato and to San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato and posting pics online.
I wonder now if perhaps I’m being called to Guanajuato for some reason. Morelia is a much loved and treasured place in Mexico and in fact all of the world. Morelia is my chosen place, but sometimes we must venture from the chosen place to the different place and the unknown place for new inspiration and exploration and discovery.
Of course Guanajuato is not an unknown place but I have not visited there in almost 20 years so certainly it has a difference now from what it was. The artist’s life, the explorer’s life, must never become static, becomes static by its very nature descends into stagnation. To keep the vitality of the artist’s life we must from time to time step away from the chosen and the familiar to the variation and the dissonance to make the foreign familiar and apply it to the ever extending tapestry of our artistic lives.
My plate arrives and my beef fajitas and the grilled onions are delicious and I appreciate the small corn tortillas, which are always better than flour tortillas. Their irregular shape indicates they may have been made in-house and that is always good.
I finish my meal but as I see the table behind me still has not been cleared I cannot bring myself to give a very large tip as I usually do but cannot give nothing either. I leave a small tip that hopefully sends a message that, at least on this occasion, the service can be better.
It’s a Saturday evening and I’m back at Bigo’s and things are moving more quickly and there is noise and the calming influence of casual conversation and activity of place and circumstance that endears me to a place. Groups of people have taken tables and a little girl and a smaller boy skip toward a table and a man in a cap says “pineapple?” And the girl nods and there is laughter and the scraping of chairs and the smell of my huarache Bigo’s set before me by a quick young waiter.
I’ve always been amused by menus offering huaraches because the first time I ever heard someone mention huaraches they were talking of shoes made of tire rubber. So when I see huaraches on the menu it feels like they are preparing rubber tire shoes in the kitchen for consumption in the dining room. It is for this reason I have never eaten a huarache because I have not wanted to eat shoes.
This evening, I still have no appetite for shoes but the menu describes huarache at Bigo’s as grilled beef fajita wrapped in a large flour tortilla with guacamole and that sounds delicious to me and so I order one. The plate before me now invites me to a fine experience.
It’s a delicious meal which I enjoy slowly while taking in more fully my surroundings. The fine cacophony of conversation grows and becomes a greater tapestry of discourse as a birthday crowd converges on a table. A man pushes an older woman in a wheelchair out the door and a young couple with a baby walks in.
I notice now the increases of the voices taking on a sort of echoing and reverberation of sound because of the high ceiling and the walls.