En route to Mexico City with Tom. What lies ahead is what we are prepare to encounter. I’m traveling light. If it weren’t for my camera, I would have made it into 25 liters. The bags are a Tom Bihn Synapse 25 and the Red Oxx Gator. If I can venture near the indestructibleness of the bags I carry, I may survive this trip. It’ll be 4 days in the D.F., then onto Playa del Carmen, near Cancun. After 9 days of beach-ing, we’ll head to Cuba for another 9 days. This is the plan and the tickets are already booked, if not the accommodations.
The essentials are packed, as light as possibly, along with some digital luxuries:
• 3 pairs of socks
• 1 pair of Nikes
• 1 pair of Sanuks
• 1 pair of pants
• 1 pair of board shorts
• 3 pairs of underwear (2 ExOfficio, 1 Hanes)
• 1 light jacket
• 1 pair of detachable sleeves
• Canon SL-1 body
• 18-55mm kit lens
• 50mm f/1.8
• 2 extra batteries
• Flash drive
• Samsung Galaxy S3
• Travel USB converter
• Dr. Bronner’s
• Gold Bond
• Lavender oil
• Dodgers hat
• Water bottle
• Elk jerky
• Honey Stingers Organic Chews
• Playing cards
• Mini clamps
The journey has already begun in earnest. Since last Sunday, I have already driven over 2,500 miles. I expect by the end of the summer, I will have gone some 15,000 miles. I will have taken some 5,000 pictures and perhaps made the acquaintance of an equal number of unique human souls.
We will board our flight in Los Angeles, after a 3-day stop in Las Vegas. This was the one last chance to relax in the simple bliss of the world at our fingertips. Here, in a few steps we can travel from Paris to Rome, from a pirate ship to a knight’s castle. If one questions the irrelevance of time, one hasn’t spent three days in this glittering pot of wasted dreams and punchdrunk fantasy. The clocks on the wall may be accurate, if not irrelevant.
The buffet at Planet Hollywood turns from breakfast to lunch in one fluid motion. Our stomachs prepare to encounter another time of day with the quiet fortitude required to get its money’s worth. Smoked salmon turns to chicken cordon bleu and hash browns magically reform as french fries.
We escape Nevada with our wallets in tact and I prepare with quiet focus for the trip to Mexico City, Playa del Carmen and then onto Cuba.
We pack into the airport and grab a sandwich at the La Brea Bakery satellite in the Tom Bradley terminal. The famous locales of Los Angeles are transcendent of geographic space; you can eat Pink’s in Las Vegas (or Nathan’s, for that matter).
On the flight over, I’m sitting between a man in his mid-40’s and a young girl no older than 10 who seems endeared to me in a way somewhere between brother and schoolyard crush. She nudges me from sleep to play cards or tell me about the pool her family has in Guatemala.
The man is named Clay Gunn, from Chico, CA. Clay is heading down to Cancun to try and pick up a spot in the Mexican baseball league. A lifetime playing catcher, he’s moved up to the mound for the season. He tells me that for the past few seasons, he’s been swinging into Mexico halfway through the season as fatigue and injuries begin to shorten the roster. He’ll arrange a contract, a place to live, he’s sure of it. The man seems to know what he’s doing.
The vibe is good, the airline serves us a free drink, and then another before the ice has begun to melt. Clay had nearly missed his flight when he fell into conversation with a woman he could barely believe existed. He described that connection, the one that makes your head spin with possibilities and fights back against the belief that humanity is forsaken and we’ll never meet anyone worth sending our heart through the wringer again. Or that’s my interpretation. I promise to let Clay know about my time in Mexico City, to let him know whether or not it’s too dangerous to travel in, as he’s heard.
The flight lands without much excitement, and we deplane. Wiggle our way through customs, but first a bathroom break. I meet back up with Tom and he tells me that an older gentleman passed out at the bottom of the elevator and had already been whisked away by paramedics.
We enter Mexico proper as the sun sets, exchange some money and grab a cab from the airport to our hostel, Mundo Joven Catedral. It’s a well-maintained spot in Zocalo, the City Center, replete with rooftop bar, overpriced café and fully functional wifi. A 20-minute cab ride, a short check-in and we settle in for the long road ahead.