Opportunities Only

Tuesday morning, the best morning of my week.

I walk down the narrow, cobblestone streets to meet with my writing group. For three hours we will sit in zen-like silence, putting on paper or more likely screen, whatever our heads create.

An artist sits outside our room, leaving little space for tourists to pass through, against a corner column, sketching the fountain, the garden, and arches of the old San Miguel de Allende cloister. His wife lounges on the ground, six feet away, directing him with hand motions as she sketches him from his left side. Another sketcher records both artists, capturing the first artist’s right side.

Inside, we look neither left nor right, only at our writing. When time is called, I don’t want to leave. I want to stay longer in that huge, dark, old room with so much history but I must leave. Other groups will want to use the room to create their own histories, lives, visions.

Some Tuesdays when we are finished and I’m unready to schlepp up the hill toward home, I move on to a coffee shop, even a restaurant, nursing a margarita with a burger or enchilada. I continue to write. Some days I want only to saunter, absorbing the cobblestones and history under my soles, perhaps, in my soul. Other times, boarding a bus that I have no idea of its destination provides the perfect post-writing activity.

Today was a walking, even wandering day.

I turned right where, usually I turn left. I marveled at workers, using little more than picks and shovels, digging up and putting back together by hand, stones that create a major street. Soon I had left the tourists and other gringos behind me. Now everyone wore a darker skin, spoke mainly Spanish. No one stared at steeples or read an online map. These passersby focused on their daily chores, knowing each street corner like the back of well used hands.

I followed their lead, crisscrossing streets, fitting my path under shade trees. At a small church with a fountain and garden area larger than it, on one of its several metal benches, I rested. Adults, sometimes a parent, other times a grand or perhaps a great-grandparent held a child’s hand tightly, the school day now finished. A pair of lovers relaxed next to me, sharing a chocolate cupcake. Two teen boys wearing tidy school uniforms, each focused on his books and phone, enjoyed a nearby bench.

I crossed Canal Street, seeing what I’d been ready for — a Mexican snack, something small, enticing, and explode-in-my-mouth tasty. Sitting on a bucket next to a pickup truck’s open tailgate, a gray haired- grandmotherly woman, wearing her Oaxaca style apron, offered her wares, straight from the kitchen. Above the truck flew a four-foot wide and two feet high banner, white with red lettering, advertising empanadas.

Empanadas, akin to the Scottish pastie, the Polish pierogi, the American turnover, often is found where fast food would be offered here, maybe next to the bar during theatre intermission. Resembling a tiny doughy purse, stuffed with an assortment of chopped meat and/ or vegetables, shall we say, definitely some are better than others.

These were on the better side, way, way out past the moon fantastic side. I settled on a pepperoni one, declining vegetable, chorizo, or pollo, paid her the Mexico peso dollar equivalent. Still warm, it did exactly what I wanted it to do, explode in my mouth, leaving no taste bud unturned. I smiled in awe and thanked her. Never better street food.

When cars passed, I walked across the narrow street, past a half dozen young men mixing concrete on the sidewalk as they constructed a corner two story house, on toward the shade. A few feet from the workers, in front of a variegated century plant and under a thirty-foot ficus tree shade canopy, I lounged on a low cement wall. Then, again, my palate touched culinary heaven.

No Parisian baker could have presented a flakier, tastier crust. I savored the combination of pepperoni, steamed and shredded cactus, with mushrooms. Each orange colored bite of the pastry matched the flavor packed filling.

“Una mas, por favor” I considered saying, returning for a second one but I refrained, proud of my self-discipline. Save the treat for another day, I told my no longer hungry self. I pressed onward, passing a used clothing shop, a tienda or two, a tiny pharmacy, and the local school. A few older, wizened sellers sat curbside, offering squash flowers, sunflower seeds, and chewing gum.

Then the helado shop, known to gringos as the ice cream store, appeared. Its immaculate, all white, wide open front, comfortable chairs, and cool shade raised the volume of whatever culinary god called me to sample the wares. “Queso con salsa mora”, the proprietor wrote on my phone when I asked her the name of the sublime ice cream I had chosen.

Cheese with blackberry sauce, Google reported, was the creamy, burst in my mouth flavor stuffed into my cone. Perhaps a kind of cottage cheese with blackberries in it? Certainly, I’d seen something small, blackish purple fused throughout it. Whatever, whatever I told myself. I must return for more sampling of Queso con salsa Mora and several others that filled the cardboard bins in her freezer.

The problem with this? None exist, only opportunities.

Next week I can find the empanada creator, interview her, learn her recipes, write about it. The helado shop owner may share with me her route to entrepreneurship, maybe telling me about her frequent customers. The industrious, cement pouring workers have stories of their own that could be told.

And there will be more streets for me to discover and walk.

And write about the following Tuesday.


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Barbara Cole, Ph.D.

Played with a pet dinosaur. Loves developing countries and startups. Intends to be taller and speak every language in next life.