|June 28, 2013 | Mexico, Reading, Travels

This, the new 14th edition. First published 41 years ago, continuously updated. Seriously, fuck Lonely Planet — this is the most entertaining, fun, fact-filled travel book I can think of. 

Page 211, on small-town hotels : ” In the smallest towns, selecting a hotel is usually just a choice of just one or two. Take it or leave it. This might sound grim, but I’ve found that these places almost inevitably provide rich material for entertaining stories and memories. The gigantic rooster tethered outside our window, loudly protesting its captivity every 30 seconds; the insane elderly aunt locked in a spare room who demanded Coca-Cola 24 hours a day; the landlord’s barking dog, stunned into temporary silence by an occasional firecracker lobbed from the front desk; a boardinghouse television tuned to incomprehensible quiz shows until midnight; being rousted at 5 a.m. by a desk clerk who invited me to visit his avocado orchard and watch him blow up a boulder with dynamite; blocking the door against a drunk who insisted on kissing me goodnight; opening the wrong door and finding a sheer four-story drop, and so on – an adventure or an anecdote awaiting every night. “

Page 435, on brothels : ” A typical small-town brothel is usually a rather hilarious place. ( Those that cater to tourists along the border or near resorts are designed for foreign tastes and can’t be considered typical. ) Although the women in a border town bordello might be slightly overdone, they can’t begin to approach the degree of high camp achieved by their sisters farther south.

Unless you’re really horny, a visit to a brothel that caters to campesinos and local businessmen is funny and surrealistic rather than erotic.

Regardless of the season, Christmas decorations are often used lavishly to create that special mood designed to turn a nervous campesino into a snorting stud. The sensual glow of the red, blue, and green bulbs gives just enough light to make the women clustered in a shadowy corner of the room appear tantalizing, muted, and desirable.

Like colorful jungle birds, they signal their potential mates with splashy purple, red, violet, and crimson plumage. The real knockout women almost overwhelm the senses with hair piled high in massive beehives and bleached a shocking white.

Just to rub it in, they will occasionally wobble to the bar on elevating high heels, then bend over to whisper confidentially in the bartender’s ear. This contortion raises the ballet-type miniskirt, flashing an enormously broad and bare ass into the room. “

Page 435, on bullfights : ” What is bullfighting? To the Spanish, who invented it, it’s the Fiesta Brava ( the Brave Celebration ); to the Mexicans it’s Seda, Sangre y Sol ( Silk, Blood, and Sun ); and to most gringos, it’s a cruel, ritualized slaughter of innocent cattle.

Bullfighting, also known as the corrida de toros ( running of the bulls ), lidia de toros ( fighting of bulls ), and sombra y sol ( shade and sun ), is definitely not a sport. Some call it a spectacle, while other see it as theater, filled with symbolism and hidden meaning. Siquieros, one of Mexico’s most popular muralists, contemptuously referred to bullfighting as ” the dance of the butchers. ”

Whatever you call it, one thing is certain: until you’ve seen a bullfight, you can’t begin to appreciate it. This, anyway, was what I kept telling myself as I shifted uncomfortably on the hard concrete bench next to Nacho, shielding my eyes from the glare of the late afternoon sun. In the ring below, the young matador nervously maneuvered toward another attempt at a kill. The bull watched him warily, its dusty black shoulders quivering with exhaustion and scarlet rivulets of blood. This would be the sixth estocada ( sword thrust ); less than two minutes remained for the matador to make his kill or be ordered from the ring.

‘ Use it on yourself, you pinche…! ‘ a voice raged from behind us.

‘ We’ll give the bull your ear! ‘ another frustrated aficionado ( fan ) cried, attempting to add injury to insult by hurling an expensive cowboy boot at the flustered matador.

‘ Put it up your…! ‘

The matador suddenly tensed, raising the bloody curved blade with his right arm, sighting along its length for la cruz, the crucial entry spot above and between the beast’s heaving shoulders. The bull tossed its head stubbornly, whipping long streamers of red-flecked saliva through the air. Then, with a final agonized bellow, the bull’s knees buckled, the huge body collapsing into the dust. The bull was dead, killed by a steady loss of blood rather than a sword thrust. The final moment of truth would have required a quick transfusion. 

¡Cuidado compadre! ‘ Nacho said, ducking his head as a barrage of seat cushions, hats, shoes, and scathing insults were hurled upon the hapless bullfighter.

The bullfighter walked quickly toward the exit, his colorful traje de luces ( suit of lights ) the only bright spot in his miserable existence.

A large paper cup struck the humiliated torero ( without making a kill, he wouldn’t be honored with the title matador, ‘ killer ‘ ) in the leg, soaking his immaculate white knee-high stocking.

‘ They’re throwing beer! ” I laughed, amazed at the crowd’s ferocious assault. A volley of cups arched through the air, causing the bullfighter to run for shelter.

‘ That is not beer, compadre, ‘ Nacho said, his face darkening with embarrassment. I looked high into the stands behind us; yes, I could see men fumbling with their pants, bending furtively over paper cups.

‘ A very poor fight, ” Nacho sighed, grimacing slightly as a half-filled bottle of José Cuervo sailed over our heads and shattered in the aisle. Fifty feet to our right, the air filled with hats.

‘ What are they doing? ‘ I asked, amazed to see a veritable tower of sombreros piled on top of another. The majority were cheap woven straw of the type worn by campesinos, but mixed in were others, obviously expensive.

‘ It is nothing! ‘ Nacho answered. ‘ The benches are cement and cannot burn. ‘ As if on signal, the huge mound of headgear erupted in a column of bright flame. The crowd renewed its attack with missiles and expletives.