OPIUM FOR BREAKFAST, SLEEP FOR DINNER
A poetic and visual journey through Mexico.
WORDS AND IMAGES BY TOMS DUMPIS
PIECES SELECTED FROM A LONGER WRITTEN COLLECTION
A thousand little bug bites
Appeared over my body
As I drifted in and out of sleep
In the tropical Mexican climate
(Is it tropical?).
A blue mat separated my body
From a concrete slab,
The damp night air and my sweat
Clung to my skin
Like a wet cloth,
And my exhaustion,
The foliage around me
And the jungle expanded In every direction
As far as the eye could see.
What a perfect place
To get lost.
Outtakes from Mexico – Ultimate Care II
Dim light played trick on the corner of the room. Sounds of water filled the room, coming from a little black box in the other corner of the room.
Two half naked people lay, tangled up.
A simple percussion joined the sound of water.
‘I can get down with this, what is it?’ she asked.
‘Matmos, uh, Ultimate Care II, it’s like an album made out of... Um... Washing machine sounds’ he answered.
The night-light was composed of a phone flashlight, and a couple of semi-see-through caramel wrappers covering, and refracting the light at odd angles.
It was about 16 degrees, late at night, somewhere in the Mexican mountains.
‘Like, he plays a washing machine live, with loop pedals, and stuff’. He readjust his body against hers.
‘It’s actually pretty avant-garde’ his voice, as well as his mind, trailed off.
She burst out laughing, softly mocking him with the words ‘You wouldn’t understand’. Her body wrapped around his, their legs like a Gordian knot.
Distorted rhythms and noise coming from the little speaker, filled in for the melody.
‘Will you kiss me?’ he asked.
Got nothing but loose pockets
And your company,
Which all things considered
Is one of the better things
That could have happened to me.
Slight inclines (your worst enemy)
And a lot of Dos Equis
(By the litre even)
A flurry of narrow streets,
And a manuscripts worth of imaginary dialogues.
Rides in the back of pick up trucks,
And camping in the sands
Of both the Atlantic
And the Pacific.
Opium for breakfast,
Sleep for dinner,
You couldn’t get this
As a packaged holiday.
For the ups and downs,
The Agua Azure that ran like stale coffee,
For the lost (and found) phones,
And for all the panic, and the breakdowns,
I still wouldn’t have it any other way.
Outtakes from Mexico – Fresh mountain air
It was not a religious experience, I realised as I was getting a tattoo done in some hostel in the Mexican mountains, high on opium and some hash. It was not fate. I guess you could say I was at the right place at the right time, but then again, I am sure that this was not the only accommodation in the country where you had a group of friendly hippies making tattoos and smoking dope.
‘Want a joint?’ I offered to Yuri, the man who was poking the needle in and out of my skin, like Pollock would have splattered his canvas.
‘Weed or hash?’ he enquired, without looking up.
‘Weed’. I lit up the joint.
‘No thanks; I’m very sensitive to THC. Really, I only smoke opium’. He put a lot of stress on the ‘really’.
He was Spanish, long black hair tied up in a bun, olive skinned, he sat topless, sweat dripping off his back, hunched over my ankle, patiently stabbing away at my leg.
We had an Egyptian, a couple of Mexicans, a Spaniard, a Slovak-Aussie, and me. Tattoo artists, journalism, a trade or two, military, and a university drop out. So it’s not surprising that someone was rolling at any given time, and at least one or two joints were being passed around the table like STDs during first year of uni.
When travelling, as a nomad or otherwise, it was not unusual for groups to form, especially amongst the people staying at a hostel for prolonged periods of time, and those working there. You would drink together, share food, score drugs together, exchange tips and tricks of travel, as well as some suggestions about far away places, the usual. And as soon as the group splits, just as fast you became friends, you’d disappear from each others lives forever. But this time there was something different, maybe it was the altitude, the dope, or maybe for once, there really was some kind of a connection...
Whether we will actually stay in touch or not, who knows, that chapter is yet to be written, but Yuri and I made a deal, that sometime, somewhere, we will meet and finish the tattoo around my ankle. More unlikely things have happened to me.
None the less, the tattoos were done, we stood around proudly displaying our pieces, like an art gallery in flesh. The ash trays were full, and the beers were empty, it was late afternoon, and while the plan was to leave hitching with Ana, the Aussie, straight after breakfast, opium has this nasty little habit of leaving you wanting more (and of course the tats, and the good company). So, in an oblivious haze, we overstayed our welcome relying on the kindness of Mexican drivers, hoping they would pick us up, even late in the evening. They wouldn’t.
We skipped town in a collectivo, a little bus that fits more people in it than a clown car, going up and down the mountainous roads for next to nothing. By the time we reached the hitchhiking spot in a town at the base of the mountain, it was dark. Still, we tried to hitch for a few hours. As I thought, no luck. We looked trough the maps we had, and we were somewhere in between the edge of a busy town, a military base, and what we assumed to be a monastery. Out of the three options, setting up camp outside the supposed monastery, seemed to be the safest bet.
And so, that’s what we did, cracked a few beers, smoked a spliff, and set up the tent somewhere between the stucco walls and a busy highway. That’s how we slept, more rock than grass, the lullaby of the highway lulling us to sleep (but never for too long, something always woke you up).
The alarms were set for quarter to six, you want to get up early, so you have time to break down, before the break of dawn, and before people start wandering around, wondering what two gringos are doing in a tent by the highway. It was still dark.
About 200 meters up the road the police were setting up a checkpoint, both sides. Once again, we got stuck, now, with the scorching sun rising in the clear blue sky.
After five hours of trying to catch shade, or a ride, of cops thumbing for us and laughing with us through our mangled Spanish, a pick up truck stopped. Without sharing a word with the drivers, we threw our bags in the trunk, and jumped in after them. We took out a couple of beers from our bags, and with wind in our hair, drove off into the mountains.
About 300 kilometres left. Tonight we will be sleeping on the sands of the Pacific Ocean.