And so a long time ago come me and Reloj to these mysterious lands beyond where most norteños stopped, further than you're supposed to go in Mexico.
One village may have been Nadie, but I can't find it on the map now. It was very hot, and dusty, and it had a central square with a statue of an unidentified military figure lording over a dry fountain. We asked a passing villager who was the Patron.
"Todo el mundo."
"They have a very democratic society here," guessed Reloj.
The village consisted of a rectangle of two-story storefronts with apartments on the second floor, and you could traverse the upper level without coming down, and we did that, because it was the Feria de San Nadie and revelers were everywhere and all the doors were open to them.
There was a rickety bowl just off the main square labeled the Plaza de Toros. We followed a string of locals into the stands and sat there.
The crowd was raucous, and the stadium was full, although it was quite small. The gates at both ends of the oval the plaza made were open, and from time to time cattle wandered through. Their interest was the lush green herbage growing all over the circle at the center of the oval, and whenever one or another cow entered the plaza, great whoops and cheers rang from all sides.
"Is that cabbage?" asked Reloj.
A whole series of botas were flung about the stands in a clockwise direction. Everyone tried to catch the wineskin and draw from it. You shot a stream into your mouth, as they learned from watching. One of the skins came close enough to grab and both of us had a pull. The dark red fluid inspired a sense of well-being and neighborliness.
An effeminate gent entered and the hoots greeted him. He was wearing a huge sombrero of many colors and it was immediately snatched from him to begin the same transit as the botas.
They flung it like a frisbee and it sailed up and down and always around, until it arrived back to its owner after two circuits. He replaced it upon his head with great dignity, and the brim was ripped and he gazed about the crowd with affected sobriety through the gash, the brim sagging to his neck. Wild uproar in the stands.
At some signal everyone stood and milled toward the exits, some patting the passing cattle along the way.
"I tell yuh what," I said, "This bullfighting is one great party."
Our diet was tacos de pollo that season, and some strange mushrooms. We drank Tecate and dirty red all that year. The progression of the party in Nadie, if it was indeed Nadie, was clockwise, like the botas and the sombrero.
In one apartment, they sit. It's just one of the upper-level rooms, or another, and neither Reloj nor I could ever find it again. The hostess suddenly rose up with a stunning idea. Hey, how about some cabbage! Wouldn't you love some cabbage right now?
Without waiting for a consensus to gather (those who cook cabbage alone are seldom aware how they are perceived) she sailed into the kitchen and pots and pans rattled through the open doorway. She would appear at various points in the process to merely smile out at the group, lit with a glaring exposed hanging bulb from the rear and the purity of her mission down front. She was one of them who thinks she comprises the general conscious mind.
There is a helium balloon the size of a child's toy floating in the shaded room, just above the heads. Nobody blew it up or launched it; they all just noticed in turn it was there. Hey, there's a balloon. It would hover directly above until you reached up to rap it, and then it would go away. When it passes the doorway to the kitchen, the fumes of cabbage caused it to waft inward towards the room.
"It's because of lateral cabbage quantum gravity," decided Reloj. "The fragrance does matter."
This goes on.
Someone would nod and smile, slap his knee, and another would agree. An old one would lean forward and look positive. Kids watched the progress of other partiers past the open door, who would glance into the room. Everyone is decidedly hiding their anxiety that someone elsewhere might be having more fun.
All thought eventually is upon the balloon. Should Reloj allow it to stall, fall at his feet? It will be ever so devastating to his place in this quarter were he to allow that to happen.
Conversation lightens like helium, becomes hackneyed, mundane. They talk of the weather because they are all thinking of the balloon. Hot enough fer ye? (The language of this and other stops that year was English. Wherever we went, Reloj and I, most of the crowd consisted of lost women from California. There were gringas plus some Chicanas who spoke English or others pretending to be Brazilian who were not aware the National language of Rio was Portuguese.)
Here it comes.
The hostess must think they are ripe for cabbage, judging by the level of discussion in the front room.
Cabbage becomes palpable in the dim light.
The cabbage cook resembles Ma Kettle; brash and bellowy, and she believes earnestly and with good heart in fact that the eternal zeitgeist is cabbage. Meanwhile, out in the room, the balloon drifts. It has enough gas to remain afloat but not to lodge against the ceiling. The hostess tends her giant pot for us, like MacBeth's weird sisters.
There is a vast inertia in the room. No one can imagine any force to stop it. After all, we are only here because something impelled us. Always there will be the balloon and the cabbage. It will ever be like that. We are beginning to acclimate to the reality of balloon and cabbage.
The hostess swoops back into our center. She says "Ta-DAHHHH!" and proffers a steamy pot. She just holds it there, bent almost double, her grin a gargoyle's grimace, with no more doubt nor concern about her reception.
Reloj and me, without any transition, like a cat jumping, are back in our VW. We are trying to decide who is driving, then determine it should be based upon seating arrangement. The one on the left drives.
That seems hilarious. They are laughing now, uproarious in the night. Cabbage? And a balloon? Then Reloj is grim with the vast potential of history as a millwheel.
"Okay" he says, "something I'm missing here. What happened after the cabbage popped?"