I asked Suzannah about the genre of music that we heard at the fiesta in Santiago.  Suzannah’s explanation:
“Some of the lighter more mellifluous music you heard is the local Tz’utujil traditional Sones, more often played when they are dancing the saints or when the shamans are doing ceremony. The more frantic upbeat music they refer to as coastal music, popular tunes from Mexico and Guate. for dancing at the fiestas.”

So there were at least two distinct genres, of which I was ignorant.  What I was able to hear was that it was loud, it was professionally executed, and it was for dancing. Alas, none of it sounded light and mellifluous to me.

I’m writing this in the Pinocchio Hotel in the lake community of San Pedro, where I will be playing in a restaurant tonight (Tues, Jan 22). This hotel is full of young backpackers, and me. There is a mural on a wall by the pathway to the Pinocchio Hotel, with the name of the hotel and a picture of Walt Disney’s Pinocchio.

I am bewildered.  Here in the lake communities, there are the locals, who are poor and do all the hard work, and there are the tourists and expats, who appreciate having the hard work done for them so cheaply.  The locals deforest the hills for firewood to cook with.  The foreigners hire the locals to deforest the hills for their fireplaces and saunas.  Everyone pollutes the rivers and the lake with their sewage, but the foreigners can drink purified water and go to restaurants that disinfect the vegetables.  The whole thing looks hopelessly corrupt to me.

On the other hand, I asked Jennifer the masseuse why she stayed here for years and years, and she said she had split up with her husband and had two small children at the time, and she did not want to be a single mother in the U. S.  She said that here in Guatemala, she had a community who shared child care, and the kids could run around on their own outside and be with other kids.  She didn’t have to work her ass off to survive, with the kids in the care of hired help or day care. Now her kids are grown up and living all over the world.

A Portland friend asked me why I’m in Guatemala instead of South Central L. A.  Good question.  In S. Central L. A., I could actually be speaking more Spanish than I am here, and the culture might be about as foreign.

Later the same night:
I played from 8 to 10 PM in a restaurant where most of the people did not respond to me most of the time.  It was an oddly satisfying experience because I’m working on the idea of not being affected by the non-reactions of people whom I would would like to have listening and applauding and tipping me.  I wrote down a method for being mindful, and followed the procedure before playing each song.  If I play to express myself, then I’m potentially doing something that interests me, and others may find it interesting too.  It’s tricky not to try to get them to listen, but to give them an opportunity to listen.   However, I was paying attention to their responses, because I want to learn what works.  What worked best was those comparatively rare moments when I was absorbed in the feeling of the music and playing quietly.  There were a couple of songs that got substantial applause, which shows that people notice and pay attention when there is something interesting going on, even if it’s quiet.  There were also some people who tuned in for extended periods of time, including an old guy across the street (the street being what they call a callejón, which is a narrow alley, and the restaurant not being inside of walls, he wasn’t that far away).

It is not necessary to be in Guatemala to be doing this, but maybe it helps to be far away from home.  Even less necessary than being in Guatemala is being in another town across the lake and staying in a backpacker hotel.  I can’t believe I am rich enough to be able to do such a crazy thing.

There is a fundamental problem with me wanting to work on playing music in a way that will interest people.  The best way to be interesting musically is to be really good at it. So I’m sort of swimming upstream.  

Next day, Weds, Jan 23:
Now I have another gig in San Pedro on Friday so I’ll be commuting back here again.  That’s a half hour ride on boat, which departs from the dock whenever there are 12 people in it. This is absolutely crazy, but it’s a different way of being a tourist in a foreign town.

The owner of the Pinocchio Hotel is a Mayan guy named Francisco (the term “Mayan” covers many distinct ethnicities, but I can’t tell them apart).  I asked him about a reservation for Friday night.  He said if I pay in advance, he’ll save a room for me. I handed him 100Q.  He never wrote anything down.  I introduced myself, at least, so he’d know my name, but that was unnecessary.  We both know I’ve paid 100Q and he’s saving a room for me Friday.

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