I am in the Zocalo, sitting at a table at one of the cafes lining the square. I am unbelievably pissed off about being in Oaxaca. I hadn't wanted to come, but a friend badgered me into the trip to take pictures during Oaxaca's famous celebrations of El Dia de los Muertos. The trip will cost me two thousand bucks, and I am doubting that I will be able to sink as I wish to into local society; I am simply part of a touristy maelstrom taking the images and memories out of Mexico without caring a whit about the context and complexes of the country's troubles and distinctions. Everyone wants a picture of the costumes and masks on Halloween night, or of the candles flickering in the cemeteries as families gather overnight to welcome back the spirits of the dead, and I am gritting my tteth at the prospects of eight days in the wrong place, surrounded by tourists and accosted by locals who wish to sell me junk for whatever cash I can spare. Worse, the novel I've been working on every day for two months comes to a shuddering stop: the only thing I can add is a flourish I write on the airplane flying down. I cannot believe I am here. Agreeing to come and unable to tell a friend "No" when I needed to will cost me dearly, I am thinking, as I sit at my table in the zocalo.
And then the waiter is there, wondering what I would like. It's not his fault. So I smile and order a juice and fruit. And I ask him his name. He asks if I am in town for the celebration, and I groan. No, man, I say, I've come to mexico for the only reason I would ever come to Mexico, for the magic. The waiter smiles and says: "If you've come for magic, you've come at the right time." He leaves to fetch my order. I am suffused with hope, suddenly, that something magical is bound to happen. I am in Mexico. Magic cannot be very far away.