At the park

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GUEST WRITER: The Insufferable Dan Avery Takes a Trip

Tré and I sat in the park a little past one in the morning. We sipped the beers we bought at the taco stand across the street, smoked some Lucky Strikes, and told each other stories of our lives like men do in a park that late at night. The Luckies were non-addictive and organic, or so the box claimed. The night air was warm and calm. The smoke floated straight up in the air from our cigarette ends. Tré said, “You know what, U.D.? This is the way life should be.” I agreed.

A few minutes later a young woman in her mid-twenties, rose from her bench and approached us. She was alone. She smiled and made the international gesture for “may I bum one of those?” Tré pulled the box from his pocket, opened it, and held it out to her. She took one and he lit it for her with a match. The flame didn’t flicker and when she was satisfied it was lit, she smiled and said “Gracias, Señor.” Then she retired to her bench.

Clearly, we were not in the United States. Although everyone out at that time of the evening knew we were from the U.S.; our clothes and the way we carried ourselves screamed it. They also knew we had more money on us than all of them combined. We should have felt like prime targets, but we were just two guys enjoying their beers, their Luckies, and their own company in a downtown Guadalajara park after one in the morning.

The U.S. State Department warns us not to travel to places like Guadalajara and neighboring states. They count on our fear to keep us away. It never occurred to me to be afraid, not only in Guadalajara, but in Morelia and the surrounding region. The vibes that trigger fear were completely absent. I am sure if I had gone out looking for illegal drugs anywhere in Mexico my experience would have been vastly different. I have felt those vibes during the day in places in this country without looking for anything illegal. I have felt them at night in places like Hollywood, Chicago, Manhattan, and Alabama.

Here’s what amazed me that Guadalajara night in the park: the young woman who bummed a smoke from us was alone and unafraid. Completely.

I have tried to think of a park here that any woman would enter alone after dark, unless she absolutely had to, unless she was completely naïve, stupid, or looking for trouble. There are extremely solid reasons why women fear parks after dark in this country.

Cultures differ. I am fortunate to have experienced as many of them as I have. But each time I experience another culture, my views of this country, our greatness, are dimmed a little more. Our culture is unique, but not necessarily in a good way. I do hope we someday face that fact and start to make the necessary changes to what we think and believe. I hope someday everyone can sit fearless in parks well after dark enjoying the evening air however they choose.

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