In an effort to continue to share about my life in Mexico, I want to talk a little about my daily front seat pass to some of the strangest shows around. At most important intersections in the border city where I live, you will find a motley crew (not to be confused with the eighties hair band Motley Crue) of transient folks trying to live another day or maybe smoke another joint. After a period of time, these serial performers acquire a renown that stretches from one edge of the city to the other. I have witnessed, over the years, an assortment of acts who collectively could present one of the strangest circuses within reach.
These are a few that have found fame...
1) Silver Magician Cowboy Currently my favorite act is a bald, rotund man covered completely in silver paint who performs magic tricks with a hat and a disappearing rabbit or monkey (or of late a stuffed rabbit which makes me wonder what tragic end the live one met). His sidekick is a slight, silver painted cowboy who collects money. When I am not wondering about the dizzying life of the poor rabbit or monkey being tossed repeatedly in the air, I am wondering whether their body can breathe through the silver paint that envelopes every inch of exposed skin.
2) Nail Nose This act is quite impressive. It involves a teenager or young twenty something who taps two nails together to show you their legitimacy. He then proceeds to shove the nails up his nose until only the very heads appears peeking out his nostrils, after which he slides them in and out of his nose alternating nails between his two hands. I don't make this up.
3) Glass Torture This man had a show that varied depending on the audience. He carries a handkerchief of broken glass around. Sometimes he spreads the cloth on the ground with the glass scattered on top. He then proceeds to either stand or lay on the glass. However, sometimes he also eats the glass, at which point you are willing to give any amount of money just to stop the act.
4) Fire Breather We have a lot of fire breathers, so it has lost its wow factor. This involves swishing gas in the mouth then blowing on a lit torch to send a wave of fire in front of your windshield. All I can think about when I see this act is antacid.
5) Indian Flute Dance These guys hardly come around anymore, but they certainly are more exciting then some. There is an older gentleman wearing a large feathered headdress playing a flute, accompanied by a younger boy or two also dressed in native gear playing the drums. They dance as they play, which doubles the excitement.
6) Orange Toss There is no need to get fancy in order to put on a show. One of our simplest street shows is another bald, rotund man (not to be confused with silver magician) who tosses one, sometimes two oranges between his two hands. No optical illusions here, just straight up hand-eye coordination.
7) Unicyle Fire Juggler This kid must actually have some performance background as his show is quite varied an impressive. He either juggles flaming sticks, or rides a unicycle in a tight circle while juggling. Very nice indeed.
8) Beer Girls On Friday nights, the Tecate beer company hires young ladies to dress in blue spandex and dance on the corner of the 7-11 convenience stores in order to draw beer buyers. The risk it brings is the occasional multi-car pileup caused by drivers whose eyes are on the bluetylicious spectacle and not on the road. I want to believe that this is not an effective way to sell beer, but it has endured through the years, which disproves my theory that subtle advertising is superior.
9) Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My No circus is complete without animals. Some of my most shocking moments in Mexico have involved driving up on large, generally wild animals, being led or transported through the streets. Since portable circuses are all the rage, it is not uncommon to drive up on an elephant on a leash being led from one place to another. Or maybe a tiger in an open air cage, riding in the back of a pickup in front of you. If fact right in front of the colonia where I live they set up the circus every few months. That means every night during circus time, large cats and elephants and such are sleeping in the parking lot in the cages representative of the traditional animal cracker boxes. Those cages are only meant to hold animal crackers, not lions.