The Hidalgo stretch used to be good for buskers, but now it’s a victim of its own excess. You’ve got your fake Mayans in blackface and peacock feathers blowing conch shells, your fake Peruvians with bells and whistles and “Que pasa, Condorito?”, your phony mariachis doing “Tears In Heaven” on trumpet and violin…it ain’t over ’til the fat man with the guitarrón sings. If you’re not wearing a costume or setting shit on fire, nobody even notices you.
Seagull: The Blasé Sojourner

Seagull rattled his battered blue enamelled “ranchito” cup like a crapshooter and spun his tips out on the counter of the takeout pizza joint next door. Hmm, not too shabby for summer. What that USD bill from the Beyonce babe in the straw hat was actually a fiver! Hot damn! He could have afforded a nice barbacoa sandwich at the Cueva.

But he pocketed the bill and counted out enough for a slice of pizza. He slapped the coins down on the counter and said, “There it is, hotstuff, change you can believe in.”

The beautiful Weejun (with the unfortunately big Weejun SCUBA boyfriend) scooped it up and gave him a heartstopping smile from the midnight sun and said, “Be the change you want to sponge in the world,” before popping his pepperoni and chorizo slice into the oven for a quick remelt.

That was it right there. If he wanted a change of gears, he was going to have to do it. Every stick has to shift for itself in this brut-assed world.

He was alone on stage for his second set, Congón having presumably split to Poc Na with that sanpaku Argentine hippy chick. Always hostel-friendly, our Congón. Leaving him with only what rhythm he could beat with his feet. And the crowd, if that’s what you want to call three tables, had that “heard it before, twice” look about them. The Grace Jones negress had split (and thanks for your support) but the table of hotties was still there to be schemed on. Especially the redhead. He had some ideas in that direction. Meanwhile, when your feet are in the stirrups and your ass is on the ground, best bet for a crowdpleaser is sing about about drugs.

Well I have run a few guns across somebody’s enemy lines
I’ve flown in a few tons of sinsemilla in a B-29
I’ve done Swiss-made watches and leather huaraches
Sometimes I’ve even moved a little Coke…..a Cola
I’m just supply demand without the duty or the excise man

Not bad, not bad, hit em with a hooky chorus and it’s chicken in the pot.

I’ll be makin’ a break from takin’ over contraband
I might trade you this hash for some cash and a Volkswagen van
I’ll be heading for the border with my papers in order
Taking my departure south of Puerto Vallarta
Gonna get myself nice down in Smugglers’ paradise

And now the bridge to Tipville.

There are rusty old freighters sitting down at the dock
Full of Panama red, full of Peruvian rock
Seaplanes loaded with their quota of imported booze
There are shadowy bars with flamenco guitars
Señoritas with their eyes like stars…
I just think I could use some kind of tropical kind of a cruise

It’s just the right site for living high while you’re lying low
If you’re feeling flush or had a brush with the Border Patrol
So mellow out on that beach and reach for that Mescalito
Drink something cold and wet and watch the sun set on Smugglers Cove

And one more for the baby’s new shoes

Just gimme one more shot of that Jose Cuervo
And I’ll be headin’ on down, to the boundry of Mexico
One more bottle of Tequila to go
I’ll find the salt and the lemon and the women
Down in Smugglers Cove

He hit the retirees up front first, and glommed a couple of bucks out of sheer confusion. The Aerofloters chipped in a few kopeks or bukniks or whatever the change house wouldn’t accept, then he was moving on the Babetable. The big guy wasn’t around, which embolded Seagull considerably. That guy looked like he could strike highway flares on the tip of his dick and crunch your ass up like a stale dinner mint.

But present company seemed nice enough. The Andie McDowell-looking brunette gave him a five and TKO smile, the Indita stared but didn’t scalp his ass or anything, and the redhead–what the hell was her name? Cher? Chastity? Cash N. Carrie?–dropped him a few few pesos and that look you get from other people who work for gratuitous gratuities. So he laid it on her. “I remember you.”

She fluffed her pile of coppery coils, pushed her chest forward almost imperceptibly and drawled, “Most people do.”

“Great fire dancer. You were working the tourbus crowds at the ruins with a guy playing a samba rig.”

“He was hot, too. Shame he was a total asshole.”

“Who’s drumming you now?”

Another lingering look. Looking mostly down. “I don’t really take applications. As such.”

“Look I can do the beat. I’m not in the league with Cagón there, but not many are. And I’m only a partial asshole. Forty percent, tops.”

The brunette chuckled at that, a soft song like a creek turning pebbles. Copper–that was it! Copper!–gave a half smile and said, “Gonna beat on your box?”

“I drum too, you know. I’ve got a dumbek and I’m not afraid to use it.”

He could see the blowoff coming, so he blurted out. “Look, I know where we can make some good money before high season. I’m starving here and I’m guessing you’re not doing much better. There’s gonna be a film festival down in Playa…”

“I heard about it.”

“Couple of weeks off. Meanwhile, we could work sunset at the beach, do a wedding or two, after hours at the CasaBlanca. Make some coin, shake down the act, go down and wow the Mexi-moguls.”

Copper gave him a long evaluation this time. He stood still for it. You work with somebody like this, truck the road together, it’s not like a blind date or something. He saw a slight softening in her face, a semblance of a yawn.

The brunette must have seen it, too, because she said, “Would you like some coffee or something?”

Then he felt the bruiser behind him, a sort of dark heaviness he associated with a rough hand on his shoulder and footwear up his butt. But Copper looked past him and smiled at the guy. Said, “Hey Bannock, this is Seagull. We’re going to be working together.”

Hey, she remembered him, too!

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Monica had given him a long look as she poured his last latté, and neglected the dollop of Rompope he was known to favor, so Seagull gathered it was about time to do his trick. He picked up his battered old fake Gibson covered with forged signatures of great pickers and nodded to Congón, who doing a little nodding himself. Four straight Americanos and the guy was ready to go to sleep, but he’d perk up quick when his hands touched skin. The two derelicts lurched up, Congón’s sleek Latino hustler look clashing with Seagull’s scuffed gringo jipi getup with sea urchin hair and hornrims so utterly Long Island Jewish that nobody ever had to guess where his nickname came from. They hoisted their respective axes (the Cuban-made drum also scrawled with bogus saludos from famed congeros) and mosied over to a partially cleared area under the fresco of Kukulkan giving Quetzacoatl the finger and started thinking seriously about playing some music.

Thing was, Café Cueva wasn’t the only coffeehouse on Isla Mujeres anymore. But it had been the first, cranked up by Delmonica when the locals idea of classy coffee service was a non-plastic cup of lukewarm water and a clean jar of freeze-dried “No-es-café”. It was still the First, Best and most favored by eurohostlers, springbreakers, and serious local coffeeheads, though. Partly because of the excellent beans selected in the highlands of Yucatan and custom-roasted by Italian craftsmen in Cancún. And being right between the Cosmicolas international abused bookstore Cool Ice Cream didn’t hurt. And the big the owners–laidback, daft cockney Del and his lovely, allegedly gypsy wife, Monica–were so popular that the new Italian and Israeli cafés weren’t that much competition.

But enough competition that they’d found it helpful to provide some sort of music, especially during off-season. And since ComoNo had swiped Chucho, the resident pianist on Isla, they tried to scrape up talent of Seagull’s caliber and pay off in coffee and snacks. Plus, Seagull’s somewhat meager vocal abilities were offset by the fact that he was a known collaborator to the Blasé Sojourner, which made him a sort of obscure star in the hospitality industry, like one of those stars that’s going dark because it’s collapsing in on itself due to excess gravity.

The BS, as it’s generally known for a variety of reasons, is frequently compared (usually sneeringly) to the fictional “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy”, a similar, seminal user-written guide to international vagabonds and wastrels. And it’s just possible that Seagull majored in Wastrelism in college. He had written up most of the downside locations on Isla for the current distro of the BS, in typical fashion: going deeper in than most guides (Seagull and other BS contributors were smug in comparing it to scorned books they referred to as “Let’s Go Spend Daddy’s Money”, “LoanMe Planet”, and “The Butch Guide” and “Fuddors”) but in ways of interest mostly to the more disjointed and deshabille of movers and fakers. His section on Café Cueva, for instance, dealt with seamier side-events of a sexual encounter with a previous waitress and a photograph of a pyramid constructed of marijuana seeds adhered with the dark rich Mayan honey Monica insisted on providing.

The Blasé Sojourner is not, of course, an ordinary book, and actually post-Web2. It’s actually considered a “distro” like Ubuntu, available as a download, DVD, or SD Memory card from the Distro Duck website and distributed by means no so much “viral” as metastatic . Passed hand to hand like a foxy ingénue, shared on sites like Napster and Dumpster, bootlegged around on little USB flash drives and re-invented as podcasts. And the salient line from Seagull’s rave (if not raving) review was undeniable: sooner or later everybody on Isla will come through Café Cueva sooner or later if you just sit there long enough. Wait and see if they don’t.

But it was time to sing for his sustenance, so he nodded at Congón, actually a very talented pro hand drummer who could have been contender if not such a dissolute alcoholic, and aided by the driving Afro/Caribe beat, launched into an original song that hand caused him to get sacked from every tourist bar he’d ever sung it, but was a favorite at La Cueva. Because one thing about La Cueva, though very international (and if anybody who wanted to examine the coins glued on the big tip jar at the counter would have an extremely hard time coming up with a country that hadn’t chipped in) it was resolutely a local dive. He strummed a little, hitting Congón’s groove, then sang.

All you damn tourists are ruining this place
Raising the prices and jumping the pace
That’s why I’m leaving. Cause I’m no tourist. I’m a traveler.
I’ve been traveling for years
I’ll probably never get there
I’ll probably never go home
Except for money. To keep traveling

I’m staying in a cheaper place than you’ll ever go
I shop in the market, not the places you know
I see that tourist jive as a rip
And I don’t ever tip
Or if I do it’s just some rubles or yen
‘Cause I’m a traveler: not a tourist!
Hey, do I look like I live overseas?

I wear tribal clothing and some kind of robe
From Tibet!
The kind you haven’t seen yet
I wear huaraches and have a didgeridoo
Nothing made in Western factories
Well, just some sweatshirts of Marley and Che
Cause I’m a rebel, man! I’m not a tourist!
Hey, do I look like I own Nikes and T’s?

I’ve seen every ancient ruin that you’ve ever seen
And more!
And I saw them before they got ruined. By tourists
And I never, never ever take no pictures
Well, if I do I use a big Nikon lens
‘Cause I’m an artist! Not a tourist!
Hey, do I look like some damn Japanese?

Hey don’t even talk about schedules and maps
I don’t need any of that tourism crap
I speak the language. I live off the land
I can score!
And I can always get more.
Cause I’m hip. I’m not a tourist. I’m a freakin traveler!
Hey, do I look like I pay retail for ki’s?

This land ain’t your land, all lands are my land
From slums in Europe to a beach in Thailand.
I know the people, man. I’m part of the scene. Which you’ve never seen.
Cause you’re a tourist. And I’m a traveler.
Hey do I look like I pay taxes or fees?
No I’m a traveler. Not a tourist. I’m just a traveler, out traveling, doing travel.
It’s a lonely, lonely planet. When you’re a traveler.

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