by John Quinn Olson

Poor Mexico, so far from God,

so close to the United States.

–Porfirio Díaz

Sure the gringo was going to fly. He was looking at five months in Mexico—maybe six—where he would likely get a hundred days or more of great soaring. Who knew the future—maybe he would never return. So, he was going to need some reading material. Plenty to read in fact, and he would have to bring the books himself. Heck, nobody reads anything down there, or so it seemed to the gringo.

That was an exaggeration of course, but there was no doubt books were more easily found in Gringolandia, that bookstores were rare in Mexico and that libraries, well… Walter had never visited a public library in all of Mexico. Maybe there were lending libraries in Mexico, but not like in the States. In fact, about all the flier had ever seen for reading material in Mexico were the daily newspapers and those silly comic books you saw the peasants reading.

He swung his pickup off the street and into the parking lot at Title Wave Books in Tucson, Arizona. This was his last chance to load up on books, and since they were all used books he could really go wild and spend very little. He was hoping to add to his collection of Mexico books and books on Mexico that he was forever hauling around. He loved the idea of going flying in Mexico with Mexico books.

Parking his truck now, he climbed in back under the rack full of wings, and threw open the secret compartment where he stored his tools, spare parts and his own personal library, and took a quick inventory. If he found some duplicates in Title Wave, and they were cheap enough, he would buy them and give them away. He had a fair collection:

THE CONQUEST OF NEW SPAIN, by Bernal Diaz de Castillo—supposedly the first ever book actually penned in the New World. The gringo saw it as essential reading for any Mexicofile.

AZTEC, by Gary Jennings, a fellow gringo with a fabulous imagination, his book is the same story of the conquest, but as seen through the eyes of a loveable Aztec—a really great read.

FEATHERED SERPENT, by Colin Falconer, another conquest-of-Mexico tale that the flier just could not put down.

THE KING’S CAVALIER, by Samuel Shellabarger—yet another great story of the conquest.

DISTANT NEIGHBORS, a Portrait of the Mexicans, by Alan Riding. This is a very readable history, the premise being that there are no two nations anywhere on Earth, that share a common border, and yet are so socio/economically and culturally divergent as Mexico and the United States.

FIRE AND BLOOD: A History of Mexico, a very heavy history by T.R. Fehrenbach—who brings the reader along from the pre-Aztecs whom the author calls ‘Amer-Indians’, up to the assassination of Luis Colosio in 1994.

THE PEOPLE’S GUIDE TO MEXICO, by Carl Franz and Lorena Havens —a great and zany guidebook with adventures.

TOM MIX AND PANCHO VILLA, a Romance, by Clifford Irving—a fabulous yarn that brings the Mexican revolution of 1910 to life.

THE TORTILLA CURTAIN, by T. C. Boyle — not actually about Mexico but sort of…

LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE, by Laura Esquivel — a love story with recipes.

He had a fairly good Mexico stash, but pretty much anything that looked like entertainment he would score from Title Wave and throw in; he just needed good reading. Reading and flying, after all, were two enduring passions in his life.

“Do you have a Mexico section?” he asked the clerk.

“Of course,” he replied. “Being so close to the border we have lots of interest in Mexico. We even have a Spanish language section.”

He led the gringo around the corner and down some isles and pointed to the Mexico section.

“Gracias,” said the flier and immediately a title waved at him:

MEXICO, by James Michener

The reader had read plenty of Michener and was somewhat bored with Michener but he had to hand it to the author—he was wildly successful. Plus, his books were usually big, as was this one—over two thousand pages. He pulled it off the shelf and right away decided, I’ll take it. He wasn’t sure how he’d missed it so far, but it would keep him busy and it certainly was appropriate for the impending journey. Maybe MEXICO was just that book he could throw in his harness and take flying so he’d always have something to read no matter where he landed.

He spent an hour perusing the stacks of used books at Title Wave and left with a heavy sack of them for six bucks. He got back to the truck and opened his library again and tossed the books in. He kept MEXICO aside and threw it in his harness bag, zipped it inside for when the time came. It looked like now he would be taking MEXICO flying, quite literally.

He glanced again at his growing library of Mexico. He craved something more but didn’t know what, until a brief thought crossed his brain, a flicker of energy:  Wouldn’t it be great to contribute something of my own to Mexico reading someday?

Well, it seemed rather unlikely but ¿quien sabe? He certainly had a subject in mind—hang gliding. Only Mankind’s Most Ancient Dream that’s all; to fly with the birds.

To spread feathery wings and climb effortlessly across the sky and gaze regally down upon the masses.

To reach out a hand and touch the face of Dios.

To turn arduous journeys into larks.

And heck, he was the gringo who knew Mexico best from the sky. He was the gringo who was getting to know Mexico like no other gringo ever had the pleasure—from above.

Heck too, not even Feathered Serpent—Quetzalcóatl himself—had ever come to know Mexico from above quite like this gringo.

He fired up the Ford and peeled out of the bookstore parking lot. He merged in traffic for I-19 south, hot for the border. He stepped on the gas and quickly hit cruise speed. He was a happy gringo and he went rocking down the highway.

By God! He was taking MEXICO flying.


by John Quinn Olson

Rincon de la Chingasa


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  1. John Olson says:

    Hola Lorena and Carlos! I’m just back from another winter of flying with the Free Mexican Air Force and I am stoked to find my thrilling novel posted in your blog. Gracias amigos!