Stik Mann's OtherSpokane
Issue 14 (or is it 15?)

bbrrrfft

Greetings, faithful readers, and welcome to Issue 14 (or is it 15?) of this very special edition of Stik Mann's OtherSpokane. A very special edition, I say, because earlier this night, under the cool and very clear skies of the Yuma desert, I, your humble correspondent, had a vision, perhaps witnessed a miracle.

Before I elucidate on the apparition -- which was also seen by my son, James -- I must first warn you that, as I write this, my mind is (as one might say here in the desert) a few arms short of a picturesque Saguaro. Just a few hours ago, James and I once again stepped on U.S. soil, following a very exhausting, three-week excursion into Mexico.

At random moments, there are rumblings deep within me, from so deep within me, in fact, that it seems to be somewhere entirely apart from me, gurgling and a bursting from the primordial gut stew, taking with it image-bits and emotion-clots from the very recent past and spewing all forth -- forcing me to navigate reality with this memory-belch whirling about me like mist trapped in a space helmet.

urrrpft

A) It is a hologram.

James and I are having breakfast at what has become our favorite table, in front of Cafe Cathedral, in the beautiful colonial city of Morelia, capitol of the state of Michoacan. Across the street, in the zocalo (the city square), peddlers are firing up their food stalls, filling the air with the smell of butane and old oil. On the grass, a hip-looking young couple is laying out hand-made jewelry, beaded masks, and carved stone hash pipes on spread blankets. Nearby, a man is hanging up posters of Che Guevera, The Virgin of Guadalupe, Britney Spears, Pancho Villa, Jesus crying blood, Elvis. The cathedral bells begin to ring, and ring.

I feel a tug at my pant leg. I look down, expecting to see a child selling gum, or a dog sniffing for scrapes. It is a man, without legs, without stumps even, yet with a full-length pair of dirty pants belted to his lower torso. He props himself up on one skinny arm, and with the other he offers me his open palm. He says nothing, but looks at me directly with large, black, vacant eyes. I give him a handful of change. He drops the money into his shirt pocket, makes the sign of the cross, then scoots off between tables, pulling himself across the tiled floor with his forearms and hands, the flattened pants dragging behind.

errrrrr-URPth

A vision? A miracle? Already I hear the skeptical buzz saws whirling to life in the likes of my friends Phopaw and Arp Xigar, readying to rip cross-grain into my account of the sighting with rationale-based glee. "As you know, Stik," they will say, "There are many lights in the sky."

B) It is an external manifestation of the collective human subconscious, ala Jung, perhaps a symbol of transformation.
C) It is a flying saucer, with all of the black-and-white, 1950s, sci-fi connotations.

glubuk-uk

Look! Mormons! Mexican Mormons -- white shirts, black pants, crewcuts, the whole bit -- pushing their bikes through the plaza in old town Mazatlan with their pockets stuffed full of literature. This probably shouldn't amaze me so much, but it does.

urp

"Is it real?" James whispers. "It looks like a dead baby to me."

"I think it's a doll," I say, softly. But I'm really not sure.

The corpse-like whatever-it-is is encased in a foggy glass coffin, held together by an ornately designed oak frame, all inset with gold. A light from unseen sources eerily illuminates the interior. The box sets atop a massive stone altar.

We dare not get any closer, not yet -- an old lady, her face nearly obscured beneath a black scarf, is talking to the child between sobs, as though it is her own loved one that has perished and been put on display in this very public place. She strokes the glass and puts her fingers to her lips. She loves this child very much. She makes the sign of the cross and walks away, stops, returns to touch the glass once more, then moves slowly toward the great doors of the Guadalajara cathedral, and disappears in the sunbeams.

A choir begins to sing at the opposite end of the cathedral. We step closer to the coffin, but not as close as the old lady. The child's eyes are closed and its skin is pastey white. Its lips are wrinkled and parched, adding to the illusion that they have been sewn shut.

"Is it real?" asks James.

"A doll," I say, quickly, but much softer than before.

gurgurglurglurrrrp

It is good to be back in the Yuma desert after such a trip. James and I sit out on the patio in front of Mom and Dick's motor home and look up at the stars. Only three days ago we were standing atop the Pyramid of the Sun in the ancient city of Teotihuacan. Now it all seems like a dream.

But James has proof. He had taken a reading on his GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) unit when we were there. He pushes a few buttons and tells me the exact distance between the pyramid and us. "And," he says, pointing to the south-southeast sky. "It's that way."

"What?" I say. "Now it's up in space?"

urp-BURsssh

D) It's light reflecting off of Sky Lab.
E) It's the second stage if an experimental rocket launched from the nearby Barry M. Goldwater Military Reserve.
F) It's a weather balloon.

I see it from the corner of my eye, a mere glance, as our bus pulls out of San Luis de la Colorado: A large billboard bearing a 25-foot-high face of a very Aryan-looking Jesus Christ. He speaks the words, "La Farmacia del Dios," -- THE PHARMACY OF GOD -- followed by an address and phone number.

urrbrrbrr...brph

Where are we? Why are we here? What did we think we'd find?

"Buenos dias," says a young woman, and puts her pen to a small notebook. James orders a Quad Breve with Hazelnut flavoring. I keep it simple and order a Double Mocha. All around us, young people are setting up paintings and etchings throughout the plaza, shaded by tropical trees. Near the fountain, a small boy is practicing juggling with large wads of newspaper. On the walk, an old man is selling ice cream from a pushcart. All the makings of a beautiful day. Still, something is amiss.

"Are we lost?" says James, abruptly.

I am starting to worry about James; he is very homesick, and a bit paranoid -- which is to be expected when traveling overland in a foreign country, constantly struggling with the language, constantly having to be on guard. But there was something more. It takes some time for me to ascertain the obvious: I too am very homesick, and a bit paranoid.

The waitress brings us two cups of black coffee.

"No, We're not lost," I say. " We're right here where we are right now....Home is that way," and I point with authority in one direction, though I really have no idea which way is which.

"I think we've seen all there is to see here," he says, solemnly. "When should we move on?"

"Perhaps we'll receive a sign from God," I say, and smile. James does not smile back.

Then, something changes in his face as his gaze is directed elsewhere -- blood rushes to his cheeks and his eyes once again fill with curiosity and awe. I turn. It is a well-dressed, well-groomed young man struggling as he carries on his back a larger than life-sized wooden carving of Jesus crucified on a massive wooden cross. He is sweating and grunting and can barely stand beneath the weight, but still makes good time as he staggers by us, moves through the plaza and across the street, then disappears around a corner.

G) It is something that we human beings, limited by our earthly sensory organs, are not capable of fully perceiving or understanding.
H) It is all a lie.

gaburgargurp

I) It's swamp gas.

I see it first from the corner of my eye: a flash! I turn to see phosphorus burning in the sky, a strange fire the size of a quarter held between fingertips at arm's length. "Look!" I shout, and point to the south-southeast sky. The flame quickly diminishes, leaving a fading, much smaller globe of red-veined orange, moving slowly to the east, shrinking to a red dot, then to a mere dark spot...or, maybe not...and then not.

hict....BRRApht

Holy Mary Mother of God tablecloths. Mary on a towel. Mary on a shawl. Mother Mary key chains, Mary necklaces, Mary brooch and Mary hat pin. Lucky Mary rabbit's foot. Mary made of sea shells. Mary made of stones. Holy Mary cowboy hats and Virgin Mary neckties. Mounds of Mary paintings and Mary Mother of God posters. Holy Mary T-shirts featuring Mary with a '57 Chevy, Mary holding Jesus. Mary stomping snakes, Multiple Marys, Pop Art Mary, New Age Mary, Mary with an Uzi. Virgin Mary bumper stickers, Mother Mary mirrors, Mary umbrellas, Holy Mary tea sets, Mary back packs and Mary purses, and, as Mary is my witness, Holy Mary Virgin Mother of God boxer shorts.

rabumblbub-urperp

J) It is a loving sign from the one true God, blessing the end of a journey well done, and revealing that He was with us all the way.
K) It is a loving sign from the one true God; but, it was for someone else, and we just happened to see it.
L) It is a manifestation of Our Lady, the Virgin Mary, Holy Mother of God, cosmically chastising me for doubting Her.
M) It is a manifestation of Tonantin, Aztec mother of the gods, letting me know, that She knows, that I've discovered Her secret.

The child pushing her century-old grandmother in the homemade wheelchair is here to see Her. The keenly dressed, well-to-do young family -- new ribbons in the girl's hair, spit-shined black shoes on the the boy's feet -- are here to see Her. The poverty-stricken, middle-aged Indian couple crawling the last hundred feet on their knees are here to see Her.

The two unshaven, obviously American guys in wrinkled clothes are here to see Her as well. We, like the rest of them -- who come here by the thousands every day -- maneuver the Mary maze of trinket booths and food stalls. Our eyes are all on Mexico City's ultra-modern Basilica de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

In this vast, rounded, open-plan edifice resides the most famous, most often visited religious icon in the Western Hemisphere: an image of the Lady, that was miraculously emblazoned upon the cactus-fiber poncho of Nahautl Indian and recent Catholic convert, Juan Diego, following a vision he had of Her, nearly 500 years ago. The vision and the miracle happened while he was praying on the Cerro del Tepeyac, Tepeyac Hill, the former site of an Aztec temple dedicated to Tonantin, earth mother goddess.

The brown-skinned Lady spoke to him in the Nahautl tongue, the language of the Aztecs.

fffftphph-puh

N) It is an optical illusion.
O) It is (properly called, though there are only two of us present) mass hypnosis.

We enter the open doors and are greeted by the song of a thousand people, chanting and singing in unison. Standing before them, an elderly priest offers a jeweled chalice up to the poncho of Juan Diego, pressed behind glass, framed in gold, hung high on the great wall above the altar. From this distance, we can only make out Her blue outline.

Quickly we become one with the crowd, moving in a slow stream toward the last row of pews, naturally funneling into one of the aisles like blood cells at an intersection of veins, then squeezing into a small corridor behind the altar. We step on a moving sidewalk and look up.

There She is, looking down upon us with a sad face, cloaked in a blue mantle lined with gold, hands clasped, standing on a crescent-like object held up by a child.

gRRRupth-bub-bub

It looks exactly like all of the photos we've seen: a fairly talented, but by no means masterful, 16th-century, Spanish painting. You'd think even a godling could have done better.

burbe-burbeb-burph

The final day of our long journey has come to an end. James is on the bunk at his side of the tent trailer, curled up in his sleeping bag, mentally and physically exhausted. It has been a long day, what with the long bus ride, the border crossing, the miracle. He quickly drifts away. I sit on the edge of my bunk, writing, by candlelight, these very words to you, my faithful readers.

P) It was something that vaguely had to do with the wind.
Q) All of the above.
R) None of the above

Suddenly, there is the sound of glass breaking in the distance, wind chimes tinkle and ding, a door slams and a newspaper skids down the road as a gust of wind comes up, pounds the side of the tent and causes the base of the trailer to wobble and creak. James groans. The candle flickers and dances near death. Then, the wind dies as quickly as it rose, and does not blow again.

Stik Mann
3/20/01
Somewhere in the Yuma Desert
Next issue: In a couple of weeks, a month, whenever...

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