Up until that moment, the only music I heard in Guatemala was clearly Spanish. There were different varieties but nothing I would recognize other than some of the manufactured backbeats and auto-tuning that turns any song into an immediate feeling that one must brush their teeth.
Here I was on my trip back to Lanquin, about 40 minutes from Semuc Champey. When I say trip, I mean adventure; 13 to 14 of us tourists and locals standing up in the bed of a pickup truck holding onto a make-shift horizontal pole, about 3 to 4 feet from the bottom, that looked like someone decided to turn the pickup into a clothing discount rack. And we were the garments on consignment.
Bumping over switch-back dirt roads, sometimes being slapped unsuspectingly by a jungle branch leaning over from the side, and in one case, huddled with thighs hovering down like it was an advanced Peloton workout in order to squat and remain under a tarp due to the rainy season, I could only think "well, this is different."
So, it was only more offbeat when the music suddenly changed, and I heard Juice Newton singing "Queen of Hearts." I couldn't help but smile. I looked around but given the fact that everyone else was either a local and/or born in the 21st century, it was clear no one had any reaction nor cared. I wanted to turn to someone, anyone, and let them know how that song immediately reminded me of my friend and neighbor growing up, Deana. She would play that song on a 45 RPM on her miniature record player while my sister and I listened. I can picture it.
But no one knows what to make of me already - more on that in another blog. I wasn't about to share some weird thought I had to add to the mystery. I just shifted my weight from right thigh to left and kept on smiling, thinking how random it was to hear a song over 40 years old while squatting painfully in a pick-up truck while traversing through the jungle in Guatemala.
Last week, on my 2nd or 3rd day in Mexico, I spent a lot of time walking around the beautiful and expansive Chapultepec Park. Known as the "green lung" of Mexico City, it is the biggest park in Latin America and twice the size of Central Park in New York City. As I exited the green space into the vibrating downtown city streets, there on the walking overpass, a man on a bike with speakers hooked to the front of his handlebars came riding directly toward me. We made eye contact, which was weird. But even stranger, and apparently unbeknownst to anyone but me was, you guessed it, the speakers blasting Queen of Hearts.
I couldn't help but smile and laugh a little again. This song, which, honestly, I don't know the last time I heard it, was following me. Somehow, the Juice - the original, good one, not the infamous one to follow years later, managed to brush up against me twice in two weeks in Central America!
I love when things like that happen. Maybe it's all a coincidence. Maybe it's random. I don't care. I appreciate these little moments that keep tapping on my shoulder to say, "hey - ain't this something? I mean, c'mon - you were what, 11, the last time you heard that song and now - you're just walking around Mexico, taking the Metro, speaking Spanish. What a trip dude!"
Sometimes I will have such fierce, dramatic scenes play out in dreams that I am paralyzed to awaken. It is only once I can activate a vocal cord or two and manage to disperse some sort of guttural tone to push me out of the dream that I realize, thankfully, that whatever was going on was not real.
These "Juicy" moments (sorry- couldn't help myself) do the same thing in a way but to remind me that these experiences I am having are real. They are there to compel me to pause and realize that my reality today was only a dream not too long ago.
These moments seem too planted to not take notice. Just a couple of weeks ago, I ran into a friend from Israel, Ilai, whom I met in Costa Rica last year. I had finished swimming in Lake Atitlain and decided to walk through the streets of San Marco. Just a few feet ahead walking in my direction and there he was! It can be something as innocuous as seeing the Phillies game on at Pinche Gringos in Mexico City. Or it may be hearing a song from a time when the thought of leaving town, let alone the country was a foreign concept, literally and figuratively.
The wake-up call isn't the big stuff - seeing a volcano or swimming by candlelight in a dark cave or hiking the edge of a lake formed by sunken volcanoes from days long gone by. It's the little simple things that call your attention to something being out of place and yet, feeling perfectly in place for you, personally, at the same time.
I'll keep myself open to whatever the next funny run-in may be. It could be nothing, but I'm not opposed to these flashes of awakening at all. Why would I be? I mean, I forgot what a great song Queen of Hearts was and now I can't get it out of my head. Sorry, Deana, but the memory of your white mini-45 record player may be replaced with the back of a pick-up truck and an oncoming biker during the time I did that Central America thing. It’s a Juice thing – you wouldn’t understand.
Until next time,