So, anyway. (previously) We flew into Guadalajara on Aeromexico, from San Antonio. We took a greyhound bus to San Antonio, & somewhere near Buda, the bus’s brakes got stuck, and started to burn. Sitting on a bus gradually filling with the smell of fire the day after running from a burning building was pretty jarring. The bus pulled over & we sat in the grass near the frontage road & waited for another bus to retrieve us for about an hour, almost making us miss our plane.
Jeri’s dad picked us up from the airport. She broke the news to him about the fire right after we de-planed, so it was a pretty tense & uncomfortable few first minutes. We had brought Lou a VCR & I forget what other electronics, as “gifts” because their general importation was frowned upon, & we had trouble retrieving them at baggage claim. All I recall is Lou swearing a bunch, disappearing into the baggage offices of Aeromexico for nearly an hour, then eventually emerging with his VCR. I’m assuming he paid a bribe.
The airport is on the southern side of Guadalajara, right near the highway to Chapala, so all I saw of town at first was the last bits of it as we turned south for Chapala, where Lou lived. At the time, one of the worst slums in Mexico was in this area, and it seemed like we drove through it for over 5 minutes, even at highway speeds. I have a strong memory of corrugated tin roofs over hovels made of found wood & occasionally cinder block, with dirt roads barely wide enough for cars, electric wires strung willy-nilly, & open sewers. It was very eye-opening to 21-year-old me, & I never have looked at poverty in America the same again. I heard the city came through & cleaned up the slum some years back, & now I can find no evidence online of it ever having existed.
Lou lived on a golf course just west of Chapala, up the hill a couple of blocks from a really charming little village called San Nicolas. It wasn’t too far from his place into Chapala proper, so we spent some time in town there, too. I have a few pictures I took on that trip, no idea whose camera I borrowed. Bored, on about the third day there, we walked down to San Nicolas, ate lunch at a little Palapa that served fried minnows as an appetizer (crunchy & good) then caught the local bus into Chapala for the afternoon. Apparently, white people did not ride those busses in those days. The only seats were in the very back, & most of the people on the bus turned around & stared at us for a good ways. I don’t think they meant to be intimidating, but were just genuinely bemused by the sight of gringos on the local bus.
There were a lot of American & Canadian expatriate retirees living in the area, & it’s a relatively well-off little corner of Mexico as a result. We went to some sort of 4th of July celebration put on by the American consulate I think, just for all the expats – I recall being bored out of my mind, but we were on Lou’s agenda.
At some point during the week, we wound up at the Guadalajara Country Club, and I bought an embroidered polo shirt, which I still own. Apart from the crazy slum, Guadalajara was a really lovely city, though I did not know what I was looking at history-wise as we drove through town. Crazy traffic rotundas.
We drove back to Texas with Lou, stopping in Guadalajara at a local screen print supply house to load up on inks, screens & squeegees so we could start over & resurrect the shop from the ruins on our return. There was a brand of ink called Sanchez, we bought quite a few quarts of that, 5 or 6 squeegees & some pre-stretched screens. The screens were metric — the 71 count thread, being equal to about a 200 mesh? I don’t know. I still have one of those frames in my attic, as of 2014. There was a limit on importations, so the sales guy very neatly divided our purchase into three invoices, each just below the importation tax line, & we declared them as “art supplies” at the border, & got away with it. His cadillac trunk was full, is all I know, & it gave us a chance to start again. That ink was great, too.
On the drive north, we went though the giant barranca just north of Guadalajara, then up onto the barren plane south of Zacatecas. The drive was a blur because Lou really hauled ass & we only stopped a couple of times — once at the ruins at La Quemada, though it turns out we only saw a very small portion of the ruins. I need to go back there.
We stopped agin for gas outside of Zacatecas & Jeri & I grabbed roadside tacos from a little stand across the highway from the Pemex, & Lou freaked out when he saw what we were eating. “That could be horse, it could be dog, you have no idea what they’re cooking over there!” We shrugged our shoulders since we were halfway done. They were good tacos.
When we got back to Texas, we sifted through the remains of the burnt-out shop, pulled out the steel parts of our 5 color manual press (the aluminum bits had all melted — man, I wish I had pictures) & strapped them to an open U-haul trailer. After talking to the manufacturer in Florida, they determined they could refurbish the press for les than the cost of a new one, so Kevin and I got in a rent car and hauled the thing to somewhere near Orlando, on what I recall being a real death-march of a trip. We shared driving & drove straight through both ways, surviving a front-wheel blowout somewhere in Western Louisiana.
After we got the press back a few weeks later, we set it up in our one-car garage, got out the supplies from Mexico & set about starting over, as one does.
Pulled the old Mexican screen out of my attic yesterday & dug through the t-shirt archives. The screen features Danny Garrett’s Antone’s Little Walter design – a classic icon of Austin T-shirt design. The shirt in the gallery was definitely printed with this actual screen. The print went through a lot of iterations, but this was the first. Danny is a detail sort of guy. He took his inspiration from American money, thus the filigree swirls & the lovely engraving look to LW’s portrait. This is all done pen & ink on hardboard — I have held the original in my hand, & you can see a few light pencil guidelines on it, but this was just simply hand drawn by a master. I pretty much had to immediately get good at screen making & printing, having high-quality customers like Danny & Antone’s.