Light my fire?

The face that launched umpteen billion fantasies



We’ve hit another watershed moment in 2021 – the 50th anniversary of the physical death of Jim Morrison. Mind you, he is very much alive in our memories. There, he forever will strut his stuff, pout his pout, slam back the booze, sing his songs and do God knows what else.

The iconic photograph reproduced under the header endures as the face that has launched umpteen billion fantasies. So many have tried to describe his allure. One columnist said Morrison was the “first major male sex symbol since James Dean died and Marlon Brando got a paunch”. Others called him a “leather tiger,” a “shaman-serpent king, the “Acid-Evangelist of Rock”, a sort of “Hell’s Angel of the groin.” and even, “The King of Orgasmic Rock.”

I like what prose-poet Liza Williams said, “He was a “baby bullfighter / ultimate boy Barbie doll.”

To avoid all the notoriety and the circus-like atmosphere that surrounded the deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix,  the Paris police reported, “Morrison’s death was caused by a heart attack while taking a bath. Just that. Natural causes. Nothing more.”

My gift of the Mexican flag is clearly visible… the guitar fell down… or was it grabbed?

In 2007, Jorge and I visited Jim Morrison’s tomb at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. So many statesmen, artists, humanitarians – saints of every hue are buried there – yet the Morrison grave is the only one that must have a guard 24-7. Many of his fans still want to cart off a piece of him. The photograph shows  the gravesite. I like to think the miniature guitar I left might be one of his favorites fan girl gifts.

When I mourn Jimmy’s death, I am comforted that we still have Mick. I often wonder if Morrison’s death at 27 spurred Jagger to give up his own dangerous habits so he could keep on rockin’. He also grew into the ultra-disciplined manager of the Stones – albeit always with an edge – He has kept his gig going almost twice as long as Morrison lived.

What is it about these bad boys? Why, even when they’re dead and gone, do they still hold us captive? I think maybe this is because they allow us a vicarious walk on wild side.

Hello, I love you
Won’t you tell me your name?
Hello, I love you
Let me jump in your game

Light my fire? Hm-m-m-m-m?

Did you ever meet this woman?

Yaya

The Centro merchants, restaurant workers, bus drivers and just about everyone else, called her, “Yaya”. I started noticing her in the streets of Merida in the 1990s. Actually, the radius of her world was made up of one square block – between Calles 57 & 59 and 58 & 60.

She was about 4 foot 6, bowlegged, snag-toothed and scruffy. She lived in a psychotic world that allowed no access. I would guess that she was schizophrenic.

Diminutive as she was, her strength was surprising. Her bowed legs never rested. At any given time, she owned up to six boxes. And no one could get near them. Inside I glimpsed Coca Cola bottles filled with water, tattered blankets, and not much else. She’d push them back and forth from one end of the Callejón del Congreso, to the other. And then she’d do it all over again. All day, every day.

I could not ask her name, nor learn her story because she was profoundly deaf and did not speak.

But she sometimes got a-hold of a whistle or a drum. Where from, who knows? But she loved to play them loudly – very loudly. I guess she could feel and enjoy the vibration.

In typical Merida fashion, the people who lived and worked near her home-plate provided Yaya with the basics. A shopkeeper gave her  “employment.”  Daily she handed out his flyers along her four streets. If anyone walked past without accepting one, she would sneak up behind and bop them on the head. I saw more than one person whip around and stare incredulously at Yaya. But she did not back down. She would not be intimidated – not on her own turf.

No one knew where she came from. No one ever claimed her as their own. Over the years, a few well-meaning souls tried to move her and her belongings to a safer spot, but she responded with shrill shrieks and flying fists. The government wanted to assist Yaya, as did a group of well-intentioned ladies who captured her whenever they could. They’d bathe her, brush her few teeth, wash and comb her hair and dress her in clean clothing.

Yaya somehow ended up as she did, and it didn’t look like she wanted any other life. A shop keeper in the pedestrian mall saw that she ate every day, and when she got ill, he bought her medicine. From time to time, other neighbors gave her clothes and blankets. She bathed and performed her bodily functions in secret spots. There must have been someone who laid out some soap & a towel, and left a water hose available to her.

I always felt sympathetic to Yaya’s wishes to be left alone. I imagine she was always deaf-mute. Where was her family and the medical community when she was a child? Where were they when she turned her back on a “normal”life – whatever that is? Living a solitary existence amid the crowds, Yaya knew where she wanted to be, and that is where she wanted to stay.

But she got older, and the years of hand-to-mouth living took their toll. It was hard to see Yaya as a contributing member of society – in the conventional sense. But I think she had something important to teach us. I can’t precisely say what, but I know that every time I’d spot her on the street, I would feel reminded to do the best I can with what I have.

About the time that the Palacio de Musica was built, someone moved Yaya along. To where, no one seems to know. But she’s gone. If she is still alive, I hope she’s found another place where she wants to be. If she has passed away, I hope her end was peaceful.

Yaya made me think about gratitude and about tolerance. She made me pause and consider, that if not for the grace of the Universe – there go I.

Photo credit: Yaya   http://www.municipiosyucatan.com/wp/

Your help is imperative

This has been such a difficult year and a half. The COVID 19 pandemic has turned our world upside down. Try as we might, just when we think it’s getting a little better – BOOM – it gets worse again. And now the Merida English Library’s Board of Directors has made the announcement we’ve all dreaded. They do not have the funds to sustain operations. They will be forced to close the door, unless we all help. A full explanation of the situation and what they are asking from us follows. – I know I will be making my donation, first thing tomorrow morning. If you can just give a little, it will be received with gratitude – every bit counts. And if you can afford to give more, please do.

For all our sakes, don’t put this plea aside, we ALL need to do our bit.

Thank you so much.

July 1st, 2021

Greetings MEL Members,

As COVID-19 continues to spread, the future has never felt so unpredictable. These are challenging times for us all, and we hope you’re in good spirits and health! Right now, we’re doing everything possible to sustain daily operations and provide services to our community. 

The Board of Directors has reduced expenses, and our staff and volunteers have been creative in developing ways to replace the revenue lost from our normal fundraising activities – but it is not enough. A year and three months into the pandemic, we are now spending down our reserves and need additional funds to prevent staff layoffs and maintain the Library until we are allowed to resume normal operations. We need your help to raise an additional 150,000 pesos to see us through the end of the year.

The members of the Board have pledged a total of 60,000 pesos, so we just need 90,000 pesos (about $4,500 USD) to reach our goal. Your generosity will prevent a staff disruption and allow us to quickly resume normal operations once restrictions are lifted.You can make a contribution by going to our website
where you will find a “Donate” button, or you can make a bank transfer to MEL’s bank account using the below-listed information:

Name: Merida English Library A.C.
Bank: Intercam Banco
CLABE: 136910039951300169

Cash donations are also accepted at MEL during library hours.  Contact Arantxa, our administrator, at info@meridaenglishlibrary.com if you have any questions.

In times like this, we are reminded of how interconnected we all are. Thank you for being part of our community and supporting MEL. Without you, none of it is possible.  
Stay safe and be well,
Greg Casini, President
Merida English Library