I’ve got nothing against Mexican music. Indeed, when it comes to love ballads, those sung in Spanish pluck my heartstrings better than any songs sung in my native English.
But as a five-week stay in Mexico neared an end, how wonderful it was to sip coffee at an outdoor cafe in Ajijic and hear "My Favorite Things," "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To," "Take Five" and other jazz standards performed not by John Coltrane, Art Pepper or Dave Brubeck, but rather by a couple of cash-strapped locals playing a clarinet and a guitar.
Music transports me to other times and places faster than other sounds. "Take Five" instantly took me back to a concert by the Dave Brubeck Quartet I'd attended in Santa Monica, California, decades earlier. "My Favorite Things" returned me to one fine day of skiing at Squaw Valley, a Sony Walkman in my pocket and headphones on my ears. "You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To" placed me nowhere in particular, but the tune flooded me with warm and fuzzy feelings from hazy memories.
At the musicians' feet lay a guitar case splayed for tokens of appreciation. I discreetly dropped a 500-peso note into it. Then I snapped the photo you see here and wandered off, "Heard It Through the Grapevine" fading as I strode toward a date with my wife at a restaurant that served delicious top sirloin with corn and baked potato for an absurdly reasonable 190 pesos a plate.