"The ideal travel book," Christopher Isherwood once said, "should be perhaps a little like a crime story in which you're in search of something." And it's the best kind of something, I would add, if it's one that you can never quite find. -- Pico Iyer
Our ideal travel book may be called many things. Too bad, light weight isn't one of them. There's no Ebook version and it's out of print.
Despite our best intentions to travel light, we've lugged around a 522 page, full-color hardbound travel book, measuring 10" X 12.5" and weighing in at almost eight and a half pounds. Truth be told, neither Tejano nor I currently own a copy of this treasured travel book: the closest I came to owning one was a copy I gave to my mother for her birthday, more than ten years ago; Tejano parted with his in a more recent distribution of marital assets.
For over 4000 miles, we've carried a phantom version of an over-sized, coffee table volume, a glorious book of photos called "Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art".
Wherever we go among artists and those who love art, we talk about this book and the mid-1990's project that brought 500 works by 180 of the greatest living folk artists to museums and coffee tables across America. Reciting each of the nine sections -- clay, wood, stone, textiles, metal, paper, leather, plant fibers -- we tell the story of an earlier search Tejano made throughout Mexico to know the artists and their work. It helps us explain who we are and why we're here.
Three days into our drive to Central America, we paused for a week in Oaxaca, Mexico, a southern colonial city to which we each brought levels upon levels of memory. Ducking through the narrow entrance of La Mano Magica/The Magic Hand, Tejano recongized the work of the store's co-owner Arnulfo Mendoza, whom he remembered from an earlier art-buying trip.
That trip, armed with a physical copy of the "Masters" book, he'd purchased a weaving for $3000; the current pricetag on a similar weaving displayed in the store -- $6,000 . Deeper into the recesses of the gallery, we found Arnulfo's looms, and even better -- Arnulfo, himself.
Unfortunately, this time we weren't buying. We took photos -- with permission -- of a magical sky blue piece, glistening from silk and gold threads. Arnulfo shared a catalog of the kimonos he's woven and displayed from annual six-month stays in Kyoto, Japan.
Not a bad life.
As for getting another copy of our favorite travel book, we checked on-line before leaving Austin for the Mexican Border and then called my mother in San Antonio.
"You still have that big book I got you on Mexican Folk Art?" I asked. Mom surrounds herself with folk art from all over the world, mostly whatever I've been able to squeeze into my suitcase. She reassured me the book was still there.
"Whatever you do, Mom, don't get rid of it. It's out of print and Amazon wants $266 for a used copy."
For more information on the original "Great Masters of Mexican Folk Art," try here: