Walter was awakened around what must have been around 3AM or so by something that sounded like gunshots following a man screaming. He only bothered with it for a couple minutes. He knew these sounds were not that uncommon in the Mexican night... he was in a concrete hotel room with walls thick enough to stop a stray bullet, and Hell... it was Friday night and it was likely just some ol' boys having a good time is all... no reason to not slip right back into dreamland.
The next day he kept thinking about the sounds every time he'd see another one of those heavily armed military trucks with the giant machine guns mounted on the roof. He wondered how thick the concrete would have to be to stop a round from that behemoth. Then he just let the thought fade back into wherever it'd come from and just kept walking.
Walter wasn't generally the skittish type, but he'd read one too many gruesome reports of drug cartel violence in the region and a friend had recently told him about his friend's aunt's husband had recently been kidnapped and murdered. He said the aunt and children were now living in Texas, "You know, there are exotic places you can go that aren't so dangerous. Be careful down there man. It's some real serious shit going on."
Walter thought, "Why does everyone want to jinx me? I know it's not the safest place on the planet, but the safest places tend to be boring and how am I going to get inspired at an all-inclusive?". He tried to shake off the jitters and keep moving... dogs can smell when you're afraid and he'd bet a peso or two that cartel punks could too.
Just as he started to relax a bit and make a few snapshots of some interesting paint texture on the wall of this dingy alley way, he caught site of two men trying to stuff a body into the back of a small car. The hair stood up on his neck as his throat tightened. Could that be one of those poor chaps who couldn't raise the ransom? He looked back again quickly and noticed the whole body was covered blood-red.
Walter, "Ok. Don't panic. They haven't noticed you yet. Just keep walking and avoid eye contact." Just then his eyes met with the outside man. The other man was now pulling the body from the inside. Walter felt a little dizzy but tried to look cool as he hurried by the open car door. He didn't want to look but he couldn't help himself. There it was... just lifeless and mostly blood red. And, a little blue wearing a mask. He almost dropped to his knees as he exhaled and tried not to laugh as he wondered when they started making life-size Spiderman piñatas?
Why was he a little disappointed? It seemed he was looking for that adrenaline rush, or something else. One of these days he was going to find something for real and its not going to be like the movies. Still, he found himself wondering down alleys that he knew he shouldn't be on. There's the rationale that the most interesting textures and strange light are always where no one else is looking, but he knew there had to be more to it than that.
Tampico is an old rusty port city with dank and polluted canals snaking throughout to control flood waters and likely move sewage too and fro. There's a dark green channel that hugs the South end of the city and alongside the rail yard. Walter figured if there was going to be some nice rust textures, that's where he'd find them.
Once again he found himself slinking down a dark alleyway behind two men on bicycle. They hadn't seen him as they made a quick transaction in the shadows. Walter thought, "Not again! Am I just attracted mystically to this shit?" Just then the men saw him and looked nervous. One man tried to look cool and started talking to Walter as the other one leaped behind a wall at the waters edge. "You looking for something friend?" Walter, "No, don't worry. No problem here. I'm just looking around the river." The man,"You work at the shipyard?" Walter, "No, I'm just a tourist having a look around. Seriously, no problem. Don't worry."
The other man overheard and felt safe enough to come out from behind the wall. "You been to the beach?" Walter, "There's a beach here?". Both men started laughing and said there was a nice beach and easy to get to also. They told Walter not to bother with paying for a taxi as they were too expensive. All he needed to do is go back across the rail yard tracks to the large two-lane boulevard and look for one of the collectivos that said "Playa" on the front. Only $8 pesos each way. Each man looked at each other relieved and very happy to help the lost stranger find his way to some surf instead of snooping around where he shouldn't be.
Walter strolled along the mostly empty beach and really let is mind relax and let his vision blur with the mantra of ocean waves. He went as far as he could and then followed a fishing malecon running along a ship channel to a small lighthouse. There was a large colony of raccoons scurrying in and out of the rocks. He figured he'd keep his distance as the raccoons approached without fear. Likely the fishermen would toss them scraps so they no longer feared humans. He then saw a striking black cat licking its tail. He approached the cat assuming it too was friendly when it turned its bright green eyes and hissed like the devil, he knew it was time to put the guard back up.
As he turned to head back toward the beach, he noticed large smokestacks with fire pouring out with black smoke. To the left, the harsh reality of polluted oil refining, and to the right a lovely peaceful beach. He decided, the looks of Tampico were deceiving him once again and maybe he should think about moving on. He'd already found his favorite coffee spot and was starting to walk the same routes. After he made the same photo a day later only with better light, he decided it was time.