I thought I was seeing things for a minute. I had just stumbled off the tequila tour. Not the tour of the town, which is actually named Tequila, but the tour of the fermented blue agave juice that made this Mexican town famous. Yes, you can find some pretty good tequila in Tequila (unlike the town of Gin Gin in Australia, which produces no special selection of gin to brag about). I had sampled a good variety of the notoriously potent local spirit that day. My brain was buzzing an amplified “buzzz”, like listening to an alarm clock stuck in a bee hive. My palate was saturated from the variety of flavors of the agave’s “sweet nectar” (almond, vanilla, fruity, earthy, nasty, etc.) and the sugary staleness of a burnt churro that I picked up on the way back to the main square. In my intoxicated state, I found myself staring up at this gorgeously sunlit church, face filled with awe like Elliot and his little sister looking up at ET’s spaceship. Suddenly, a swarm of birds began to circle the church dome like they were caught in some sort of holy orbit. “Look at all those DAMN birds”, I thought to myself. “Wow…wait, is that one bird or many? Shit, am I seeing centuple here?” My head is already spinning from the multiple (let’s say 8) samples of La Cofradía and this orchestra of synchronized birds busting endless 360’s around this church isn’t helping my mental equilibrium. All I knew was that I had to get a photo of this “heavenly” sight or I might wake up the next day and forget it ever happened. The late afternoon light was absolutely gorgeous…stunning…and I’m not just saying that cuz I was wearing tequila goggles. It was an epic scene of divine symbolism being blessed by nature (a vision which may inspire a future book entitled “When Mother Teresa met Mother Nature…”). I pull out my camera, fumble around with the settings a bit and fire off a round of 3-5 shots every time those birds circled around and exposed their sunlit underbellies. I did this for about 15 straight revolutions, ending up with around 50-60 shots of the exact same thing. I’m pretty sure the ratio of bad (blurry) ones to good (sharp) ones was about 20:1, so I had to make sure I had this shot nailed. (They don’t teach you the “rules of composition while under the influence” in photo school.) This was one of the good ones:
I believe this is the best “drunk” photo I’ve ever taken (besides that one at Mardi Gras in ’96 where those two young college girls from Lithuania were…whoa…). I also like to imagine it as the best photo of this church ever taken, considering the level of intoxication of the photographer. Not easy to focus on still objects after a half-dozen shots of tequila, let alone flying ones.
It’s both ironic and poetic: The best photo I’ve ever taken (“shot”) while under the influence of tequila happened in a town called Tequila, standing in front of a church named “Santiago” (which translates to Saint “James”), and it was in the state of Jalisco, which can be translated as “plastered”…of which I was quite at the time. Another irony is that the one and only thing I collect from every place I visit around the world is a shot glass. However, I forgot to pick one up in perhaps the most symbolic place in the world to get one. I blame the host of my tequila tour for that one…though I do appreciate the generous sample session I was offered that day. Well worth the price of admission and a burnt churro.