PIÑATA DE AMOR
"Be careful of what you wish for
cuz you just might hit it."
At twenty-six, Kagan receives a devastating diagnosis of manic depression. Then his girlfriend, Daniela, leaves him. Heartbroken, Kagan accepts an invitation to visit his brother Kakim, a charismatic painter and playboy who lives in the Spanish colonial town of San Miguel de Allende, four hours north of Mexico City. “Beautiful women are the best antidote to the blues,” Kakim writes in his postcard. “The best way to mend a broken heart is to move on. You are a soldier of love and gotta be bold.” Kagan packs up and leaves the basement apartment of his parents’ Vancouver home. With a plane trip he hopes to leave his troubles behind.
In San Miguel, Kagan discovers a beautiful and romantic artists’ colony crawling with eccentrics and womanizers, a magical town that has attracted “rebels, renegades, hippies, Rastafarians, potheads, drunks, bohemians, intellectuals, musicians, outcasts of all castes to its bosom.”
Kagan soon meets Marian Vargas, the Chilean beauty whom he falls passionately in love with while she teaches him Spanish. She also happens to be the girlfriend of Michelangelo, the town’s most notorious lady-killer. When Marian asks Kagan to fulfill her deepest wish, something she has dreamed of since childhood, she gets more than what she bargains for when he embarks on a grandiose quest to deliver his promise to her. Along the way, he struggles with the nature of love and is torn between two poles: romantic love and devotion and the womanizing antics of his brother and friends.
Kagan longs for a sense of purpose and beauty—two things he believes his life lacks—and hopes to reinstate the chivalric code of the knights-errant by assuming the super hero identity of the Silver Psychedelic Stardust Cowboy, also known as Ryokan: the Zen neon disco Buddhist punk. Initially, Kagan’s quixotic quest to emulate a knight in shining armor only harms those he meets, since he is largely unable to see the world as it really is. Kagan’s obsession with romantic love—or falling in love with the notion of being in love—causes a split between his sanity and his madness. As an unreliable narrator, Kagan at times doesn’t really know what’s going on around him and merely chooses to ignore the world and the consequences of his disastrous actions.
This coming-of-age memoir-novel depicts the hero's journey of a warrior of the heart, a romantic who discovers transcendence and awakening through his quest for perfect love, a universal ideal that people since time immemorial have searched for but failed to attain. Piñata de Amor explores how the potent emotions of infatuation and mania come from that same inspired source of crazy wisdom. It portrays a manic-depressive man’s rite of passage as he tries to discern the difference between his mental health breakdowns and his spiritual breakthroughs.
"In the novel, politically incorrect men with love up their sleeve find themselves laid bare by beauty, by women, and by the Mecca of their romantic adventures, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. “To my brother Kakim,” says the narrator, “love is a sport; to me it is a religion.” This is the heart that beats inside the breast of this politically incorrect womanizer — a heart both tender and fearful — a Romantic poet searching for a Nirvana of flesh and intimacy. Of course — like Don Quixote rushing at windmills — so much will go wrong!"
- Shaena Lambert: Author of Petra, Radiance, The Falling Woman, and Oh, My Darling
Michelangelo is Kakim’s best friend. Together they have earned an infamous reputation as womanizers who specialize in Chilean women. In fact, you could call them connoisseurs.
Like the birds flying south every winter, flocks of young Chilean women descend on San Miguel during their winter holidays. They come here looking for a good time, and Michelangelo and Kakim are happy to oblige.
"They're beautiful, hysterical, and sophisticated,” Kakim says, polishing off a Victoria and setting it on the table.
These college students come from upper middle-class families. They often attend art classes at the Instituto Allende or Bellas Artes. As Jeffrey tells it, Michelangelo and Kakim seem unable to help themselves around these petite, slender, long-haired Chilean girls in their late teens and early twenties, dressed in white slacks made of thin material and bell-bottom pants, looking like glamorous 1970s fashion models.
Michelangelo and Kakim have developed antennae, radar to detect newly arrived Chilenas. From the famous White Café, they can spot them in groups of three or four across the Jardin. Kakim gives their coordinates: “Two o’clock.”
They drain the dregs of their cappuccinos, and get into character like two method actors. “Let’s get to work,” Kakim says. They descend like big-game hunters upon unsuspecting prey.
"Ah, the famous spaghetti dinners!" Jeffrey says. Kakim and Michelangelo, San Miguel’s self-appointed welcoming committee, act as ambassadors, inviting the newly arrived guests to a spaghetti dinner.
Kakim would cook, banging about in the kitchen, using every pot and pan with dramatic flair, while the poor Chilean girls tried to stave off hunger well past eleven o’clock. But all would end well in a night of laughter and great merriment. Two lucky devils having four to five women all to themselves.
The reputations of Michelangelo and Kakim spread as far as Chile, for the young women invariably would gossip. And gossip often travels faster than it happens. Once, they walked up to newly arrived Chileans looking at a map and offered assistance. To their pleasant surprise, they discovered, by crazy coincidence, that the girls were looking for Kakim’s house. Apparently, girlfriends had passed on his address, making their job all too easy.
Another time, Michelangelo and Kakim were carrying around pots from a recent successful dinner, having just seen some girls off. A new batch, introduced by other girlfriends, recognized Kakim and Michelangelo from the pots they were carrying. The fame of their spaghetti parties had become widespread.
On another occasion, Michelangelo and Kakim saw off a group of Chilean beauties at the airport. Once the girls were gone, they turned to leave with tears in their eyes, only to see a sign hovering before them: “ARRIVALS: CHILE.” They burst into laughter filled with male bravado and comradeship. They marched in the direction of the sign toward their next fix, truly addicted to what Jeffrey calls “Chileanofrenzia.”
Michelangelo sometimes received too much attention from the women pursuing him. It got so bad that some women began to stalk him. He became afraid of their aggressive advances and would hide at home behind locked doors, using a broken-off car mirror to check whether the coast was clear in the streets before daring to leave his house.
For a few blissful months of the year, the girls were knocking on Michelangelo and Kakim’s doors, offering themselves up like sacrificial virgins, while the two lucky bastards savored the froth on their White Café cappuccinos.