PIÑATA DE AMOR
"Be careful of what you wish for
cuz you just might hit it."
At twenty-six, Egon receives a devastating diagnosis of manic depression. Then his girlfriend, Danielle, leaves him. Heartbroken, Egon accepts an invitation to visit his brother Elok, 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,” Elok 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.” Egon 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, Egon 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.”
Egon soon meets Marian Vardas, 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 notorious drug lord. When Marian asks Egon 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.
Egon 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, Egon’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.Egon’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, Egon 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 Elok,” 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
The place is called Ma Ma Mia’s, a dimly lit salsa bar with a clientele of locals Mexicans, gringo tourists and expats. We enter as the band pauses their set for a brief break; the dancefloor empties, and the crowd, with skin glistening, is off to hydrate. The bar smells of beer, liquor, cigarettes, cigars, and sweat, and I feel as if I can smell something like lust, too. The place is alive; I can feel its pulse.
Elok walks me over to a tall wooden table a few rows back from the dancefloor. Stanley is sitting there with a woman and another man. We greet Stanley and take a seat.
“Egon, this is Elsa, one of my oldest friends in San Miguel. She moved here from Argentina around the same time I moved here from the Scarburbs.” Elsa is short and slender, with long, dark hair, many dark freckles, and a nose ring. She gives me a pleasant nod, and I give one back in return.
“And you, I don’t believe we’ve met yet,” Elok says to the man sitting next to Stanley. His blond dreadlocks are pulled back into a loose bun at the nape of his neck.
“This is Karl. We’ve just met him,” Stanley explains. There’s a tone to his voice I can’t place. A waitress brings over two frosted bottles of Victoria lager and places them in front of Egon and me. Elok winks at her in acknowledgement. Ah, I realize. He’s a regular. I take a long sip.
“Karl was telling us about his recent vision quest.”
“Yes, I’ve just come back from the desert.” Karl is animated and shifts forward in his wooden seat. “You can join shamans on their spiritual pilgrimages—”
“Led by tour guides,” Elok interrupts.
“—you go into the desert, where you eat peyote and trip out under the anvil of the sun. You become naked and confront all your demons. It’s like dying and being reborn.”
“You know what I hate?” Elok puts his bottle down hard on the wooden table. I note a faint smirk flicker on Elsa’s lips.
“I hate you hippie types who come from good, wealthy families but are slumming it here for the fun of it, spouting some line about how damn spiritual you are.” Elok has taken Karl off guard, and I’m surprised myself.
“You are a Carlos Castaneda–shaman-wannabe, going to the desert like every other backpacking hippie to find peyote and trip out in the desert. And the worst thing is, the minute all these hippie girls hear the word shaman, they fall for it; they always fall for you genuine fakes, hook, line, and sinker.”
“Why are you so uptight about shamans?” The light in Karl’s face has drained. “And what’s wrong with peyote?”
“Drugs have become the means by which souls plagued with spiritual lethargy wish to turn enlightenment into a lazy recreational consumerist product, like fast food and ATMs. Satori—quick, easy, and convenient! Some people are overly eager to seek gratification from life. They squander it in their haste, like a premature ejaculation.”
Stanley and Elsa are poorly concealing their laughter as Karl awkwardly collects his things and heads off into the crowd. I take a long swig of beer and a hard look at my brother. What was that about?