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Cinco De Mayo

(Saturday, May 5, Cherokee Street)

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The strip of Cherokee Street between Iowa and Oregon is alive — one big, broad smile. A kaleidoscope of embellished belt buckles and cowboy hats, embroidered shirts, jet-black hair; pointy-toed boots, taco stands.

The bandstand is set up next to the Nevera la Vallesana, where people are outside lounging on stools, eating tacos and drinking beer while little kids chase each other around the restaurant and the band, Tamborazo Mixteco, plays mariachi music.

It's hard to be anything but happy when you're in earshot of mariachi music. It's a natural antidepressant, like Zoloft or Hawaiian shirts. A large crowd encircles the people who are dancing; across the street, still more people sit watching from the curb.

Beneath a Mexico Vive Aqu sign painted on the wall of a bodega stands New York Dave in all his Beat magnificence, bottle of beer in hand — more or less the exact pose as the last time I'd seen him. He's back from New Orleans. Hitchhiked there in 100-degree heat for seven days. Lucky bastard!

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