top of page

For the Love of Mexico

White Chedda


Chapter 7

Gera & the Gondo Berry


One spring day four years ago in Vallarta,

I met the Gondo Berry.


And it changed my mouth forever.  

A lot had happened to me in the year leading up to that moment. January 2019 is when I had first arrived in the peaceful paradise by the sea. I was a single beach rapper living at a hostel 2 blocks from the sand.

Poetry for tips in the perfect place.

No responsibilities.





An American planting seeds in Mexico.

Now, we are a dime a dozen.


At some moment 4 months in, a gorgeous Canadian

from British Columbia, 16 years my senior, stole

me away. The allure of a passionate

and well-matched love.



For the first time in my life I really dove into Canada and there was no place better to do it then Paola's hometown of Golden, a small and ambitious town carved into

the face of the Canadian Rockies.

3 hours west of Calgary.


I liked the idea that my life had such North American themes. I thought I had all the countries covered but did not realize until just now that Greenland spoils the set.

Haven't been. Probably won't go.

Not until it's tropical.

At one point, while dating Paola, I went to Chicago, my home, to spend some time performing in the summer.

I met a more equal match in the form of a truly stunning, inteligent and creative woman. A bit closer in age.

The kind you want to marry

and make babies with.


So I did.

ChocAfroDisiaca, my wife, opened up so much life to me.

And, before marriage and babies, we spent some

time exploring my country on roadtrips.

I was very proud to show it off.

Nashville, Branson, Savannah,

Miami, the Keys & more.


On November 2nd, 2019 we wed on the Day of the Dead. Dressed up as the unliving and invited our guests to do the same. A colorful, self-built celebration in a theatre not far from Wrigley Field. We made our own food.

And solidified an eternal bond.


A loopty loop of life, a miscarriage, and a brief stint in Acapulco later, I came back to Vallarta as a we, not a me. Pregnant anew with a gender-unknown

2nd chance miracle growing in our belly.


To quote the Simpsons...

It's a uterUS not a uterYOU


Though we shared the hostel experience with great pleasure together as a team, a wordlwide pandemic forced us out of group living and by

the grace of God we found a home

where our family could blossom.


This was the rooftop panorama-pleaser of an

apartment that I mentioned in Chapter 6.

We were writing poetry and songs,

dancing, kissing, launching riQueZo

and making love.

Real love.


Life was good.

And walks were common.


Down the hill from our home was a little river in the colonia of Lopez Mateos in the shadow of a famous church called, La Luz del Mundo.

The river was famous in Vallarta because of all the fantastic food stands built along the side.

It didn't take us long to find the $5 peso tacos.


And if the tacos are that inexpensive, you're gonna

eat 20. And if you're gonna eat 20, you will need something to drink. The taquería offered a rotation

of aguas frescas, a new flavor each day.

Agua Fresca is an ultra common refreshment in Mexico. It's like a juice because it is made with fresh fruit but watered down and mixed with sugar. It makes you think you are drinking healthy because of the fruit.

And you are. But the sugar saturates.

I had tried so many of the flavors in my time in Mexico

and so many are incredible. I will list some.

If it's on the list, it's delicious.

Limon y Chia




Piña con Apio

Pepino con Limon


The Mexicans love Jamaica (Hibiscus)

I'll drink it in a pinch but it's not my favorite.

On this particular day, I was with Monse and asked the woman taking orders, which water they had today.

¿Que tipo de agua tienen hoy?

Her response: Gondo

Monse and I looked at one another to see if there was

a familiarity with the fruit. There was not.

Let's try it!


Out came 'purple drank'

and I got excited.

In the states, I had an obsession with a berry not so common in Mexico, the Acai (Ah Sa EEE) which makes all things purple and is so weirdly spelled that there is no way on a keyboard for me to do it right.


I had a glimmer of hope in my buds when she passed me the styrofoam cup with a straw. Maybe this was Acai, disguised in a Spanish name.


It wasn't.



It was better! 

You know in life when you discover one of your favorite things for the first time? And you just know you're gonna want it again and again. For me, that was the Gondo.

I was instantly sold.


Some other examples in my life...

Chocolate Covered Gummy Bears

Guacamole from Chipotle

Lou Malnati's Deep Dish

And Sex

My whole Mexican life was flipped on it's head.

A nectar to call my own.

And I had questions.


What is this?

Where did it come from?

And why have I never heard of it before.


The woman explained that the Gondo was a small purple berry with a very short season in the spring.


That hurt.


I was hoping for a long-seasoned fruit.

Something to savor. All. The. Time.

So after that day, I checked back. 
And back. And back.

But the Gondo was gone though.

And poof!


It never returned.

I would ask occasionally at Agua Fresca stands if they had it. Many people looked at me strange, because they themselves had never heard of it. They thought maybe I was just a Gringo using the wrong word

to describe what it was.

I started to feel insane.


A year passed.

Then two.

I gave up.

Then three.

Then four.

Oh fate!

What torture is this?


To fall in love with a berry

only to have it disappear,

leaving behind a glass sipper.

Maybe it had turned back to a blueberry

at the stroke of midnight.


I had it once

and I've only had it once




Faith is real when you are alone at the top of a mountain. There is nothing but you and God.

I highly recommend it.


Google Maps shows us that there is 2,950 meters of elevation change between Vallarta and Mascota.


That's 9,000+ feet


This was the theme of my second day.

If day one was the bull, day two was the horns.

We're not in earshot of Vallarta anymore.

It isn't a backtrack away.

A stone's throw.

Wilderness procedes.

I finally got to feel the sensation of looking over the seemingly inconquerable. Something more common in the 1800's and something more rare in the 2020's.

People ask me if these walks are for adventure. The answer is not a yes and not a no. The yes side is that, of course, what a story to add to your life. What sights you might see. What humility you must feel in the face of something so large and unpredictable. That's a rush.

We know we have it easy. In this time, there are so many luxuries and excuses to relax. 200 years ago and all the years beyond, an adventure like this would never impress. Anyone. Because it was a lifestyle. I suppose one of my greatest pleasures is in connecting back with that past. The pioneers. The trailblazers. The bold.

I watched The Revenant a few times before leaving.

Or as I'll call it here, Leo & The Bear.

I did that to remind me of the way it was to be.


Stranded & vulnerable in the divine.

The second part of the answer is the no. No these walks are not for adventure. They are because of something bigger. That you might be captivated and convinced. He must really want me to think about something. He must be all-in. I would never leave my kids in this time if

I didn't hold our mission as the highest of priorities.

Can we please show them that it worked?

Ocassionaly I will remind you of my mission.

Now is one of those times.

I am doing this so that you will join riQueZo

Our family.

And you can decide to do that at anytime.

Including now. Do you want to delay the gratification?

Or say an asap yes to the us-ness of this movement?

Your baptismal moment will be worth it.

Whenever it is.

I promise.

Picture opening the door to heaven. In the living room are 50 smiling people all ready to hug you. They've been expecting you. They don't yet know your name but they know you are family. That is what awaits you.


We are not new.

We are tenured.

We are not jumbled. Confused. Misguided.

We are purposed.

If you are not a member by the end of

this book, then I failed.

You want to show love for Mexico?

Do it through what we've built.

Be a symbol.

I do take a lot of pride in being an adventurer by the way.

A moment of self-realization. I think if you asked my friends in high school, If I was likely to be the frontiersman of the bunch, they would

not have pegged it that way.

My college friends.

Maybe not as surprised.

But only because they learned fast

that it was useless to try and predict me.

Now, my blood runs savage.

My teeth: grimy & yellow.

My odor: tremendous.

My will: unshakeable.

My good friend Venus the Jeweler from Chicago slipped a ring on me before my walk Across America and gave me an angel's kiss. She whispered in my ear,

´You will never be the same´

She was right.

Seco and Rosalba sent me off with references.

This is why the Butcher Shop conversation was so important. It meant that I would never leave the

embrace of familiarity on the trail.

They told me to look for Luz in Barandillas

And La Pachita in Zapotán.

I left in the early morning light.

And I thought I was prepared. But I wasn't.

What followed was the climb. Way higher, way steeper and way more isolated than I could have dreamed.

Remember though, the will.

And that day one was already

in my satchel of stories.

A testament to the blessedness of my path.

So let's fucking go!

My feet dug.

My back bent.

My eyes stung with sweat


My legs found their perseverance

in the necessity of forward.

It was hard.

But a beautiful thing happened though.

I found a tool to aid me. A prize.

Way up in those mountains with the pain throbbing in

my feet, I thought a thought I should have thought

before. I need something else on this walk.

I need a crutch. I need a stick.

I am not exaggerating when I say that within 2 minutes of the birth of this consciousness, God revealed to me a grounded branch, as perfect as a dream.


My staff.


A thick and sturdy wood with bends and bark designed just for me. And evident. And destined.


Look for something.

Set your intention.

And you will find it.

And add it to what is you.

It will need a name

and I shall call it, ´Go´

Go gave me three new strengths since the moment

I clutched him. Thor with his hammer.

The first, a way to take the impact off of each step.

The second, a new found sense of protection against the wildcats. With my backpack in front as an option and Go in my hand, that encounter seemed more tilted in

my favor than before. And that felt good.

I ust realized. I AM a Wildcat.

Never thought of that before.

The Northwestern Wildcats. My tribe. I am one.

The third, and I hope you won't grow weary of this theme, is God. The protectedness of it all. The fate of necessary things. I took finding Go as yet another affirmation that this journey is not wrong. It is right.

A clue amidst the doubt.


I came to a congregation of 6 buildings at about 11:45am

in a little dip. A temporary reprieve from my grind.

From so. much. walk.


These ranches always seem abandoned until you shout.

So I shouted. And a light of human voice

pierced back at me.


I didn't know where I was but it must have been Barandillas because there was Luz.


I ducked into the shade of a half house, half restuarant with red chairs and a long table laid out. I had 2 pesos.


Luz was a woman who cascaded her kindness in her stature and manner. I told her about my journey and she gave me a can of Coke. I told her I couldn't pay

for it and to her, that didn't matter.


I wasn't expecting more. Just tried to enjoy the rest and the sugar and we chatted happily about her familiarity with playing host to people on the path. Especially ultramarathoners in November who bravely do

what I was doing but at speed.


It made me feel again like I hadn't yet

earned a single stripe.


I probably won't feel that way until Guadalajara, Aquascalientes, Tampico. Only then will hats tip.


I was getting ready to go when Luz told me I couldn't.

She was making me Quesadillas. Or she called them tacos but really they were large.

Let's compromise. Quesatacos.

de Chorizo y Frijoles.


I ate one.


And enough.


But she insisted I take 3 more for the road.


The Mexican people are thorough in their kindness

It is not for show. It is real.


She didn't want me to just be good for the moment, she wanted to bless the rest of my journey. And she did.

She told me I was half way to Zapotán.

I gave her a hug, shared a gracias

and re-embarked.

The rest of the path was dusty, desolate and dry

and the largest of all the summits tried to crush me.

Go pounded into the earth rhythmically. My arms

now taking some of the brunt off of my feet.

A balance of strength, building with each step.

La Pachita. Zapotán. La Pachita. Zapotán.

Everyone had told me that Zapotán was on a river

and from way up high I could see water

as I started my descent.


A huge dry waterfall across the

valley trickled nothing into something.

I came to a split in the path as the river drew closer. There are lots of diversions in the path and I would be lying if I said that sometimes I don't just guess which road is the main road. I also have gotten a lot of guidance in this regard along the way. In the abyss,

you ask all for directions.


Most have told me to stay to the left, which I have

found fun and ironic given the

political nature of our text.


In this moment, I did a thing I just don't do. I opted

for the path down to the river and diverged from

the main road. The water was an alluring mystic.

I knew the town probably had access but felt ready.

When I came to the bouldery shore, I found a small pool at the bottom of a 2 foot waterfall.

Nothing short of a dream. I thought,

'it's time to get naked and take a river bath´

But doubt got the better of me.

I saw some paw prints in the sand

and it weren't no horse. something with claws.

I also thought, ´crocodiles lurking below?´

that's not the stupid way I hope to go.

I wimped.

Sat there afraid.

Feet in. Nothing more.


It was a disappointing moment for me.

I had been through so much and yet could not

muster the faith. I felt vulnerable and scared.

I lifted my backpack and wished I had said ´Yes´

What was this caution? Where did it come from?

I climbed back up with defeated mind.

You still don't have the faith bro.

Zapotán rose ahead. Though rose is the wrong word.

I was on my way down to it. I was relieved to arrive.

I stopped at a house just before the

bridge and asked for La Pachita.


A sweet family, mother, father,  & daughter directed

me across the bridge, down the

road and to the right.

I arrived at the house I thought they were referencing with a spirit of optimism. I already felt at home since

I knew a name. Simple formula. Meet Pachita +

Tell her Seco sent me = Rejuvenate and Rest.

When I shouted ´¡Buenas Tardes!´ A man came out

of the house. I told him I was looking for Pachita.

He said she wasn't there but that he was her son.

A 50 year oldish man, in good shape with greying hair.

I feel like some might turn back in that moment.

This person was not the person I was looking for.

I didn't.

With no hesitation, I accepted that truth, extended my hand and told him Seco had sent me to find his mother.

I had walked from Vallarta.


His name was Gerardo. Gera.

He invited me in and I asked if he thought his mother would let me stay the night, even if it was

just sleeping outside on the floor.

By the Grace of God,

He made his own decision

and said that I could.

I gently set down Go, Pack & The Sign of Buenas Ondas and sat in a chair. I suppose I did have a little doubt that I was making the right move. This was not La Pachita.

This was a grown man and I was in his home, way out,

on a ranch in Mexico so far from my comforts.

That type of dark thinking cannot be a part of

this story, if we are to tell it right.


But then Gera said something.

Something quite interesting.

He asked if I wanted a drink.

An agua fresca.

But when he said it, there was a half second pause between the words agua fresca and what type it might actually be. I saw this as him searching for

the right word as if he forgot.


But a second later I realized it was just a delay

in God's punchline to a 4 year old joke, one

that demands you to know that your author

is absolutely and utterly crying.

A river of tears, as I close this tale.

Gera said,


Can I offer you

an agua fresca...


de Gondo?


bottom of page