Monday, May 12, 2014

once upon a time in mexico

It is my first time in Mexico and as the plane nears the air strip I notice the tightly coiled jungle vegetation, it's all so dense and darkly green and clings closely to the ground, afraid to grow any higher in this heat. It's all so reminiscent of Jamaica, my lovely orphan of the Bahamas, my usual tropical choice of vacation.

I am bouncing along a dusty back road squished in the middle of the front seat of a beat-up Toyota van. The driver is young with slicked-back oily hair curled at the ends. His brown arms are hairless and his fingers keep beat on the steering wheel to a Nirvana tune and that's not an easy thing to do if you think about it. He doesn't speak English and his CD holder boasts Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gin Blossoms, U2. "Any Rolling Stones?" I venture. He gives me a smile and a large gold tooth is planted right in the middle of it.
Good lord, is that four people on one motorcycle, dad, little boy, little boy, mom, all helmeted at least. These are a small brown people.

Back at the resort I begin my laps in the turquoise pool and after sixty minutes a man with more tattooed skin than not looks my way. All afternoon he has been blowing deadly Marlboro smoke in my direction and now he says, "you're nuts."  I'm nuts? I'm not the one sitting in full sun this close to the equator sipping Bud Lite when Corona plus lime is available.

 I bring my exercise routine on vacation and then I get suspicious looks from the other tourists. I don't talk to them. We are here for different reasons.

I am in my chair slogging through Keith Richards' autobiography, what an awful man, when this group across the pool starts blasting a MP3 comblomeration of country, rap and slimy Bieber ballads. Did you really think we want to listen to your shitty choice in music? Did you bother asking any of us? Can't you see there are drunk people here trying to sleep?

 If we were in Jamaica there would be Bob Marley tunes everywhere, every taxi, every village square, every jerk chicken place. "Don't worry 'bout a 'ting, cause every little 'ting gonna be all right . . "  It is all right the first few times the song wafts softly on the breeze but by the end of the week you just want to slap someone.  And the truth of the matter is, it's not gonna be all right. The fricking Russians are in the Ukraine and now Biden's going over, there's a waste of jet fuel. But then the AP just announced the arrival of powdered alcohol, there's a good idea. You could sprinkle it on frozen pizza, a Hostess cupcake, your breakfast cereal. By god, everything would indeed be all right. Go, Bob.


Thursday, May 1, 2014


I open one eye and see a grey rectangle that is my window. Another drizzly morning devoid of  spring color and I consider staying motionless under my down comforter for the remainder of the day.  It is my birthday and I should do what I want. I have slippers from New Zealand waiting under my bed, a gift from my mountain-dwelling son, he knows cold and it is cold.

The polar blasts have pounded my corner of the world all winter and they will not relinquish their hold even though the calendar says late April. "I remember the year you were born," my father will tell me later today, "the lilacs were in full bloom." Those poor bushes are barely sprouting leaves in this crazy frigid weather.

I hate birthdays. A day when all eyes swerve in my direction. I cringe every time the phone rings. I will need to make light and spirited conversation something I am not good at.  I am grateful for the wealth of family and friends in my life. I just don't wanna talk about it or necessarily to them.

Supper with my father and I'm cooking.  What? skawk several of my friends through the course of the day. You're cooking, on your birthday, sqawk!  But it's my dad, I explain and he sent me this really cool card. And he did, a little girl with a pixie haircut striding across the front of the page. "You walked like this," he tells me, "when you were little, like you were on a mission." Probably looking for my Lennon Sisters' coloring book. He writes in bold capital letters, "you are one of the luckiest things that ever happened to me." Drat, there's that watery eye thing happening.

I remember when I was fourteen.  Sonny had arranged an interview for me at the S.S. Kresge store. A friend of his wife managed the underwear department, a position envied by all the other ladies in aqua nylon tie-in-the back smocks with ink-stained pockets. I fretted this whole thing with all the teen-aged angst I could muster. What if I fail? I will have let down the old man. No one will ever hire me. I am an insignificant insect in the unemployed hordes and it is there I will remain.

My father heard my muttering and I poured out my soul, as much as I could to my pipe-smoking, kind of nerdy dad. He looked back at me in those black-framed glasses and sharp Marine-precise crew cut and said, "when you walk into that man's office, that is the best thing that happened to him all day."
Needless to say, I got the job.