Thursday, December 12, 2013

Remembering Bo

On Monday, November 25, 2013, I said goodbye to my best friend. I didn’t know for certain when I carried him into Banfield Pet Hospital that this would be the day, although the feeling pressed in, waiting for cognition to catch up.   

What can I tell you about my sweet angel Bo? Sent to be my companion in the midst of a lonely, troubled marriage. Stayed by my side through divorce and more seasons of change…rode shotgun with me on my adventures in Mexico…then stuck with me through my mom’s death, the dissolution of family relationships, health challenges and an unexpected move back to the Midwest.
He was regal, like a young prince—not aloof, but not a compulsive “pleaser” either; he followed his own star. If he had human skin, I think he would have been a 12-year-old boy...the kind of kid who reads Hardy Boys novels and has an old cigar box filled with marbles, acorns and pocket knives. A hobo at heart, just like me, he didn’t need no stinkin’ leash. He loved fresh air on his face and the symphony of smells that caressed his nose as he perched on the gunwale of a moving car. He reveled in the odors of spring, throwing himself with abandon onto wet grass, or on really special occasions, deposits of goose poop. He was also a selective listener, prone to ignore my commands and disappear on reconnaissance missions into the neighborhood. But I liked that about him. J I gave him his space.

The first time Bo saw the ocean was in 2009. I parked on a hill in the small fishing village of La Celestina Gasca, Mexico. He impatiently jumped from the SUV and ran down to the beach to attack the waves as they hissed up onto the shore, then chased them as they receded, only to collide with the next incoming wave.
But he was happiest in the winter snows of Colorado—the more frigid the better. I’d take him to an open field where he would dive nose-first into the snow and come up with his whole face covered in the white stuff, except for his deep brown eyes which burned bright with pure doggie exuberance.

While Bo could take or leave most other dogs, he adored humans. He greeted everyone he met as a long-lost friend—galloping up the sidewalk with helicopter tail communicating “hello,” while he leaned into their shins and gazed upward with a look that said, “I love you…pet me.” Reminds me of a favorite quote: “Sometimes we give comfort and receive comfort at the same time.” He couldn’t wait to park himself on the floor between the knees of people he knew needed a dose of dog love. Few could resist his silky red fur and that mysterious Bo healing energy.

He had maybe two or three good pals in his life—an old hound dog that lived next door to me and Stephen in Florida…a little white poodle at the park in Tucson…and Bowser, another older dog at my dog sitter’s house here in St. Louis. For the most part, Bo was content to watch the other dogs from a distance, or simply follow his nose where it led. But no matter how far he wandered, he always came home to me.

At home, he would jump up on the recliner between my legs and draw himself up with a sideways glance—my cue to pull him gently onto his back and scratch his belly until he flopped sideways in a trance—lost in his happy place. 

He was a “muy tranquilo perro,” thoughtful and reflective, happiest hanging out under the bed. He hated thunderstorms and really loud noise. At the first rumble of thunder, He would head immediately for the safety of the bathtub, where I would sometimes find him trembling, not to be dislodged until the danger had passed.

Bo had grown increasingly feeble in the past couple of months, his once cheerful trot slowed to a ginger hobble. The cold Midwest humidity aggravated his arthritic hips. Going up the few steps to our apartment had become difficult for him. Often he would pause at the base of the steps as if summoning the energy. Other times, he’d lose his footing and his hind end would simply collapse. He accepted assistance grudgingly, growling in either pain or humiliation, I’m not sure which.

In the space of a few days, he developed an abnormal thirst, lapping water compulsively until I finally took his bowl away. Lately I found large puddles of urine which at first I mistook for one of Rocky’s “accidents.” On Sunday night, the 24th, he began vomiting, first greenish foam, then what looked like brown bile.

At the vet’s office, his blood work panel came back positive for diabetes. They gave him an IV to rehydrate him—not dissimilar to what was done for me at the ER in Los Alamos in 2011. I asked about options. The vet suggested that Bo might be stabilized with several days in the clinic and the possibility of insulin shots for the rest of his life. But there were no guarantees. For over an hour I angsted about what to do. I finally made the decision to let my boy go. I still can’t say the “e” word.

The vet gave Bo the initial injection of a sedative to ease him into a twilight sleep. It took nearly 10 minutes to take effect. At one point, Bo struggled to his feet and vomited more of the blackish bile. My poor little Bo. He finally settled into a sleep from which there would be no waking. When he was given the injection that stopped his heart, I heard myself wail…my beautiful, beautiful Bo. I didn’t care who heard me. He was the love of my life.

Bo’s passing came less than a week before my move to a new apartment in the city. There has been little time to grieve. But just as God let me see Mom and Dad in brief, but reassuring dreams after they passed, He also gave me a glimpse of Bo, sitting in profile, healthy and erect, bathed in sunlight and surrounded by blooming roses—beautiful smells for his life after this life. No doubt there is goose poop in abundance where he is now, a big cushy car to ride in with the window rolled down, a universe of new smells and unending belly rubs to keep him happy until we’re back together again.    

I believe dogs do go to Heaven. In my mind, they are the closest thing to Jesus in their unswerving devotion and unconditional love. They don’t love us because of anything we’ve done or because we deserve it. They love us just because we belong to them. If you want to know how to love people, simply observe a dog.

For those of you who were blessed enough to know my darling Bo, I thought you might want to know about his passing.

Have a blessed Christmas.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Confessions of a Recovering Stuff Junkie

I used to love my stuff. Collecting my stuff. Talking about the deals I got on my stuff. Displaying my stuff. Photographing my stuff. My stuff was me. That’s the pathetic part. But here’s the really unattractive part: too often I couldn’t wait to get away from people so I could get back to the business of collecting more stuff.

That’s the thing when your life is just about stuff. It’s never enough. You have to get more and more stuff to fill the giant landfill in your heart. More toys. More souvenirs. More costumes. More stuff to prove that you are a fascinating person. More things to pad yourself and anesthetize the way-down-deep fear that you without your 
stuff are nothing.

Ironically, attached to my stuff obsession was a golden-hued fantasy of people enjoying my stuff with me. A collection of Fiestaware tied to the conceit of an actual fiesta in my kitchen. A fascination with chairs tied to a mental snapshot of someone sitting on them. I envisioned tableaus of people and furniture “arranged” in a room. I was very good at arranging.

I didn’t know how to create and nurture relationships, so I did the next best thing: build a setting. I didn’t have the insight to recognize that stuff was actually creating a vast no-man’s land of clutter that just pushed people farther and farther away. A barricade of lovely, but meaningless crap to block me from genuine human connection.

I came by my delusion honestly. My mother loved her stuff, too. She hoarded clothes, antiques, costume jewelry, fabric scraps, magazines, awards, family mementos and furniture, which she jig-sawed into her small house with byzantine precision, all the way to the ceilings, leaving no surface uncovered or unlabeled, with only narrow rabbit trails for guests to squeeze through on their way to a cleared spot on the couch. Once I offered to move back home if Mom would make a little space for me and my stuff, but she declined.

Mom instilled in me early on that stuff = love. I grew up conditioned to believe that the best thing you could do for someone you love is to leave them some thing. And when she gave me Aunt Mae’s china cabinet, Granny’s silverware and the Fostoria crystal, they came with a veiled caveat: if you love me, you won’t sell it, trade it or give it away. If you accept it, it’s yours to haul around forever, whether it goes with your décor and lifestyle or not. Thou shalt not dispose of Family Stuff.

My sisters and cousins are mostly married with families and established lives. I am not. Except for a brief, unhappy marriage in my late 40’s, I am a lifelong, childless single. I’ve changed careers, moved from the Midwest to the Southwest to Florida and back again. With each move, I filled a large U-Haul truck floor-to-ceiling with my beloved stuff and drove it hundreds of miles to the next destination. But after my divorce in 2008, something shifted inside me. I began looking at my stuff differently.

In 2009, I decided to exchange my stuff-oriented American Dream for the intangible riches of an experience, trading my cache of stuff for the adventure of traveling and living in Mexico. After three mammoth yard sales, I pared down to what could be crammed into a 5’x10’ storage unit. There was a moment when I surveyed my leftover stuff crammed into that small space and a question burbled into consciousness: If all this stuff burned up in a fire, would I still exist? Then with my dog Bo perched in the front seat of a 1983 Toyota 4-Runner, we took off for the border. 

For the next two years, I lived like a gypsy…a few months or weeks at a time staked out in rented casitas and rooms. I created jewelry. I wrote. I explored a new culture and made new friends. I discovered how little I needed to be happy. Didn’t have a TV, a washing machine—or even hot water. My liberation from stuff, however temporary, freed me to truly LIVE. My time in Mexico was, and continues to be, the most fulfilling and revelatory chapter of my life.

My best friend and companion in Mexico was a man named Israel. Israel was determinedly non-materialistic. He carried all his worldly possessions with him in a giant, over-stuffed duffel bag. I envied a level of faith that allowed Israel to live so unencumbered. I wonder how many Norte Americanos would be able to catapult their cars, wardrobes and flat-screen TV’s in their confidence that God/the Universe would somehow provide.

Admittedly, I haven’t evolved quite as far as Israel in my relationship with stuff. I peel off the layers incrementally with my growing awareness of stuff’s limited capacity to fill the deepest longings of my heart.

But at least I finally know what I know: that stuff is just stuff. It can’t make you happy. Sure, it’s a big cliché—but why is it such a stubborn lesson to learn? If I could encourage anyone to do one thing to experience freedom on the inside, it would be this: eliminate stuff, love people, and dare to do something you’re afraid to do. Okay, that’s three things. But do it. Then get back to me. I know it will change your life.


Friday, December 28, 2012

New Year's Revelations...

Dear Friends,
Feliz Año Nuevos. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve communicated, especially since my blog entered a dormant phase after I left Mexico in March 2011. The past year has been a time of endings. My mom--the amazing, valiant Carmen--died at 92. Some forever friendships and family connections dissolved. A job offer required me to trade my beloved southwest vistas for the hazy, conservative Midwest—a place I thought I’d never return after moving to Colorado in 1986. It’s tempting to focus only on the losses. But as I said to a colleague who was recently forced out of a job he’d held for a long time, but had outgrown-- the new thing can’t begin until the old thing comes to an end.
There’s no getting around the grieving process. But with my new job at Joyce Meyer Ministries, I’ve been challenged to change my natural tendency to view life through a lens of melancholy (hmm…wouldn’t that be a lovely name for a girl? Melancholia Rand…) to something a bit more optimistic. More than once the Universe (i.e., God) has spoken to me: it’s time to shake the dust off your feet and look forward for a change. Imagine new possibilities: New friends. New paradigms. Even new family. Be grateful for what you have, not what’s still missing. 
I have a job as a writer (with benefits!) at a time when traditional editorial jobs are going the way of the golden toad and the dodo bird. And after nearly four years with no permanent address, I’m finally settled in a charming apartment in a lovely old St. Louis neighborhood across from a big park where Bo and Rocky can roam off the leash. I have enough income to indulge my passion for thrift stores, and take the occasional trip to New Mexico to see my buddies. Oh, and here’s my nyaa-nyaa for those trapped in gloomier climes: I just came back from 10 days in Puerto Vallarta where I stayed with my friend Gloria at her historic posada, Los Cuatro Vientos. After nearly two years away, it was a sentimental journey filled with happy reunions and swims in the healing ocean.
My job entails writing curriculum for Joyce Meyer’s “action plans,” as well as magazine features, marketing copy and other projects. This year I’ve written journaling workbooks based on her books and teachings, including Power Thoughts, Fruit of the Spirit and Battlefield of the Mind. Working at a place where most of my colleagues are half my age, I’ve been forced to stay current with new technologies—although my favorite game on my Kindle is grandmotherly Mahjongg, not “Angry Birds.”
What have I learned in the past year? That what you want is not necessarily what you need. That God provides—usually at the 11th hour. That our “families” are not always related to us by blood. That it’s healthiest to pursue relationships with people who believe the best about one another. That sometimes you have to make peace with things being unresolved. And that it takes a lot less emotional energy to forgive someone than to hold a grudge.   
I’ve discovered that for at least this present season, I need routine and stability—not another “adventure.” I’m particularly grateful that my sister Dodi and I have grown closer after being virtual strangers for decades. We talk regularly on the phone—getting to know one another and working through our respective issues with candor, respect and trust. 
It’s been a year of solitude (what my friend Kathy Parham calls “sacred loneliness”), and many times I’ve felt like a fish out of water in the city where I was born and spent the first 10 years of my life. I wouldn’t have chosen St. Louis as a place to live. But here is where the door opened. I’m trusting God that there’s a lesson I’m supposed to learn from this. More will be revealed.
Blessings to you. May all your life transitions be smooth ones…life is so much easier when you just go with it. Have a great 2013. 
Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)
Love, bird


Monday, October 10, 2011

My Wabi Sabi Life

I guess I should start by telling you I arrived back in the US with dogs in tow the first week of April. I made my way to White Rock, NM, where I camped out at my friend Sheila’s house for few weeks before limping back to Colorado Springs, where I hoped to settle and find a job. I used the last of my savings to pay two months rent on a downtown apt., closing out the storage unit where I’d kept my worldly goods for the past two years while living in Mexico. I had a mammoth yard sale which netted me a thousand dollars, but other income was hard to come by. I cast for jobs in the Springs and Denver, but each resume I sent out felt like a pebble tossed into the void. I even applied for positions with a company in Saudi Arabia. Nothing. Nada.

Just for grins, I went online and applied for a senior editor job with Joyce Meyer Ministries in St. Louis. As my second month ended in the Springs, I realized I’d better make a “Plan B.” Packed up my things again, donated or abandoned my old furniture and re-rented the storage unit. I drove back down to White Rock and arranged to move my things into the garage of an empty house owned by my friend Hank, a physicist at the Los Alamos Nat’l Laboratory. I also applied for a job as activity director at a nursing home in Los Alamos. But then I got a call that my mom was dying in Missouri. At nearly the same time, I got a call from HR at Joyce Meyer also located in Missouri. They wanted to conduct an initial interview. I drove the six hours back to Colo.Spgs, and flew out two days later, just praying I could get home to Fulton while my mom was still alive. I made it to Fulton and spent the next two nights sleeping in her hospital room. Although we all thought she would pass that weekend, she hung on to life and I had no choice but to make my way back to St. Louis where I had the interview and boarded a plane back to Colorado Springs.I spent two more frantic days trying to pack up the apt. before the month ended. The day after I got back, I got the call that Mom had died.

But there was no time to grieve. I had to pack up a moving truck. And I needed a place to stay. I spent the next week moving from one friend’s house to another, trying not to overstay my welcome at any one place. In the meantime, I noticed I had an unquenchable thirst. I drank one Gatorade after another and peed till I thought I couldn’t pee anymore. I also had developed what I thought was a stubborn bladder infection. But I kept going – just like the Energizer Bunny, with yet another drive back to the Springs on my 57th birthday. I got another call from Joyce Meyer and flew to St. Louis for that all-important second interview. Still no commitment from them, however.

I single-handedly loaded the moving truck, except for a little help from my friend Rob Parham, and drove to Los Alamos, where Sheila and Hank helped me unload. I had yet another sale while I was there and was fully prepared to move into Hank’s house.

Then on Labor Day, I told Sheila I needed to go to Urgent Care to get checked out. Something felt wrong. We went in the morning and I explained my symptoms. Turns out my sugar levels were sky high. They sent me to the emergency room where I laid for the next several hours being pumped with saline and insulin. Yup. I have diabetes.

Well, sometimes the sky rains frogs. Maybe it was a pox. Or maybe it was just my crazy life finally catching up with me. But I’d barely returned home that evening when the dogs announced they wanted to go to the park. I left Sheila’s house and walked down the front sidewalk to the van, only to slip off the edge of the sidewalk and fall, breaking my ankle. Back to the emergency room. Seriously. I’m not making this up. And me with no health insurance.

A few days later, I got the call from Joyce Meyer. They wanted to hire me as a writer. I said “yes.”

We loaded up the moving truck yet again, me hobbling around Hank’s garage and him in the truck tying things down for the long drive to Missouri. No time to think about or process anything. Sometimes you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. We tried to figure out how to have someone drive the truck for me, but in the end, I realized I had to grit my teeth and do it myself. I had Hank drill a hole in a little plastic footstool and tie a string through it so I could climb up and down from the truck, pulling it in after me (My friend Chloe says, "That's so Mexican!).

The drive took me four days at 60 mph over flat, two-lane highways in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and finally, MO. The day before I got to St. Louis, I called a PV friend, Adrienne, who lives in St. Louis, and asked her if she knew any teenagers who could help me unload the truck when I got to town. She put me in touch with her sister who knew somebody. I arrived on the 15th and the boys showed up at 6 pm to unload. They finished after dark.

I had the next three days to start unpacking and get ready to report for work on the 19th.

The apt. is in a historic 1950 building with a marble foyer, wrought iron, a spiral staircase and a turret. I have porthole windows, hardwood floors and coved ceilings. The place is located in a colorful neighborhood in the city, across the street from a beautiful, large park with rolling hills and giant oaks, sycamores and pine trees. The dogs love it. There’s an enormous reflecting pond at one end – I call it the "cee-ment pond." Sculpture lines the periphery.

St. Louis is not Mexico. It’s not New Mexico. I haven’t fully processed that I am no longer living in the West, or that I’ve had to leave everyone I love behind, Including the life I came to love in Puerto Vallarta. But I am fully cognizant that God is in this move. I needed a job. And I need a place to land. I needed a place to rest from the constant movement and uncertainty – and now health challenges. I also needed to work again. I have missed having a purpose and a mission.

I like Joyce Meyer. I like her message. Although there is a learning curve after all my time out of ministry, not to mention being about as far removed from corporate America as one can get. But I’m trusting God with my future, even though I’m homesick for Mexico and New Mexico. Even though Missouri is the last place I thought I’d end up. I lived the first ten years of my life in St. Louis. Ghosts are everywhere, and it’s ironic that both my parents are dead now. My mother had her ashes interred at my dad’s grave in Steeleville, just an hour south of here. I plan to visit them soon.

Despite coming full circle to return to somewhat alien territory, my favorite life verse bolsters me in the midst of so many changes and transitions:

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. (Isaiah 43:19, NIV)

I have been changed by the past year. In some ways it feels as though I’ve walked through a door and had it close behind me. I am in mourning for my losses. But it feels like there’s no turning back. It’s a new thing. This is where I’ve been planted. And I am just waiting to see what will happen next.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Waning Moon

A couple of weeks ago, I stood on Pilitas Street in Puerto Vallarta and gazed heavenward at a full moon, gleaming in the night sky like a porcelain dinner plate. I wanted to reach up and pluck it from the sky – one last souvenir of Mexico -- pack it in my suitcase for the long drive back to the US, then pull it out and stick-pin it to the wall of whatever cubicle or listless reality awaited me back home.

I so loved my Puerto Vallarta script. In it, I was Shirley Valentine, dressed in rumpled linen, sauntering around Zona Romantica to my various appointments, soaking up the Bohemian life, savoring the quirky irony of being the sole heterosexual female in a neighborhood populated almost exclusively by gay men.

On Saturday mornings, I made my way down Olas Altas, over to the Rio Quale bridge, past the marimba players at the Puente del Fuente Restaurant and up the stairs to PV Writers Group meetings, where I read from my book-in-progress to an invariably receptive audience. Later, I’d drop by to chew the fat with Ray of Ray’s Bazaar or hike up the steep hill to my friend Ricardo's villa to let him ply me with espresso and hearty meals served on his immense farm table.

I developed fast friendships with local Mexicans and hung out with Israel in working-class Pitillal, far from the tourists and timeshare salesmen lurking on the Malecon. Occasionally, I’d meet my friends Martha and Xochitl at the Cheeky Monkey to drink $1.00 Margaritas as the sun set on the bay.

They liked me, they really liked me -- to paraphrase Sally Field’s infamous Oscar acceptance speech. The place felt enchanted, like I’d finally come home.

But it’s always like that when an experience is new, before it dawns on you that people are not larger-than-life supporting players in a movie starring you. Before you realize that people have their own scripts. Before things happen that put a stick through the scrim of your romantic constructs, tearing a big, jagged hole in the way you thought things were. Or were supposed to be.

Like so many people in Vallarta, I juggled numerous money-making schemes -- from selling my photo notecards at Gloria's hotel to designing necklaces for the diminutive pooches favored by homosexual men. "And your little dog, too -- bling for the tiny dog in your life." But nothing really caught fire. My business, Palabras Magicas Marketing, quickly ran out of steam when the tourist industry continued its slow decline and nobody wanted to pay for my services. I could feel the meter quickly running out on my Vallarta adventure.

Shortly before I left PV, Israel introduced me to his friend Jaime. A quiet man who lived in an unwired hut in the jungle above Nogalito, Jaimie showed up from time to time to sit in my kitchen and talk about mystery, philosophy and his mission to feed the fourteen dogs and cats in his charge. He reminded me of a Mexican Saint Francis of Assisi.

It was not clear to me how Jaime made a living. He and Israel once tried to start a fix-it and appliance repair business, but their loopy attitudes toward time doomed their partnership from the get-go. Whenever their individual orbits managed to intersect, all they did was argue over which of them showed up too late or too early for a pre-arranged business meeting. It was laughable to watch them bumble through their plan to get rich doing odd jobs for gringo condo owners, when neither of them had a working cell phone, or even a watch between them.

One day as I was cooking dinner for all of us, Jaime picked up my guitar and started to play an impromptu concert. I watched slack-jawed as he finger-picked one song after another -- “Lara’s Theme,” “Spanish Eyes,” “Stairway to Heaven,” and Beatles songs, my favorite. Between sets, he caressed the seasoned flat-top, turning it over in his hands before his fingers found the strings again, the music pouring out of him like water from a broken main.

Jaime raved about my guitar – a Yamaha FG-160 I’d owned since 1973, purchased when I was a freshman in college. It occurred to me that I should give him the guitar, which I hadn’t played seriously for years. Perhaps he could use it to make tips on the street, or find himself a gig at a local restaurant.

I thought long and hard about releasing the instrument I’d owned for almost 40 years. The more I mulled it over, the more it seemed like the right thing to do. The day I handed the guitar over to him, I said, “Jaime, please promise me you won’t sell this guitar for a few pesos the next time you are desperate for dog food…” And he promised me, “No, no…this is very special. I will keep it forever.” No one had ever given him anything so fine. I saw him again on the street days later. He grabbed my hand, thanking me again, and promised, “I will never forget you.” An apparition of Roberta the Superhero elbowed out of my subconscious, standing with arms crossed and nodding, jut-jawed: yes, my work here is done. I am indeed a good person.

That was a few weeks ago. Yesterday, Israel called me from Mexico. “Jaime sold your guitar for 1,000 pesos,” he announced before the phone went dead. He must have purchased just enough cell phone time to call me with the news. My stomach did a slow somersault and I heard myself groan at the mental image of my wonderful old guitar propped up in a pawnshop window. I’d been suckered by my own bleeding-heart need to save someone who didn’t want to be saved.

Aside from reminding myself once more that what people do with the gifts we give is their own business, I am also again confronted with the issue of expectations. Specifically, disappointed ones.

I went to Mexico with high hopes. That people would recognize my abilities and want to hire me. That those I had been generous to would be generous and honest in return. That friendship would always be reciprocated. Most especially, that no one would try to pull the wool over my eyes – eyes that often fail to see that people choose their own lives. I can’t save them. Only God can do that – and even He/She has to bitch-slap them to get their attention.

But so as not to become beady-eyed and cynical about people’s motives, I try to focus on the many friends and strangers who have been kind to me with no expectation of return; volleys of grace unleashed upon me more times than I can count. And then there's the matter of my own relationship gaffes and moral failures. If I'm going to be intellectually honest, I can't ignore the things I’ve done that let people down. As I add it all up, my conclusion is that I need mercy considerably more than I require justice.

And the moon, I’ve decided, shines no brighter in Puerto Vallarta than anywhere else. It also wanes there, making for nights every bit as lonely as my night spent in a sleeze-bucket, no-tell motel in Lordsburg, New Mexico, the day I crossed the border back into the US.

Where ever you go, there you are. We carry our Heavens, our Hells and our Purgatories within us, right next to our psychic souvenirs. Puerto Vallarta, I’ve decided, is just a state of mind. Heaven draws near when we forgive the people who hurt us, and choose to love them despite the myriad ways they stick knives in our hearts. Just like I have to forgive Jaime. And just like I hope the people I’ve disappointed will find their way to forgiving me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Dentist Wore Stilettos...

I'm trying to wrap up all my business in Puerto Vallarta before hitting the road in a couple of days. I stumbled upon a terrific dentist in Pitillal. She's probably in her mid-twenties. Now, first of all, going to the dentist in Mexico is a different breed of cat. They don't need no stinkin' dental dams, x-ray machines or expensive pain medications. You recline in shopworn dental chairs while disco music blares from boom boxes, and young female dental techs walk around the office in six-inch stilettos, skintight blue jeans and pushup bras that defy the laws of gravity.

Now lest you assume that all these factors make for bad dentistry, think again. Other than having to wait an extra week for my new teeth, my dentist was painstakingly careful about fitting the two crowns. Despite having only topical numbing medication while she carved away at my stumpy, decayed molars, I managed not to squirm too much, focusing on her cascading hair and perfectly stenciled eyebrows...When I was able to close my mouth, I taught her the difference between the English words for "rinse" and "spit."

I left the dental office having spent just under $300 for two new crowns and a refreshed filling. Why oh why, can't the US figure out the keys to quality, cost-effective dental care?

Burros on the Loose

Just on the other side of the arroyo outside my apartment windows are two donkeys, pathetically tied by ropes to their front legs, day in, day out, year in, year out. Israel and I have decided their braying is a plaintive cry for freedom from their slavelike existence as props for photos at Andale's, a popular tourist bar on Olas Altas. Every night, they are led off the steep hillside and a small patch of dirt where they are confined, to the street by the house where I live. The animals are fed a handful of oats and maybe some table scraps. The owner then rubs the evening's chosen donkey down with cheap rose-scented perfume (he says it's good for the "presentacion"), cinches on a saddle and covers it with a colorful Mexican blanket. I've noticed that the animals are undernourished and their fetlocks bloody from pulling at the ropes.

Well, a couple of days ago, Israel and I returned from an errand to see both donkeys had managed to get free and were running up and down the dead-end street, tripping on the cobble stones with the ropes trailing from their front legs. Everyone got out of the way as the donkeys ran helter skelter down the road and back again, with two teenage boys running after them. I wanted to yell, "Run! Run like the wind!" But where could they run, other than busy Olas Altas, dodging cars and condos . . . so many suffering animals here. And you can't save them all, hard as you try.

Bue the Warrior

Last week, my landlord Pilar had a visiting guest, a famous street artist called "Bue the Warrior." He is known for his colorful, cartoonish stencil art, used to tag buildings around PV with his birds and other figures, painted in spray paint. Pilar comissioned him to paint our dirty trash cans, which now feature multiple eyeballs and open mouths in white, black and hot pink...I only wish I'd been able to corner him to tag my van...