It's Saturday morning. What a week. Wednesday, I went over to the Crown Paradise Hotel to try and snag photographer David Eisenberg for an interview. He was here to shoot swimsuit models with Ujena swimwear. David lives in Mexico City, where he has a thriving professional photography business. He's shot Rolling Stone and Playboy covers, as well as celebrities like Fidel Castro and Bill Gates. But his bread and butter is photographing nude women. I caught him on the fly as he was preparing to fly back to Mexico City. The only way I could get time with him was to volunteer to take him to the airport.
David is 56, a slight figure, towheaded and pale, but with a winsome, unpretentious personality, and dressed completely in black -- the uniform, I guess, for photog types. He's kind of a sprite -- and it's easy to see why women would be comfortable with him photographing them. After he checked in for his flight, we sat down and talked for over an hour about life and art and what makes for a great photograph. I will send you a link when the article is finished.
Also this week I wrangled an invite from Seth Cloutman, a Puerto Vallarta "foodie" and chef who caters elaborate dinners for the rich and famous. Seth is tall, thin and bald -- a self-effacing, self-professed "food geek." He invited me to join him and his lover Christian on a shopping expedition for a seven-course meal he was catering for a well-connected group of gay men -- and one woman, Sandra. Of course, I had to promise David that I'd get a story out of it...
The day started at noon when I tried to drive The Beast to the top of Calle Panama, a cobblestone street that had water cascading down it from a rainstorm the night before. The street is pitched at a 90 degree angle, and I might have made it to the top if not for the water. I got stuck just before the top, spinning my wheels on the wet cobblestones. I had to back down, which was dicey, because the tires slipped all the way down. I was terrified I'd back into the cars parked on either side of the street. But somehow I got to the bottom of the hill, parked, and hiked back up to Seth's house at the corner of Panama and Ecuador. It was what you would expect a gay chef to live in: sparely, but elegantly decorated with a wrap-around patio overlooking old Vallarta and Banderas Bay. A table on the patio was laden with half-drunk wine glasses and cylinders full of water made yellow from the cigarette butts and raw asparagus speers floating in them from a party the night before. The tableaux reminded me of the specimens in formaldehyde you see in a high school science lab.
Seth's partner Christian is sweet-natured, curley-haired Mexican, and also a chef. Seth hopped into the back of their truck while I rode in the cab back to the bottom of the hill. I got back in The Beast and followed them through Vallarta's crazy traffic-clogged streets to the fish market, located in the Cinco de Deciembre neighborhood. We met up with Seth's guests at the fish market, where Seth educated us on how to know a fish is fresh (look for uncloudy eyes), and took us on a tour of the adjacent fruit & veggie market. He picked out an octopus, sea scallops, shrimp, a silvery fish call a serrano (similar to mackerel), and what would be the main course for our seafood-themed dinner: an enormous, turquoise 30-pound parrotfish.
Next we headed for Gringo Gulch, the neighborhood high in the hills above the River Cuale made famous by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. I followed Seth and Christian's vehicle, bouncing over the stone streets as we zigzagged up into the hills. Our caravan came to a grinding halt in front of Richard Burton's house, where a dumptruck had just dumped a huge pile of sand. We all sat patiently as workmen shoveled the sand out of the street into the front door of the house, then drove the rest of the way to Jeff's house, a handsome gay psychologist from San Francisco -- the host of our soiree. It was by now, about 2 pm.
Our host's home was immaculately decorated with a balcony that ran the full length of the house and overlooked the river and bamboo trees below. Seth unpacked all the fish, vegetables and fruit onto the 10-ft square granite countertop, creating a still life of tomatoes, fresh eggs, scallions, fresh spinach, herbs, and at the center, the parrotfish -- artistically propped up so I could take photos. While we were shopping, Christian "styled" the dinner table with a kilim rug, crumpled sheeting, bowls of gourds and piles of bourgainvilla.
The rest of the afternoon was taken up with food preparation as all the guests chopped vegetables, shelled shrimp, and Seth skinned the octopus, scaled and filleted the parrotfish, and pureed peas with heavy cream for a mint-flavored chilled pea soup.
Our first course was served at 7:30 pm. At 9:30 we took a break and the last course was served around 10 pm. The evening came to a close at midnight -- what Seth called "an early evening."
I was exhausted by the time I made my way down the hill to my vehicle. It was 1 a.m. when I finally got back to the barrio. I took Bo for a quick walk and fell into bed.
This morning, I'm waiting for Israel, who was supposed to be here an hour ago...