After a chilly, lonely Christmas in Colo Spgs, I returned to Puerto Vallarta on Dec. 30. The tropical humidity and Israel greeting me at the airport were just what it took to thaw my frozen soul. Unfortunately, the customs agent was compelled to confiscate the two boxes of dog biscuits I'd packed for Bo; Sgt. Morales was not to be distracted by the out-of-control drunken American woman who preceded me in line. He said, "the dog must be with you." My guess is that Sgt. Morales wanted the biscuits for his own dog.
I exited the customs area, moved past the room where the timeshare "opc's" hover to pounce on the next batch of unsuspecting tourists, and into the main terminal where Israel and Bo waited. When I saw Bo, I decided to try one last time to convince Sgt. Morales to give me back my dog biscuits -- to show him I was not smuggling dog biscuits for nefarious purposes -- I really DO have a dog. As I made my way past the phalanx of opc's, poor Bo had a sudden urge to pee, not once, but TWICE on the polished marble floor. All the opc's groaned. We never made it back to customs, and I had to hail a maid to mop up the mess.
Oh, El Bano
Most of last week, I spent at Israel's garrot in Pitillal, the working-class Mexican neighborhood far from the tourist areas. The rooms "se venta" are stacked on top of each other behind a storefront tienda, through a narrow passageway with muddy floors and a courtyard strung with clotheslines. Israel's room is located at the top of a narrow concrete stairway at the end of a warren of open-air walkways. His room is about 200 sq. ft., with the typical frosted glass windows set behind bars. An unfinished cement ceiling sheds powdered cement like snow on the bed below.
The bathroom in Israel's room is as utilitarian as it gets. No door. No shower curtain. Just a shower, toilet and sink, packed close together. Until a few days ago, the shower head boasted an exotic contraption called an electric shower -- designed to heat the water as it flows out of the pipe. Israel coaxed warm water out of the thing for a couple of days, but it finally gave up the ghost. I marvel at Israel's complete lack of trepidation working with water and electricity in such close proximity...but even he couldn't resurrect the monster. He removed the entire device in the middle of the night and we were left with cold water flowing out of the end of the bare iron pipe. The toilet is also jerryrigged; no lid for the tank, and a broken handle with a piece of nylon string running from the flusher to the stopper at the bottom of the tank. To flush, simply lift the string -- but be sure to turn off the water at the wall after the tank is full, or the water keeps filling the tank until it overflows onto the bathroom floor. Lovely. Absolutely delightful. Israel takes all this with a grain of salt, but I tiptoed into the bathroom in flip-flops, pointing at the floor and asking him to determine whether the half-inch of water on the floor came from the shower or the toilet...I wept frequently.
New Year's Eve in Puerto Vallarta
My friend Gloria invited Israel and I to eat New Year's dinner at Chez Elena in exchange for my writing and photography services. New Year's is a big deal in Puerto Vallarta and is known for having some of the best fireworks displays in the world. It was a fullhouse at Chez Elena. We dined on lobster tail and filet mignon, and were serenaded all evening by Pedro and his mariachis. Just before midnight we all hiked up to the rooftop patio. Banderas Bay was full of boats, everyone anticipating the fireworks over the bay. At midnight, plumes of fireworks were set off at hotels all around the bay -- but the "big" show never happened. We drank our tequila shots and smashed the little clay copitos on the patio, but everyone was a bit disappointed. Rumor has it the mayor, whose last day in office was Dec 31st, gutted the fireworks budget in one last blatant act of corruption.
My Life of Extremes
On Jan 5, I packed up my suitcases and headed over to Casa Alexandra, an elegant three-story hacienda perched on a hillside above the malecon. I settled into a ground-level room with a bathroom that boasts an intricately tiled bathtub, four-feet wide, six-feet long and two-feet deep. The hacienda boasts eight bedrooms, a sculpture studio and a rooftop patio with a pool and a panoramic view of Banderas Bay. Right now, me and Marcella, the manager, are the ONLY ones in the house. I'm paying reduced rent in exchange for writing and photo services. I intend to move to the "crow's nest" room here on the roof, where I'll have the pool, the washing machine and dryer, and the million-dollar view, pretty much to myself for the rest of the month. I'll be covering a sculpture symposium that starts here Jan 31 and goes for two weeks.
PV is famous for the pirate ship that sails on the bay at sunset, setting off three rounds of fireworks at 9:30 pm every night. Bo has always been terrified of fireworks. He simply goes into a catatonic state every time Mexicans in the neighborhood start setting off cherry bombs and bottle rockets. Well, it was my first night in the casa, and I told Israel I would bring Bo down to the malecon where he promotes a restaurant from one of the street corners. I walked Bo on his leash down to Israel's corner, and then made our way to the malecon and the beach, where I could let Bo run free on the sand. I noted the pirate ship moored just off the beach, but had a brain fart about the fireworks at 9:30.
Bo frolicked with another dog, and then...BOOM. Bo took off like a shot, running with his tail between his legs over the crowded malecon, across bumper-to-bumper Paseo de Ordaz, up the hill, across traffic-ridden Calle Juarez, and kept going. I ran up Aldama street calling his name, but never caught sight of him. I thought...what have I done?? I just killed my dog. I hiked up the hill to the top of Aldama just in time to see a skinny gay man (don't tell me how I know...you just know), carrying Bo down the hill. I thanked the man profusely and plopped down on the sidewalk with Bo to catch my breath. Dodged yet another bullet. That's Bo's last trip to the malecon...
Well, I don't know what is to become of me in the next month or two. I'm putting out feelers for local writing jobs. But primarily, I'll be sending resumes back to the states. More will be revealed. The car is running fine after the 12,000 peso transmission repair, but somebody jimmied open the gas tank door and drained my gas tank while it was in the shop. Israel and I drove all over town until we found a locking gas cap...