Saturday, February 26, 2011

Puerto Vallarta Swan Song

My time in Puerto Vallarta is swiftly drawing to a close. Only two or three weeks to go before I load up the Gypsy Wagon and the two dogs, and leave this place I’ve grown to love like home, once, and maybe for good.

A few days ago, Israel and went over to Pitillal to run errands, including a stop at a dentist’s office. I’ve made an appointment to have some crowns done – 800 pesos each (under $100) for the acrylics, $1400 pesos (about $120) each for the porcelains. I will try to get three crowns done.

We parked the van on a side street, and when we returned, we discovered the right rear fender had been bashed in by a city bus turning onto the narrow street. So began another of our adventures in investigative futility, trying to run down the offending bus in the vain hope of getting some sort of compensation (the telltale green paint was streaked across the dented metal).

We followed one of the green busses on its route through the back streets of Pitillal, further and further out from town, where the cobblestones give way to dirt roads, studded with potholes and the air filled with dust. The episode reminded me of the scene in “The Thomas Crown Affair” with a hundred identical men in suits and bowler hats circulating through a museum to throw police off the trail, as we followed one bus and then another in search of the culprit. We finally ended up at the bus lot on the outskirts of Pitillal, walking around looking for evidence of white paint on the front bumpers of all the parked busses. But of course, we knew the drivers had probably already closed ranks, radioing each other about the crazy gringa looking for justice. It was a silly waste of time and gasoline. I’ve since accepted the new dent as one more souvenir of my time in Mexico.

Yesterday, I met my friend Chloe at El Sofa, my favorite coffee joint on Carranza Street. I walked the dogs there with me. It was a serendipitous appointment. It turns out that Rocky, my adopted llasa apso, once belonged to someone in that neighborhood who fell ill and had to return to the States. Rocky spent months as a street dog until the SPCA rescued him. Everyone recognized Rocky, including the sweet lesbian couple who have a tienda next to El Sofa. They even produced a photo of Rocky from his former life.

While I waited for Chloe to show up, a young woman sat down on a stool and began to play classical music on the violin. She played all of Ravel’s “Bolero,” and other classical pieces. Bo enjoyed it so much, he curled up under the girl’s chair. Chloe showed up halfway through the performance and we sat entranced for the next 30 min. I wept. Actually, I wept on and off all day. I love Puerto Vallarta. The art, the music, the seediness, the quirky insanity of the place. I hate to go, but it's time.

Today, during the PV Writers conference, I skipped one of the sessions to speak with Don Gallery, the head of PV Writers. He’s very old and in frail health. I pumped Don for an hour about his life growing up in the Hollywood of the 1930’s and ‘40’s, the biological son of silent screen star Barbara La Marr, and the adopted son of Zasu Pitts. He told me about hanging out as a kid with Shirley Temple, going to the theater with Bugsy Seigel and Virginia Hill, being squired to the beach with Jean Harlow, even dating a 15-year-old Elizabeth Taylor: she held the hubcap as he changed a flat tire, tossing her the lug nuts. And who should serenade them as he worked, but Hoagy Carmichael on the ukulele. Don’s family owned the original Rin-Tin-Tin. He said that Jean Harlow loved that dog, and he died of old age, his head in her lap in his family’s house on Rockingham Drive.

Only in Vallarta.

(postscript: A few days ago, Don Gallery suffered a stroke. He's home now, but he is unable to speak. I feel blessed to have been able to talk with him for over an hour last week. Thank you, Don!)


  1. I met him once while in PV. Wonderful, and friendly man. So sorry to hear about his stroke.

  2. Hello, just searched on Don's name and found your page and news of his stroke, Is he still in PV? I had asked for a secure USA mailing address for him so I could mail him a published copy of my book blessed by him, Hands wi th a Heart -The Personal Biography of Actress ZaSu Pitts (c. 2011) but only a brief email saying he was caring for Patriciia. Book weighs two pounds so too pricy for Mexico ail and I don't trust Mex. mail anyway. Send him my love. Has he told writer's club about my book? I revealed his birth father which no one had known before. With photos of both therein. Can reach me on Facebook or Gayle Haffner, Michigan