Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the continued adventures of Oscar Sloane

He walks toward the taco stand, the smell of tongue in oil. The woman behind the grill smiles briefly at him, her front teeth framed in gray. He reads a couple of the fourteen prescriptions of Dr. Jesucristo painted red and yellow on the wall behind her. A solemn, skinny girl brings him a bottle of beer. The woman flips a tortilla on the grill without looking at it. She lifts a charred onion to a plate and stares at him with unexpressive eyes. You knew Maria de los Angeles? But it’s not a question. She already knows the past and the present, possibly the future. Yes. It was her father, she says. Everyone said there was something. Such a shame, we said. He was only passing through. I know—she leaned toward him—what you’ve seen. Her eyes were still dull but her voice had changed. Go, she said.

The monkey moved sinuously, flattening itself against the wire of its cage. He plucked a frangipani blossom and tossed it among moldering banana peels. The sound of the waves blotted out the heavy door closing.

He drove along the river--barely running now, the hills dry except for yellow flowers tumbling from bare branches when the wind blew. An old man appeared at the side of the road. The crown of his straw hat was broken. He lifted his arm and the car slowed in billowing dust and when it cleared the man was gone. La Palomita, it’s not far. They drove on in silence. I knew someone would come one day, the old man said finally, barely moving his lips, as they approached three shanties, burros and cows grazing and chickens pecking in the brush, pink impatiens and oleander. It’s up that way. Derecha. There’s a fork, derecha derecha. You see a stream coming down a hillside and the cottonwoods grow big. He turned and walked toward a hut covered with dry palm fronds, a clothesline where worn cotton dresses rose and fell.

He was trying to remember what she had told him. He took a pull from his canteen. Suddenly it rose up beside the narrow ruts. He stopped and got out of the car. Already he could smell the cold breath of the earth. This was something that men did. He no longer had much to lose. He walked toward the ragged entrance, dripping with vines, their blind brown roots reaching out to clutch at stone. The skulls of three birds formed a triangle in the center of the arch. He stepped over it. The quiet click of his lantern bounced back toward him and he heard something skitter deeper into the shadows. Someone had built a fire here long ago. The two bodies, one of them small, were mostly bone. They faced the rock—rivulets of condensation, nests of mice and spiders the size of children’s hands, implacable eyes gazing out of the darkness.

Señora Lupita is still selling tamales. Hay de pollo y de elote! she cries. No, mi vida, no tamales de piña hasta martes, she laughs. Señora, he tells her, I know you will never have tamales de piña. I no longer believe in them. He asks for dos de pollo and dos de elote, preparados. As she unhusks them she tilts her head and glances up at him, her black eyes like a lark’s. Mijo, she says, I know you’ll be going soon. You should have asked me before you started keeping company with Maria de los Angeles. Que chingadera. Tamales de pollo y de elote! Si, mijo, there was something not right. We all knew it, even before she was born. Her father came from somewhere else. They say he came from California. You know, it used to be Mexico, but now—my son lives in San Jose. He married an American woman and they have three daughters, all bien blancas, ojos azules. After it happened we never saw him. He just disappeared. My sister-in-law told me she heard he went somewhere on a fishing boat. Her cousin said he went out into the sea, across the ocean. I don’t know what’s over there. But what kind of life could he have anywhere, after all?

He cabled his office overlooking Market Street, the scent of Chinese food wafting in the open windows, their sills covered with flies. Heading west, it read. Take a holiday.

In the sixteenth century, Spanish explorers left this bay to blazon the seal of the crown across the Philippine archipelago. Their ships were built by Indians from virgin mahogany felled in the hills. The phosphorescent tree covered with clam shells glowed like moonlight by the lagoon. But the white sand had turned an ordinary color, flecked with glass and charcoal, as he headed north to Vallarta and took the first tramp steamer bound for the islands.

Photo essay by Adam

What do you mean we're going sailing?
rebar lounge
our next dinghy in due time
our new/old deflatable comes to the rescue
more great rebar
you never know what you might want after three weeks at sea
hard-earned torta
coco water
chicozapote--pear, brown sugar and cinnamon make beautiful music together

Monday, April 14, 2008

Not yet banned in Mexico

Chewing on purple plastic rope in a safe, child-friendly spot feels so good.

Crawling practice, followed by screams of frustration.

Captain of the Mothership

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Marina Vendetta. The other day our neighbor Fred, owner of Mi Sueño, presented us with two moldy quiches—which puzzled us until we remembered the moldy cigar we’d given him a couple of months ago. “I thought I’d wiped all the mold off that cigar,” Adam mused. “Maybe he didn’t notice the mold on the quiches,” I suggested. “That’s probably what he thought about us when we gave him the cigar,”responded Adam.

One thing I love about some of the locals is the way, when they see you doing something odd, instead of looking at you like, What the &@*# are you doing? they often offer encouragement and even assistance. One day I decided that the trip to the bathroom in the big palapa at the end of the dock was too long. There’s a chain link fence that separates me from the bathroom and I have to walk all the way around it and through a gauntlet of (nice, but still) security guys. Then I realized that I could go under the fence instead. So I was peeling up a rusting stretch of chain link, and a man walking through the gate to the marina stopped to hold it up while I lay on the ground and rolled under. Thank you, I said. It was nothing, he responded. Marina officials quickly put a potted miniature palm tree in that spot, but that has not deterred me! Another time I was taking a pile of dirty dishes up to wash in the sink in the palapa, because of course we still don’t have water near the boat. Tallulah’s strapped on so I can’t roll under the fence, but I shove the dirty dishes under. A very neat, nicely dressed man heading for the Grand Bay Hotel—fancy establishment on the other side of the lagoon—stopped, once again, to lift the fence for me. “De nada,” he said, the soul of politeness, when I thanked him. Arriving in the bathroom with my stack of nasty dishes, I set the baby down in one of the sinks and started washing. Eventually I chanced to look at myself in the mirror and realized that I had a stripe of diaper cream down my nose and two across my cheeks like a surfer. A word of explanation—I figured out that diaper cream is good sunscreen—for use on both faces, as Adam would say! And then there was the time that I was, once again, making unauthorized use of the palapa bathroom. I’d had the brainwave that I could bathe Tallulah there, rather than lying on a towel on the counter, a precarious encounter she’s grown to fear and despise. Unfortunately it was night, and the water was only F. Suddenly she’s freezing, what do I do? Need to get the soap out of her hair. Lay her on the counter (after all) with head over sink and try to rinse. Shivering she reaches for me and wants to nurse. Ok, I pick her up and we’re sort of suspended there nursing with baby stuff everywhere when I hear someone coming. Yes, someone is headed in the direction of the door marked “Mujeres. “Hola,” I say, as the woman, an employee of the CaboBlanco Hotel, enters. She smiles, does her thing in stall number 1. When she comes out I try to explain—like, we don’t have any water on the dock, uh. She makes some disparaging comment about the marina. “Yes, this is much better,” she tells me, smiling. “Adios, princesa!” she says to Tallulah, who waves at her retreating back.
I’ve been trying to think how to describe living with a small child on a small boat, you know, one without a bathroom or running water. Sounds alien and maybe even impossible. But we just do it.

The traveling hypnotist show has come to town. Performances under a big top every night. Loudspeakers blare Celine Dion and Eric Clapton and offer “dos por uno” admission. We walk by on our way to the beach. The carneys are watching cable tv under a smaller blue tent and their jeans, all different shapes and sizes, are hanging on a long clothesline. Laura, Mexican girlfriend of Bob the sailmaker, talks of taking her eight-year-old daughter to the show to be cured of her inattentiveness at school—a kind of public cleansing, demons released in front of the crowd. It sounds like something that would happen on an evangelical television show. Adam reports that, while the subjects are under hypnosis, the hypnotist introduces the idea that they’re afraid of lions. Then as they leave the stage, he roars like a lion. Apparently the crowds think this is hilarious.