Monday, January 26, 2009


In addition to organic frozen spinach and out-of-season pomegranates, the Mega sells something called an "Espantasuegra," which means "scare your mother-in-law." That's what it said on the sealed boxes in the toy aisle, sitting there waiting to be opened and shelved. I don't know what it is yet, but I intend to find out. Not that I want to scare my mother-in-law. Actually, I'm sure I've already done it, unintentionally, of course.

There are dogs that will call people on the phone for you. The next time I have a phone, I definitely need one of those.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Vallarta vignettes

1. A sidewalk taco stand. It’s dark. Seven-thirty or so.
A girl, ten or eleven, walks up.

Girl: Tiene ceso?
Cook: Sí.
Girl: Dame uno de ceso and uno de cabeza, por favor.

And she waits, standing straight, looking ahead, holding her money against her chest in one hand. Then she goes off boldly into the future, fueled by brains and head.

2. A dog show. Early afternoon.

It’s at the library.

Adam: A dog show at the library?
Me: I guess there are, like, grounds.

I see a big sign, “Aprende a Bailar Salsa.” There are dogs everywhere, a cacophony, the announcer shouting, “Es un dahks hund. En español, una salchicha.” Then, solemnly, “Es un hembre.” Funny how you can say “female” as a masculine noun. Tallulah is applauding, running around petting dogs. Tiny dogs and dogs with oversized skulls and strange callouses.

We enter a tent containing fowl in cages. Guinea fowl with heads like knobs, a first-grader’s art project atop narrow bodies covered in feathered pointillism. Quail, pigeons, and miniature roosters. Kids are in there at eye level with them.

A woman asks me something like, Are these being judged too or are they just here?
I say something like, I have no idea.

Adam starts sneezing and Tallulah gets overexcited. Down! Down! A puppy! A puppy! she cries.

We leave and end up at Wal-Mart.

Do you have pomegranates? I ask a worker. Because they have them at the Mega this week.

Oh no, he says, shaking his head. They’re not in season.

Where did this guy come from? He needs to talk to the management about scaling back the global economy.

We board the bus and head home.

3. Near the bathroom in the yacht club is a small book exchange. Among the disintegrating paperbacks is a large leather-bound volume. The book sitting next to it is Jayne Ann Krentz’s The Family Way, or Janet Evanovich, Hard Eight, or something called Moviola, that supposedly Gore Vidal liked.

This book is The Law of Procedure, Jones’ Forms, Third Edition. It looks boring, surpassingly boring. I pick it up. The leather is soft, almost delicate. Chicago, E.B. Myers and Co., 1872, I read, lifting the cover. It’s about civil procedure in Illinois courts in the later nineteenth century, something probably no one, no student of law, no aficionado of antiquarian books, wants or needs to know anymore. It's bound in the skin of a cow brought to the Chicago stockyards from Wyoming or Nebraska, slaughtered by an immigrant with deep cuts on his hands, covered with the muck of death. Flayed maybe on a spring day when the snow was just starting to melt. It’s printed on paper made from towering pine, or fir, men pausing with their saws as the trees creak and begin to fall.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Flecha Caída

...This was what Oscar had to work with, and so far it wasn’t much. He stood for a moment, taking in the sadness of the place. And, truth be told, listening. If the boy wanted to tell him something, if the killer was going to let something slip, he would be ready to hear it, though it might come in low whispers like a breeze rattling the sage leaves, an inadvertent burst like a shout in a dream. The silence of the overheated room was broken by a trapped fly bouncing against the streaky windowpane, the occasional whoop of a duded-up tenderfoot.

He looked over at Elmer. The man was sweating, mopping his forehead with a red bandanna he’d drawn from his hip pocket, his dark hair stringy and thinning across the pinkness of his scalp. What do you think happened? Oscar asked. Uh, the man stuttered. Only thing I can think is, it was some—one of these Mexicans. The Indians are all drunks, on a Saturday night, one of them takes out a knife after they’ve all piled out of a bar at closing time—but the Mexicans, you look in their eyes you see all kinds of calculated meanness, yes sir. A white man can’t understand why they do what they do. Oscar turned away, thinking Elmer didn’t look so white himself—Italian, maybe. So the management wanted to pass this off on a handy scapegoat. He wouldn’t be getting much help from them—that they knew of, anyway.

They heard a door slam downstairs and a woman’s brassy voice calling, Hey, who’s here? She was starting up the narrow wooden stairs just as the two men appeared. Oh—it’s you, she said, looking up at them.

It was his client. She wore a tiered calico skirt with a silver concha belt around her waist. If you looked close, you could see fantastical creatures stitched into the soft, worn leather of her boots. An old Indian had made them for her. Her blouse was stained under the arms, and her curls, unnaturally red, were piled on top of her head. Her name was Jane Riordan. The dead boy was her nephew.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Laying down some facts in factual form, for anyone who's interested: We're currently in a marina, in the town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit. It's new and pricey but our slip is comped. Why? Because Adam's boatbuilding skills are being appropriately valued by the owner of this marina and the head of the associated boatyard. He is "consulting on a fairly big wooden boat project" with "two guys working under me," and daily goes over to tell them what's what. This is cool! We'll have our boat hauled out and painted for free on top of the money he earns on the project. That and all the hot, or at least lukewarm, showers we can take, assuming we're not conserving water, which we usually are. Thus I was able to mark the one-month anniversary of my last hot shower with another one in the pristine bathrooms, and abscond with some poker chips and playing cards that seemed to have been donated to the yacht club lounge. I'm pretty sure Tallulah isn't going to turn out to be a child artist, but maybe she'll discover hidden talents as a child card dealer, a child gambling prodigy. Our luck seems to be turning, and at this rate, some crazy things could happen.
Cruise ships like horizontal skyscrapers, moving, logy, across the bay, leaving behind vertical hotels and timeshares rising emptily over the water, the uneven sawtooth of the mountains behind them, misty, implacable, waiting. They seem conscious of what a brief burst all this is, though they're not forever either.

But I don't have time for such ruminations, bound up these days in the insistence of the present. The urgencies of eating, peeing, running, seeing cats and dogs, imitating their sounds, moving things from place to place, noting the locations of round, rubbery objects, monitoring the relationship between water and child. Sometimes I read aloud whatever I'm reading, skipping over words like "rape" and "cigarette." Time passes.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Some people write blogs that lots and lots of people read, that they even earn money writing because so many people read them and then somehow it works out that they get paid. I don't really understand it. They sell ads, maybe. If I wrote every day, today's entry would be something like: I am eating Nutella out of the jar, without even bothering to put it on anything, which seems gross. The whole thing is gross, Nutella is gross. For some reason it's available in the most understocked, out-of-the-way little grocery stores around this part of Mexico and for all I know the whole country. I'm scraping the curves of the plastic, getting out the last curls of it, feeling like my head has been hooked up to zapping electrodes for several hours. My sinuses seem to be reverberating. I am fully in the present. Past, future--equally inaccessible. This is an occasional side effect of childcare.