Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fishy tales in Me-hick-co

"You're going away again?"  He repeated incredulously.
"It's been planned for a while." I cast off in the direction of the cell phone, marooned on the carpet amid the swirling tornado of clothes, travel adaptor, passport, books and Tylenol, its speaker confirming to the caller, that 'yes, this would indeed be the fourth country visited in as many months.'
"But I haven't seen you for ages!"

Ah.  It's true. I suppose I have been rather negligent of friends at home, and, I suppose, some would say I have been fairly greedy, but travel!  Travel! ADVENTURE!  It's not that I am on some Elizabeth Gilbert type quest, of Eating and Praying and Loving--although there has been a fair quantity of one verb, and it doesn't necessitate devotion to anyone or anything but carbohydrates and avocado; rather more, I have just been 'Being'.  That's a verb, right?   And by removing Self from constantly 'doing' at home, and giving Self a week, a month, or maybe four, to just slow down and 'be' has awoken my senses with a citrus punch.

Imprinting actual sights that are not from a book, magazine or TV show, reinforcing them with earfuls of sound, lungfuls of indigenous scents, inhalations of fresher, cleaner ocean-filled air, mouthfuls of flavour, sand and dust and rock beneath my feet--OH! It just makes my fingers tingle, latent with possibilities.  And then, speaking to locals, learning what used to be, what was, what is, and the prediction for the future, it's the stuff a burgeoning writer lives for.  So Friends, Readers, Countrymen, lend me your Patience.

Yesterday, for example, we spent an indulgent afternoon lounging, books in hand, by the swimming pool.  Surrounded by white colonades and rangey palms, the ocean at a distance and the tempting cool cerulean blue water barely feet from my own, I could hear the city of Acapulco: its birds, its buses, its tropical hum, the familiar agricultural churning of a VW beetle engine.  In the midst of this tropical melee, I dozed.

His booming Chicago accent cut through the bird calls and VDub poots and any dreams that could be weaving.  I prised open a sleep-absconded eye.  He was wading through the water, only his shock of thick white hair, and matching rimmed sunglasses visible, as he found a convenient bay of the pool to rest, directly opposite our sun loungers.  Although his mass was underwater, there was no disguising he was hefty.   His much burned, peeled, and burned-again nose was pointed into the sun.  I turned the other way, thinking of the trips to the aquarium and the blubbery walruses, grunting, lolling and smelling of fish.

After several sun-soaked, deep breathed hours, it was decided we needed shade and a margarita, so we swam up to the bar unavoidably close to the still-basking walrus.  The Chicago boom hailed us as we swam by and polite 'Buenas tardes' were exchanged.  Sitting on the blue mosaic tiles of the swim-up bar, I could feel the shift behind me, the gentle movement as the water parted, making way for an unstoppable force. 

His name was Walter.

Walter had been coming to Acapulco for over 30 years.  He told us tales of the city in its heyday, when Villa Verra was frequented by Liz Taylor, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin; when Marilyn Monroe swam naked in our very pool; before the drug cartels had killed not just its people, but its tourist industry.  It was a sad reflection that, 30 years on, we were the only ones in the pool, and, much to Walt's disappointment, even a shot of tequila was not going to make these ladies' clothes fall off.  Although he did mention that, time was once, there would be three topless women at the swim-up bar and they would be buying him drinks.  I had to wonder if that was before the abundance of gut and gum, but no!  Walt, 68, divorced, father of two, was indeed currently dating various strippers.
 "But, ya know whad I learned?  I dated beautiful women and I treated them good, I held doors, I paid for them and then I decided to date ugly women. Maybe they would treat me better.  But ugly women want the same attention you give a beautiful woman.  Go figure."  Chivallry was indeed pronounced dead yesterday afternoon.
"You should treat all women like Goddesses!" my traveling companion retorted loudly, but Walt raised up like a rearing Odobenus, hearing only his own barks.
"And you girls, I'm telling you, I see these girls coming here, looking for romance. Don't look for what's not there.  Just enjoy the weather.  These men, they are like peanut butter, smooth and sticky; they'll have you in bed in a day." 

After an hour of Walt's stories, silent SOSs were cast between the three of us.  *Retreat! Retreat!*  And one after the other my fellow captives made their escape, but there was something faintly sad about this beached, burned, and blubbery man, desperate to hold court and tell us about the good old days, and it pulled me in and held me there; so, whilst sun sank in the sky and the water turned my fingers to flesh-coloured prunes, I stayed.

"My mother left me $10 million when she died," (the exact number of millions did seem to change over the course of the afternoon, sometimes being $1 million, sometimes $10 million, but it seemed rude to interrupt and clarify this point) "I come here, I enjoy the weather, I cook myself a great lobster with pasta and garlic, I have beautiful girlfriends, but you know what makes me happy?"
"What's that, Walter?" I asked, not really knowing what a millionaire in the sunshine, complete with collection of strippers, could possibly long for.
"I wish you'd tell me."
And there it was.  I was tempted to refer him to my blog and tell him about 'The Happiness Project' and that he should reframe, or maybe he should just take his own advice and 'not look for something that isn't there,' just enjoy the sunshine.  Before I could formulate a response, he crashed on,
"Anyway, I'm not trying to impress you with my wealth.  If I was, I woulda put my teeth in."
I couldn't help but laugh, and he laughed too,
"Wel,l Walter that's just about made my day!  Can I quote you?  I don't need my wealth or my teeth to impress you!"

And you know, I think for that short afternoon, just listening to his bizarre and somewhat fishy stories, he felt important and that made him happy.  For me, just taking the time to listen was horizon-broadening too--strippers, drug cartels, fortunes, oh the drama!  A writer dreams of such riches!  (It's just usually, they come with teeth.) 

Until next time, with jar of peanut butter and spoon in hand, E.

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