Only in Mexico:
by Joan Parker
On the way to the beach-
Van ride from San Miguel to Leon airport
A jar with label visible from back seats
"Tips will be too appreciated"
Sign on beach
Dear Carl and Lorena,
The bus from Vallarta dropped me on the highway and I walked into a town out of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Pines with long shiny droopy needles that hung in circles around upright candles were the most common tree. Mostly one story buildings with tile roofs, all banded in two colors, open doors, dark rooms, a pool hall-dark with three tables, men standing around. There is a pharmacy and a post office.
A ranch supply store with 2 beautiful old metal horse heads with rings in their mouths for tying up horses. Inside, ranchers (no women again) were looking at rawhide lariats, red and black halters and from the rafters hung 4 long rebars bent into a hook at each end. Each one was stacked with a different size horse shoe.
I paused at another old door which opened onto a dark room with an iron chandelier hanging and through that room a second door opened onto a patio with exhuberant tropical flowering plants with no sign of a gardener and an old romantic stone fountain in the center. As I walked by a man reached into a pickup truck and with his bare hands scooped out a large hunk of dark wet clay piled on a plastic produce bag,carried it inside and slapped it into a mound. I asked him what he made with it. "Flower pots (different than any I've seen) small vases (with an iguana climbing around the side) and "pre-columbian figures".
He invited me into another dark room with a large empty antique table in it and a few shelves. "Come back tomorrow and we'll have some things for you to see". "Are you moving here?"
"I don't know yet, I just got off the bus."
"Have you been to the plaza yet? We are restoring the town so it will retain the magic of the old towns of Mexico."
Is there a place you recommend for lunch?"
"Los Mariachis under the portales in the plaza." I thanked him for his time, introduced myself and he apologetically held out a clay covered hand.
I walked on past a produce/grocery store, a women's clothing store (sparking slippers a specialty), then a homeopathic medicine store and into the plaza. There were no cars. Three men were sitting at an oval pigskin and plastic covered table in front of Los Mariachis having a beer and talking. A Mexican song from the 1930's played from speakers up high in the portales. I felt back in time.I walked past and turned left at the corner.
The edge of town is two blocks away. Tropical trees and flowers, bananas, palms, bouganvilla intertwine. The streets are cobblestone. A 2 story house with a wrought iron gate was at the end of the street. Bouganvilla grew 10 feet high and then hung branches of glowing flowers over my head. When I looked up they were the brightest flowers I've ever seen against the intense blue of the clear air sky. A plaintive melancholy sound came over the wall and repeated every few seconds. I can't imagine what was making it. Chickens scratch and peck around in yards. I could hear no cars but saw 4 dusty vehicles parked in a random pattern under the trees.
I wandered back to the plaza and into the 'restaurant' with a senora and her friend in the corner of the room that is the kitchen. I asked for scrambled eggs and then if there was a bathroom. She opened a metal door and pointed out back. I walked past coiled bundles of barbed wire stacked high against the wall, into the back yard and found the brick open air open stall with a seatless toilet and paper. The sink had a little green soap bar and when I turned the handle the spigot turned sideways.
I sat out under the portales. No cars were visible during my comida. Music from the 30's and 40's plays throughout the day. There are only 3 trees in the plaza. I kept expecting cowboys to come riding in. I was the only customer and the senora stood in the doorway and talked with me. I found out there are maybe l0 foreigners living in town.
"Artists?" I ask.
"No,just people," she says.
I asked if there were any beaches the locals go to.
"About an hour and a half away there's one. If you think this town is tranquil you should see the beach." (I want to do that next
The town had a feeling of another time-another world that I just dropped into like a dream-with glimpses of a vision others are living. The whole town seemed to move on alpha waves and the best way to be there is on foot. An old man was sitting in a chair in front of a store. He sat very still with his hands folded across his green shirt against the orange wall. He became a still life in my mind-sort of a Mexican Edward Hopper. He was still there as I walked past half an hour later.
The day was warm but 3 girls in school uniforms passed me as I headed back to the highway to wait for the bus. They were wearing jackets and back packs with Pooh Bear and Sponge Bob designs. A blanket with a golden retriever design on it hung over the balcony. All the stores were closed or closing -- it was 2:l5 -- except the woodworking shop which smelled of the forest and had lots of pieces of wood of all shapes leaning against the walls and two men working and talking.
Back at the highway. I was picked up by an airconditioned bus. The passengers were watching a Garfield movie and all the curtains were drawn as we drove past some of Mexico's most beautiful views of the rocky coastline. As we passed by some bare trees with large yellow flowers, I asked a woman what they were. She couldn't remember but said the bark was very good for treating diabetes.
On the bus back to the beach town where I was staying,a driver who looked l6 but must have been 20 drove with one hand on the steering wheel -- talking on his cell phone -- except when he was counting money and then he drove with one elbow. All of a sudden there was a loud bang that continued as we coasted to a stop.
We'd blown a tire so we slowly drove and flapped into the nearest tire repair place. While they worked I sat on the bus looking across the road. A little boy in shorts (no shoes, no shirt) played with a white ball with his little sister. Their mother sat in a green plastic chair holding a sleeping toddler dressed in bright pink. She sat in front of an ornate wooden headboard the whole time we were there. No multitasking in evidence there.
When I returned to the place I'd been staying, my landlady said "I was born in that town. My mother was l3 when the soldiers from the Revolution rode through town. She had to hide