First off I need to address some of my comments from our last entry. I have recently been approached by a high-ranking, newly elected official in the U.S. government who has strongly suggested I keep his name confidential, but that if I had to say anything to just call him “B.O.” Anyway, he brought to my attention the fact that the term “THE RECESSION” is now considered illegal and is arbitrarily punishable by the U.S. government, and that this not only applies to U.S citizens but also to anyone who has ever used Microsoft Windows. He says that’s what you are agreeing to whenever you click on “Accept” without reading it. He also tells me the only acceptable phrase now is “ECONOMIC DOWNTURN”, and that it’s not worth mentioning anyway since he’s taken care of it. He says to trust him, he’s just finished spending millions, billions actually, on stuff that will fix it right up. What stuff? Lots of stuff. Big stuff. Stuff you wouldn’t understand. And he says it isn’t any of my business anyway, and that people like me are the reason Canada is considered the class clown of the western world, always trying to be funny just to get attention. He says that’s one of the main reasons the USA hasn’t adopted us yet and “turned us into a real, live State”. The other reasons being Quebec, obviously, and the obnoxious way we plaster our “gay little flower flag” all over our cars and backpacks. Anyway, he said they may not have Guantanamo Bay any more but that there will always be Kentucky, and how would I like to find out how it feels to spend some time in the barn getting intimate with a sack of doorknobs? I said I didn’t think I’d like that much at all, no sir. And he just nodded, still with that same grin he’d had going the whole time, those teeth so white, just really giving me the chills. Then he just swung his cape around him and disappeared. No puff of smoke or nothin’. So, all in all, I think the economy’s gonna be just fine.
Well, back to our road trip. January 21st we crossed from the Baja to the mainland on a huge ferry and, surprisingly enough, there’s not a lot to say about it. Very nice, all went smooth, and then there we were, 10 pm in Topolobambo, no idea where we were going or where we’d spend the night. So we just drove, eventually spotting a fortress-like “Autohotel” along the highway. We pulled up and were buzzed in through the security gate, emerging on a narrow road lined on both sides with symmetrical rows of garage doors. The place struck us as a cross between a long-term storage unit and a low-budget planned community. All it was missing was some tranquil name like Cedar Estates, and a small man-made lake where people could take their grapefruit-sized dogs to defecate. The point is, though, that these are the perfect places to stay if you are on a long trip with a full vehicle. There was some confusion when he told us it was 120 per night, since Laynni and I had agreed that if it was $50 or less we’d take it, so we told him it that sorry, but that was too much, thanks anyway, adios. When we realized it was actually 120 pesos, which is about $10, we felt pretty ridiculous and circled back around, explained that we were idiots and would love to stay in one of his little garage-rooms. Just pull right in, close the garage door, two steps and you’re in your room and, boom, ready for bed. No unloading, rearranging, or making a schedule for standing guard. It even had a TV with a movie channel, CNN and a bonus channel featuring some guy wearing an old-fashioned grey judge’s wig, a long black judge’s robe and nothing at all from the waist down. Unfortunately, despite the vigorous efforts and admirable enthusiasm of the pretty stenographer it seemed as though, based on his lukewarm physical reaction, the judge really only thought of her as a friend.
The next day we drove all the way from Los Mochis to Mazatlan, around four hours, and on to Tepic, another four hours, most of the way on really nice toll highways. Double-lane, very little traffic and lined with handy gas stations and convenience stores every 20 or 30 kilometres until Mazatlan, after which we were on a brand new road and came to the slow realization that we were going to have to traverse 300 kilometres without any gas or other signs of life except for the numerous construction areas and detours. On top of this we were starting to get fed up with the tolls, having spent over $50 to drive about 600 kilometres, including $16 on one particular 80 kilometre stretch where we spent most of our time going 30 km/hr on gravel detours. Just outside Tepic we decided we’d finally paid enough, skipping the last $4 toll and taking the free highway, which then resulted in it taking us nearly 40 minutes to travel the last 20 kilometres, engulfed in black smoke the whole time as we crawled along the narrow winding mountain road behind huge trucks struggling to climb the steep hills. Eventually we were forced to stop at a dirty garbage-filled pullout and make use of the jerry can of gas I’d carried all the way from Saskatoon. We were quickly joined by a couple guys who either truly couldn’t hold it for another minute, or maybe just can’t go unless someone IS watching. Nice to meet you but I’m sure you’ll understand if I don’t shake your hand.
The day that “wasn’t supposed to be that long” finally ended at another autohotel, this one randomly placed in the middle of nowhere between Tepic and Compostela and which we were thrilled to find at that point. However, instead of real garages they only had what amounted to very large shower curtains, apparently opting for deception over protection, maybe from roving photographers, or overly curious raccoons. On the other hand, the guy on their porn channel actually had an erection, which I suppose opened up a lot more plot options.
Finally we arrived in La Penita, just a 15 minute walk across the river from Rincon de Guayabitos, one of the the Pacific coast’s most popular destinations for Mexican tourists. We had some idea what to expect but it still caught us a bit off-guard. On the positive side you’d say it is very “real” and “Mexican” and not at all touristy. However, it could also be described as very “rundown” and “dusty”. But that’s kind of the point.
While Puerto Vallarta is growing out of control – hotels, megastores, traffic – none of those things are a problem here, to say the least. The town is actually larger than we expected, around 12,000 people we’re told, but it’s almost all residential and is spread out over several very broad areas so that it doesn’t really seem that big. It all revolves around the nice little main street, split by a pleasant boulevard and lined with shops and restaurants. As it turns out that is the only truly non-dirt street in town (it’s actually tight cobblestones), which tells you just about all you need to know about the place: just one paved road, but seven places where you can buy freshly roasted chickens and eleven places that will let you trade in empty beer bottles for more beer.
The rest of the roads are more or less cobbled with rocks, which I suppose are necessary during the rainy summers but make driving on them rougher than a denim thong.
The people, however, are great, not over-the-top friendly but just easy-going and laid back, all simply going about their business, in no particular rush, almost as though we don’t even exist….oh my god, it’s Sixth Sense all over again. No, that can’t be right, or else that funny old ice cream guy wouldn’t laugh at my Spanish every night. Also, every day around here seems to bring some different kind of event – like a musical performance in the square, a huge street birthday party with kids in costumes, the enormous Thursday market that rolls into town and takes over half the town, or even the dangerous Running of the Pelicans. And somehow, other than the market, this all occurs relatively gringo-free despite an incredible beach that runs from one end of town to the other, and miles beyond. The true antithesis of a tourist town.
Author’s Note: My editor informs me I should explain the word “antithesis”. Well, obviously it means “the opposite of a thesis”. Which fits perfectly because I can assure you this town is nothing at all like the homework you’d assign to a 30 year old student with no job, a mediocre goatee and an unbeaten record at Trivial Pursuit.
As for the place we are living, it is terrific. Nice big place only a few steps from the pool, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, but oddly no living room. And it’s only a block from the beach, although unfortunately it is just half a block from the condemned remains of a crumbling building that completely blocks our view of the beach and ocean.
On the bright side, though, we do have a good view of the sketchy fat couple that likes to hang out in there drinking, singing and making out. On the other side of our building is the Bull Ring. It’s a large pink stadium that takes up the entire block and although we have not yet seen any evidence of bulls, we have been occasionally weirded out by the unexpected clopping of horse hooves. At least we hope those are horses leaving those droppings out front, or else we are dealing with the scariest rabbit I’ve ever heard of (this side of the Holy Grail).
The building we’re in, formerly Hotel California, has been renovated and are now the rooms are for sale as condos and aren’t normally rented out. It seems that the owner, George (or Jorge), only agreed to rent out the one unit to us because of a suggestion from Roger Murphy (our friend Steph’s dad) who lives about fifty metres away right across from the beach.
We are the only tenants so it’s just us and Marta, the building manager, sharing about twenty empty rooms, a large empty common area and clear blue pool, also completely devoid of other people. Reminds me a little of The Shining, especially whenever I get strange urges to write “All play and no work makes Dean a lazy boy”. Or maybe more like we’re the last ones standing in some creepy horror film and it’s only a matter of time before I confidently tell Laynni to wait here in her bikini while I go see what that chainsaw-like noise was and end up with my severed head swinging back and forth in front of our door with my genitals stuffed in my mouth. Or maybe it’s just nice and quiet.
Anyway, I better finish up and go see what Laynni’s up to. For some reason she’s been sitting on the floor for the last two hours, acting real creepy and writing “ALOH” on the wall over and over.