Trailer Park Nirvana image created by Stefany Kleeschulte.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Perla, Paloma and Me

The first words out of my mouth when I return Perla to her mother after our seashell expeditions are “Lo siento.” I’m sorry. I’m sorry for this bag of pelican and gull feathers (what the hell is she going to do with those?). I’m sorry your daughter’s pretty white patent leather shoes look like tiny adobe bricks. I’m sorry her fancy church-going dress is soaked.

A couple weeks ago Perla found a to-go container on the beach so we fixed lunch for her mother. We gathered up tiny dead crabs, used-up limes we call conchas de limones, tossed in some clamshells and seaweed. We even found one of those little cough medicine cups, like the ones that come with NyQuil, and filled it with salt water. Perla dropped in a tiny shell as garnish.

When we got back to the park Perla’s mom just smiled. She placed her seafood lunch on the counter. Stripped off Perla’s dress and hung it to dry. Wiped off the shoes. “Lo siento,” I said.

Of course Paloma goes with us on our beach walks. She attracts all the attention. Mexicans love her. Everyone asks if they can touch her, does she bite? People gingerly pat her head, her back. One little boy said “she’s beautiful” with such awe it was as though he’d seen an angel. Sexy bikini-clad women rise from their beach towels to admire her.

Perla calls her Palomita – little dove – which always makes me laugh because Paloma more resembles a fat pigeon. Then Perla started calling her “palomitas de maize.” I asked Manny what that meant and he said “popcorn.” If Paloma would ever get near water, or let someone brush her, I guess she’d resemble a fluffy white piece of popped corn but not in her current state which can only be called disgusting because she lies in the dirt all day and is covered with ticks and fleas.

This week I asked Perla’s mom if Perla had shorts or a swimsuit so I wouldn’t have to worry about her shoes and dress. When Perla knocked on my trailer door she had on lime green shorts and flowered sandals, her shell bag hung from her wrist.

The three of us walked past the pier, stopping for the usual Paloma admirations. The sea was rough but that didn’t stop kids from romping and screaming in the surf so I let Perla join in, worrying the whole time about stingrays and broken glass. I guess Paloma worried too because she ventured further into the sea than she normally would, keeping a watchful eye on Perla.

One of the fishermen made me nervous. He was an older dark-skinned man with very few teeth. He walked over to where I was watching Perla and started asking me about Paloma in pretty good English. Things like what kind of dog is she? I made it very clear that she is my guarda espalda (body guard) and a Mexican dog, not a gringo dog and, therefore, holds less value. Not that I could picture anyone managing to steal her but that does happen here – dogs being held for ransom or sold. (If Paloma were sold by the kilo she’d bring in a pretty peso.) So we headed back to the park.

When Perla and I started these joint ventures she was shy but that is certainly no longer true. She talks non-stop. I nod and say “si” a lot. She dances. She sings. She poses. She pretends she’s a puppy, a kitten. This time when I returned her to her mother she was drenched from head to toe. No need for “lo siento”; we just waved and hollered “adios.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

Tornado Tina

I can't believe I left out the best tornado story....

The night I danced with Tina Turner.

My dad said he was at Club Imperial (in St. Louis) the first night Ike called Tina up on stage. Hmm, Club Imperial. That's also the place where I met my daughter's dad (I really can't say ex-husband because it was only a one-year marriage), a blind date set up by my friend Maryanne. Our dates were newly home from Viet Nam. That was a stormy night; not tornado stormy but snow stormy. After leaving Club Imperial we changed into warmer clothes then piled into my soon-to-be baby daddy's Volkswagen and headed to Art Hill (the art museum in Forest Park) to go sledding.

The night I danced with Tina Turner was tornado stormy. Watches and warnings had been in effect all day and into the night. The year was 1968 and Ike and Tina Turner were playing at Riverview High School. Come hell, high water, high winds, Maryanne and I were going to see Ike and Tina. In the words of Diana Ross "No wind, no rain, can stop me babe...."

It was the Motown era and everyone in St. Louis could dance. Soul was the operative word and we were brimming with it, even us white kids living in the suburbs going to Catholic school. Us girls would practice dance moves in someone's basement rec room. We'd do East Coast swing, switching off who was the boy and who was the girl because when it came time to go to the weekly dance we'd be the ones to get the party started. Girls always danced with girls. The boys stood at the edge of the dance floor, looking cool and uninterested with their slicked-back hair, jeans, white socks and penny loafers. But that was just a facade, a pose. They couldn't wait to get out there and join us.

The night I danced with Tina Turner the gym was practically empty. My guess from this distance is that maybe fifty people were there but it could've been less. The stage wasn't much of a stage - more like a platform - so the band was up close. And the band played as though to a sell-out crowd in Europe. Sweat flew from Tina. As she wiped those fake bangs from her forehead she said "you've got to have grease to cook" and, man, was she cookin'.

Then one of the Ikettes came down and pulled me up on the stage and there I was, Proud Marying all over the place, doing that Tina Turner shimmy but without the Tina Turner dress (or legs).  "And we're rolling, rolling, rolling down the river...."

It's funny the connections we have that slip by unnoticed. My dad, Club Imperial, my daughter's dad, Ike and Tina Turner, Maryanne being at both places - the night I met you-know-who and the night I danced with Tina Turner.

And one other connection with Maryanne. It was in her apartment, in her bed, under a PARACHUTE that I first had sex with that man who'd been a paratrooper in Viet Nam. It was the night I first had sex ever. Not making out and feeling up sex but the real deal. We were in Springfield, Missouri, sixty miles from Joplin.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tornado Thoughts

Growing up in Missouri we didn't need a weatherman to tell us a tornado was coming. The skies turned green and then the world around us inhaled, as though taking a deep breath before plunging into water. Us kids would stop playing and be as still as the air. Then all hell would break loose although I'm not going to use that phrase. Elmore Leonard writes in his ten rules for writers - never use "all hell broke loose." Look for it; you'll see that phrase in just about every book or essay or blog entry that deals with some tense situation. So...first there's those green skies, then that deep breath followed by exhalation. Our baby tree in the front yard would bend as though bowing to the queen. My brother Tony's tricycle would roll down the driveway. The siren would sound and we'd head for the basement.

The most exciting tornado warning happened in the middle of the night. All six of us kids were roused from our beds and sent to the basement with pillows and blankets. Any time you get to party in the middle of the night in your pj's is fun. We sat huddled around the radio, flashlights at the ready. Every once in a while our dad would go upstairs to check on the action and report back with things like "I think I just saw John's carport roof fly by." After the all-clear the party would continue in the kitchen with hot chocolate and then at first light we saw that, sure enough, John's carport roof was lying in Harold's backyard. That may have been the storm that took off the roof of the St. Louis Blues ice arena and leveled a part of downtown that subsequently became the housing complex Laclede Town (where I lived after my divorce) that subsequently got torn down because of man-made disasters like crime.

As a grown-up tornadoes kind of lost the fun factor. Especially when I lived in a mobile home - Bull's Eye! - with a three-month-old baby. Where do you go when the sirens sound? The bathtub? I think that only works in real homes. The ditch on the edge of the mobile home park? Well, okay, but when do you grab the baby and head for the ditch? I stood at the door, watched the sky turn green, watched the trees come to a standstill...nothing. Whew. False alarm.

The scariest tornado I encountered was on I-70 driving to Kansas City to see my college friend Space Woman. I had the radio on as I drove through a downpour so heavy I couldn't see the road in front of me. Whatever town I was nearing was being pummeled by a tornado. At the next exit I pulled off the highway and went inside the Ramada Inn. In the hotel bar I stood at the picture window with all the other travelers watching the rain, the hail, the wind. (I'm sure we would've moved away from all that glass at some point.)

After the recent tornadoes in the south and now this one in Joplin, Missouri (not too far from where I went to college in Springfield) the fun factor is totally gone. Did you see that Weather Channel weatherman get choked up as he first surveyed the damaged town? I got choked up watching him. The images on TV and the internet are those out of some Hollywood disaster movie. To emerge from the basement and see a displaced carport roof is one thing. To emerge from the basement and see nothing...yep, tornado fun is gone.

[image from CBS news]

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Rapturous May 21, 2011

The town of Choyudo has a reputation of not wanting gringos. About four years ago a Kino snowbird was going to move his trailer there but the locals threw a fit. We don't want no stinkin' gringos and so the deal fell through. Is it that the townfolks didn't want their little pueblo to become another ex-pat community or resort town? Or does something more sinister go on there? We did have to pass through two checkpoints - one federales and one local police - on the road from Hermosillo to Guaymas so it makes you wonder.

Tastiota and Choyudo are two towns on the coast south of Calle Doce and north of San Carlos, about a two-hour drive from here if you don't get lost on back roads or get stopped at a gate to a shrimp farm and have to backtrack.

Off the main road we drove through a rapidly expanding shrimp farm to reach the town. I'd been there four years ago and don't remember passing all those shrimp canals. The coastal desert along the Sea of Cortez is being scored by canals, arid land replaced by water. What is worse for the environment? Farming for shrimp or trawling for shrimp? It's probably a wash.

Tastiota consists of about 12 houses and sits at the entrance to a shrimp farm. It is not on the beach but on a lovely inland waterway. There is no taco stand, no little grocery store, no church. Just those dozen or so houses.

Back through the canals we made our way to Choyudo. As soon as we reached the town I thought I could see living here. Which is probably what a lot of gringos think when they encounter that little town which is probably the reason for the no-gringo policy. It is lovely. Houses built on hillsides, bougainvillea everywhere. It has a Mediterranean feel.

 We came across this amazing jelly fish. Never seen nothing like that on a Kino beach.

 The only restaurant: Palapa Los Delfines.

The clam and scallop station.

 Some nice touches: the pico de gallo in the glass, the corn tortilla warmed on the grill (so unlike the soggy corn tortillas they use for the tacos here), the fish nice and crispy, and mustard on the tortilla rather than mayo which was a tasty change.
 Their son and nephews look to be responsible for some of the seafood.
 They'd just caught this little deflated puffer fish.

 One straw, two mouths, one good breath and voila! puffed up!

After lunch we sat on the beach and finished the last of our beers. I kept checking the time. I didn't want to miss The Rapture. I figured the massive earthquake and subsequent armageddon would strike elsewhere and I'd have to read about it on the internets. Or maybe it was happening right here and I'd been transported to Choyudo heaven.

I was trying to come up with a Mexican equivalent of "Don't Californicate Oregon." How about something like "No ChingadeCancun Choyudo."

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Gringas Gone Wild

I was wrong. I was right. I was sorta both.

I was wrong because I lumped gringos in Mexico into the same rotten category: they were here because of the weather, the beach, the cost of living and not because they liked Mexico or Mexicans. I'll never forget the time one of the snowbirds said - just before Semana Santa - "we've got to move the picnic table before the Mexicans get here." Before the Mexicans get here? Those words struck me as typical gringo. At least typical snowbird, the ones who never get to know the town, who don't bother to try a word or two in Spanish, who think all Mexicans are out to rip them off, who spend all their time with other snowbirds.

I was right because I thought just maybe the gringos who owned homes here did so for the aforementioned reasons but also because they liked Mexico and Mexicans. Yesterday I got a chance to test out that theory when I met a group of women for margaritas.

The tide was high so I had to abandon my plan of walking to the restaurant along the beach and instead hit the main road. I recognized just about every driver who passed by - vendors, propane truck drivers, coca-cola delivery guys, normal working stiffs. There was lots of honking and waving, cars pulling over to see if I needed a ride.

When I got to the restaurant the women had already ordered their first round of margaritas, no Sprite, please, and with balls. Muy fuerte, por favor. Strong! I only knew a few of  the women there and introduced myself to the others. The group ranged in age from about 45 to probably late 70s. These were the women who owned homes in the new part of town, women who didn't skedaddle at the first sign of heat, who didn't mind - too much - being in the midst of all that Semana Santa and Semana Diabla action.

I liked them - all of them - immediately. No one woman monopolized the conversation. They were gracious toward and interested in this new woman who had lived here for four years but whom they'd never before met.

Margaritas round two.

The women told jokes. The mood was getting raunchy. "It is important to make the sex" one of the younger women had been advised by an aunt as an old country way to ward off the effects of menopause.

Round three.

One of the younger women bought a bright orange-colored dress from one of the vendors. The others jumped up and helped her into it right there at our table. She looked stunning. As she walked off to find a mirror in the restaurant she flashed her lovely backside. (She wasn't the only one to do so that day.)

Round four.

The bomberos arrived. Now, I don't know the skinny on these guys except that a group of firefighters - from California? - own a fishing boat here. I don't know if they'd been out fishing that day but here they were, a group of men with about the same age spread as the women.

"The bomberos are here" went out the cry. The women gathered up drinks, clothes, purses and headed to the men's table.

I kinda don't remember the rest. I stayed for another ten minutes or so then began my two-mile trek home, this time along the beach.

I'd only had two of those strong margaritas but I'd not eaten so I was feeling a little wobbly. Back at the trailer I cooked up a bunch of pasta. I needed to eat a glue-like substance.

It's encouraging that at this age I can have stereotypes shattered. It's depressing that at this age I even maintain stereotypes. But there you go. Oh, and here I Zumba! With a hangover! If any of those women make it to the class I'll be totally impressed. If they do, they've certainly got bigger balls than I do.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Another Mexican Town Without Police

I know this to be true because it came straight from la boca de caballo (horse’s mouth).

Of the 36 police responsible for our town and the next town over, Calle Doce, all but five – including the comandante – are in jail in Mexico City.

La Corrupcion!

I don’t have details. The man who told us about the police might’ve been in on the sting as he’s sort of an overseer of the police department/mayor’s office and so he’s got to be careful about how much he divulges. So much for calling the cops when someone breaks in. I once met the comandante when I told him about the pedophile. He seemed like such a nice guy (the police chief, not the pedophile).

This reminds me of Luis Urrea’s book “Into the Beautiful North" which is about a small town empty of men. Most have gone north to Los Estados Unidos for work, some have been killed, others run off. It’s a town without law and order, full of corruption.

Except for the druggie break-ins (which go on in any town/city in the U.S. where you’ve got crack or meth) and little hooligans, I feel safe in this town. It’s a sad commentary on life in Mexico when the police are the ones to fear.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Night time is the worst time. I lie in bed hoping sleep comes quickly. There’s so much I have to sort out about my life. I want to make a move but I can't do that without money. That’s a fact. We can vibrate, visualize, ohmmm till the cows come home but still, mobility takes money.

So my mantra these days is:

If you can’t be at the place you love, love the place you’re at. (sucky grammar aside, you get the drift)

I’m going to use this snowbird-less time as my own personal body, mind and soul rehab program. I will imagine I’m at a spiritual retreat in Sedona or a meditation center in India. I’m at a writer’s colony like Yaddo or some place in Taos. As an added bonus it’s a fat farm – Hilton Head or the Dead Sea Detox program. By the time fall rolls around I will have sorted out my next move, my screenplay will have been written, and my white moveable thighs will be tan and taut.

All this would be easier to do if I’d cancel my facebook account and get rid of some other addictions. I’ll work on those too.  First I’ve got to do the Sudoku puzzle of the day.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Travels with Florence

Flo says she only drives erratically when I’m in the car with her because I make her nervous with my nervousness. I guess I’m not supposed to yell “stop!” as she nearly runs through a red light at a busy Hermosillo intersection. Or point out the speedbump (tope) she’s heading for at full speed. Maybe I shouldn’t mention that she’s driving in the wrong lane as though she’s in England. I’d feel better if she didn’t tailgate. To top it off she’s got this little problem with clogged carotid arteries so I’m a little worried about blood flow to her brain.

Florence has lived in Mexico for about eight years and the only Spanish words she kinda knows are buenos dias. I cut her some slack on this lack because she has a hard enough time with English. Still, she could try just a little. However, it’s amazing how much she accomplishes. I’ve seen her in action. She keeps going on and on in English until the poor worker or clerk cries tio and chases down someone who speaks English. Because I know a few more words than she does, I’m given the job of translator which is a joke. She always has me asking for directions. I say “Flo, I know how to ask where something is but I won’t understand the answer.” Doesn’t matter; she makes me ask anyway. (Will I ever sort out derecha (right) and derecho (straight)?) And Mexicans are so nice that even if they don’t know where something is they’ll make up directions so as not to disappoint.

Yesterday we made a stop at the dentist office in Calle Doce on our way back from Hermosillo. Her regular dentist’s office was closed so we went to the one next to the Santa Fe market.

The dentist spoke almost no English although he could say “pull out” as in “pull out teeth” so guess who had to convey what Flo wanted and what the dentist suggested? Moi. Could Florence need something simple like a cleaning, filling or crown? Hell no. Thank God I know the words for bridge, plate, pain. That got us pretty far. And the dentist was nice enough to speak really slowly except he kept his mask on which added to the challenge. Every time he said a word I understood, I’d repeat it in English for Flo’s benefit. “Una pregunta” he’d say and I’d say “a question.” I’d catch dormir and dolor and I’d say sleep and pain. Jesus, talk about painful. Finally a patient came in so the dentist wrote down an estimate for the work (incredibly cheap – barato) and we vamanosed out of there.

In the car Florence said, “Yeah he was nice but I’d never go to him. His office was too dirty.”

“Then why didn’t we turn around and leave? Why’d you put me through all that?”

She just shrugged. All I could say was “I need a beer” which is how most of my travels with Florence end.

Blogger Down! Blogger Down!

and my mother's day post is toast.

if it doesn't come back, i'll try to recreate it.


whew, it came back but not the comments.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Madres Gone Wild

I'd heard about last year's dance where a fight broke out and the police were called. And the year before that two women did a striptease on a table top. They stripped down to nothing. I don't know if anything like that happened this year because I left before midnight but I heard some revelers did not make it home till four in the morning so there was lots of time - and lots of cerveza - for some drama.

In the morning there were very few women on the street or in the shops. Dads walked the kids to school. Bosses manned the cash registers.

The town was quiet. Even the dogs complied.
Mommy has a hangover. Oh, and grandma too.

The Kino Mother's Day dance. I'd never been inside the dance hall, a big square cement building with a Tecate logo on the outside wall. I walked in and was caught off guard. There was no roof. A sure sign of how little it rains here. It was glorious dancing under the stars and the light of that crescent moon.

It was early - a little after nine - so it was pretty easy to find my friend. We grabbed a couple cervezas and hit the dance floor. At first it seemed odd that the women moved in a huge circle around the dance floor but as their numbers grew, I could see the logic in this. Not only were the women caught up in a wave of dancing bodies but everyone was dancing with everyone. No two women paired off.

There had to be two hundred or more women there. Where had they come from? They lived here, in this town? Some looked so citified. Had they come over from Calle Doce or even Hermosillo? I was assured they were all Kino beauties. Hair was newly colored, nails newly done, make-up perfect. The grandmas (abuelas) were just as beautiful, just as coiffed and tearing up the dance floor along with their daughters and even granddaughters. Impromptu dance contests broke out. Then I saw tequila bottles being pulled from purses and decided maybe it was time to go. I'd done pretty good at almost three hours of non-stop movement so decided not to push my luck - or my heart or my knees.

The street outside the hall was packed with men, leaning against cars, waiting. Waiting for their women to come home.

I woke in the middle of the night. The air smelled of sex.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Things We Carry

Imagine you live in a foreign country. What food/beverage items from home could you absolutely not live without?

A friend from England brought a case of Marmite with him to France. A man I know in Alamos, Mexico, buys a trunkload of peanut butter every time he goes to the U.S.

We yearn for the comforts of home. Immigrants bring their food with them. Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Italian. Sonoran hot dog stands in Tucson. Curry dishes in London.

When someone heads to the states we send shopping lists. I remember one time I was at Wal-mart in Tucson and I had to make three trips...three separate shopping trips at one stop because I needed three carts. My fellow gringos wanted items such as toilet paper, birdseed, flavored creamer. It was a shopping nightmare.

Even when I left Portland for "the desert" I knew there'd be things I would miss. I carried two cases of microbrewed beer, stretched them out as long as I could.

My gringo grocery list always contains these: pasta, sundried tomatoes, pepperoncinis, asiago cheese, whole wheat bread, pita bread, Boars Head deli meats, reduced fat Cheez-Its, swiss cheese, Miracle Whip, pesto, peanut butter, some fancy salad dressing and even salsa. I can never have too many condiments: curry paste, peanut sauce, roasted red peppers, lemon juice.

I've been in Kino seven months without a shopping trip north. My favorite food stuffs are long gone. In my desire to live more Mexican I've held off sending giant shopping lists with friends. And I've learned how to make my own hummus, my own Thai peanut sauce. But there are three things I absolutely cannot live without so when PJ comes down from Bisbee I almost always have her bring:

  • Tillamook extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • Tangueray gin
  • ground coffee
What are the three food or beverage items you feel you need? Maybe there's only one item on your list; maybe none. But for most of us I'd venture to guess there's at least one thing we crave, one thing we can't find a substitute for. One thing that may finally spur us to make that 300 mile drive north.