A New Year Has Begun
Christmas Eve we spend with friends munching on sumptuous BBQ ribs at Paulina’s in Centro. It’s BYOB, which suit our various tastes and budgets. The small restaurant is packed, the service is fast, and we all agree it’s a terrific way to spend Christmas Eve. Christmas Day we meet up with another couple for an afternoon traditional turkey buffet. Soren adores buffets — sometimes you just can’t take the Dane out of him. He roams the tables loaded with all the seasonal foods and spends quite a bit of time at the dessert table. As the sun sets, he groans, “I’m not eating again until New Year’s Eve.” I highly doubt that. We are thinking that we may be alone on New Year’s Eve, but at the last minute Gerard (our developer) and his wife Jenny accept our invitation for a shrimp feast. He claims Jenny is “the nice half” of this marriage. When we were signing our condo papers a year ago, he strode into our apartment at Villa Serena and asked, “Which is the nice one in this marriage?” It’s obvious that Soren “is the nice one,” he has more filters than I do. Over the year, we’ve shared many bottles of wine, listened to live music and talked about everything from his various businesses in Vancouver to his vision of Mazatlan. He chose Mazatlan to invest in and it’s always reassuring to hear how he feels. His positive outlook helps with my occasional 2 a.m. “ohmigod episodes.” I am sometimes concerned about our investment in a seaside city in Mexico, where drug wars are being waged at the border.
However, Gerard has already completed and delivered his first condo development in Mazatlan. He didn’t need to erect another condo. Never mind, he has no regrets about purchasing Edificio de los Reynaud in Centro. His latest concept is to restore this beautiful historic building, comprising almost a complete block in the heart of Centro, into a “workation.” The idea is to pack up your laptop in colder climes and bring the whole family on vacation to sunny Mazatlan. The breadwinner can work and play. Gerard has been successful with all of his projects so I’m sure this one will be too. I just hope he puts in an air conditioned gym on the ground floor. I often bring the gym topic up, but Gerard just smiles, then ignores me. Kind of like the Mexican boys in the gym, when I ask them to change the blaring rude rap music.
Last June when we returned to Pepe’s second floor apartment on Pedregoso, all the Mexicans would yell up, “Hola Sheila, hola Sheila.” There’s actually a bell to ring but that is covered with wild jasmine, and, let’s face it, the Mexicans are happier yelling. I frequently wondered why it was never, “Hola, Soren.” Alfredo explained that to me. The woman is the “ama de casa”; the woman is in charge of all household matters. The husband, the man, has nothing to do with any domestic details. Alfredo knows most of the skeletons in our closet; they come clacking out, because we still have no doors. Soren does the daily shopping in the market and all of the cooking. This is foreign to most Mexican men. I was enjoying the re-branding of my name too. My current favourite is “Chyla.” This is December, and now the entire street knows that Soren controls the kitchen. I actually think he’s gone up a notch with the female Mexicans who are envious of a man who cooks and shops. Alfredo’s wonderful wife, Miriam, and his four daughters wait on him hand and foot. I think the extent of the teacher’s cooking skills is opening up a can of Coca Cola. But Alfredo doesn’t ever tease or ever question Soren.
And no one can cook shrimp like Soren. They are always perfect, never overdone. That explains why Gerard and Jenny eat every morsel. They don’t leave until 1:30 a.m., which is not unusual for New Year’s Eve. What is unusual is that I’m always in bed by 9:30 because I am naturally a morning person; I’ve never been a night owl. Tomorrow is a tennis round robin morning and I say goodnight. I’m fairly sure I was polite and did not kick them out. I did overhear Gerard saying, “See, we are fascinating, and that’s why time flies when you are with us.” Thanks to Jenny’s Christmas gifts, we are finally keeping up with the Gomez’s. Our little second floor balcony is now night bright with two glowing lanterns and strings of fairy lights draped over our corroded wrought iron railing. But Jenny, being Jenny, knows that we shouldn’t drain the grid, so she gives us presents of solar lights. No problem recharging here. A little more difficult in Vancouver. Jenny and I think it would be a great idea to open a solar store in Mazatlan; the developer and the chef roll their eyes, knowing neither one of us can complete this brainwave. All solar gadgets are expensive — we may get 13 customers a year. If solar panels are being stolen in Napa Valley on a daily basis by crooks who want to lower their grow-op electricity bills, then the theft possibilities in Mexico, if it ever were to go solar, are too massive to comprehend.
We are all a bit wobbly on the tennis court that morning. There’s nothing quite like playing tennis under cobalt blue skies to cure a hangover. One player arrives and asks me, “Are my eyes open?” After tennis we meet Gerard and his family at the Balboa Beach Club for brunch. The developer has never been there and it’s fun to introduce him to new spots in Mazatlan. Jenny loves the quiet, the beach and the serenity of the space too. Their adult children swim in the pool, play in the ocean waves, relax in the sun and thoroughly enjoy themselves before they return to the dreary weather of England and Canada. Once I have my margarita, Gerard and I return to the subject of installing a small gym in our new condo. Well, that’s not true. I won’t let go of the subject. Only because the developer likes to rub it in that at his other condo, the association voted unanimously to remove the gym and create a cozy clubhouse. I say, “That’s great; just send the equipment south to our condo in Centro.” I’m 5’ 2”, Gerard is 6’ 6”, so I have to step back to see his smirk. I know the stats from his existing condo; no one ever used the air conditioned gym, ever. He departs for Vancouver and I return to my non- air conditioned disgustingly dirty gym on January 2.
It’s not open. I wait on the steps, but no one shows up. It’s locked the next morning. Finally, day three, Tito appears with the keys. His English is fine thanks to two years working at Taco Bell in LA. I understand the job was a grind and he is much happier here driving a pulmonia six days a week. Tito explains that the owner, Mauri, is too lazy to wake up at 6 a.m. so he has given his friends keys to open and shut the gym gates at their convenience. Tito is weighing the situation. He knows I am a regular. He knows I’m serious. I am here four days a week. Finally he slaps his set of keys on the counter and I trot off to have copies made. I am now part of this macho men’s club. At long last I have my own gym; well, my own set of keys where I’m not depending on sleepy Mexican boys. Oh joy. The cockroaches still scurry about, the treadmill finally died and has been retired, the walls haven’t been painted in ten years, the glass in the windows is splintered and the black rubber interlocking Home Depot tiles are curling and ripping apart. The bathroom needs to be demolished. However, most of the equipment is working. I had recently written an article in Pacific Pearl on “Keeping Fit in Centro” and it included a blurb on Euro Gym. Tito and Mauri pour over the copy. While I’m doing leg presses Tito informs me that they are going to paint and clean up the entire place. I’m encouraged, but I don’t believe it. Weeks go by. There are no changes, except more Mexican woman are in the gym. One dawn I count eight women; this is not related to my article, as Mexicans would not read a tourist paper. It’s more likely a New Year’s resolution they are fulfilling. Mauri still does absolutely nothing to clean it up. But Tito and his buff buddy, Juan, do. I think they are embarrassed by their ambivalent amigo, so these two muscular guys sweep and mop the gym twice a week. In between cleaning, Juan gently taps the women and guides them through a safer weight routine. I’m struggling with my triceps, and Juan stops me. He removes a weight and then shows me a better method. It’s much more painful, but I know Juan’s way is right. “Hungry Eyes” is blaring on the ancient boom box and Juan begins dancing with the mop. The women are all laughing, Tito and Juan are grinning; clearly they want some level of cleanliness for us all. I catch Mauri one evening after yoga class. He’s been in a horrendous car accident. Or so he says. He lifts up his baseball cap and displays his stitches. All the money for the paint to spruce up the gym went to pay for his medical bills. Right; Mexican cash flow again.
I climb up our steep street during a glorious, shocking pink sunset thinking I can probably live with a dirty gym. Besides, I’m enjoying watching Tito and Juan sweeping up.