My Mexican Moments: Chapter 14

The Heat has Gone

And the thrill of Mazatlan is still on. Returning to Mazatlan is very much like going from your parents’ well-ordered house to your crazy aunt’s apartment where anything goes. Coming from the sedate San Miguel with its muted colours and controlled architecture, we revel in the wackiness of Mazatlan. Houses are painted in shades of lemon, lime, blueberry and raspberry with curry trim. It’s such a fine line. I wish for more control, I wish for less control. Nothing is perfect.

I learn that on October 26, Ritchies Auction House formally declared bankruptcy, owing over $8.5 million(CDN). Well, not to me, but to other customers. We were fortunate to have had Jennifer and Peter remove our goods in August. I try not to dwell on all the things we lost in that debacle. The cheque from Gardner Galleries in London, Ontario has eased the pain somewhat. It was a successful fall auction. I wonder how much money we would have made if Gardner had had the entire lot from the beginning. No point in crying over stolen antiques. Our friend Warren deposits the cheque for us in Toronto; the “Case of The Ritchies Robbery” is over.

One night there is a parade of shrimp boats far out at sea. We all cheer as we see the lights in the distance. This signals the official opening of the shrimp season which means we can now buy the large, sweet sea shrimp. The farmed shrimp are delicious too, but there is nothing quite like fresh shrimp pulled from the ocean. The cruise ships begin to glide in. Mazatlan is shaking off a sweaty, sleepy summer. Our wonderful square, Plazuela Machado, is emitting a slow buzz again. The Mexicans are eager to be back to work.

My dentist calls. His contact has returned from Switzerland and has couriered my missing part to complete the implant. This is a painless process and requires two visits. I’m thrilled to have plugged up the missing gap in my mouth, and knowing I’ll never have to deal with another root canal, nor a crown, makes my day. Given the history of this particular tooth, it could have cost as much as $7,000 (US). I’ve lost track over 20 years. I only know if I ever have another tooth that requires care, it will be pulled and an implant will be inserted. Even though Dr. Diez and I spend time together and have social chats, I still can’t work up the nerve to ask about the guns and deer heads on the wall.

November ushers in the Day of the Dead. Which is actually a celebration. On November 1st this is a day and night where Mexicans celebrate their loved ones who have died. Many build large or small altars in their houses and surround them with the dead person’s favourite things — could be jewellery, toys, pictures, clothes, a bottle of tequila, a pair of sandals and even food. It’s an ancient superstition that the dead may return on this day to delight in what they treasured when they were alive. I like the idea of celebrating the dead and cherishing what they once enjoyed. It feels positive. The Plazuela Machado contributes to this event with a massive parade led by a donkey. But this is a donkey loaded with beer, which is free, and is freely tossed to the cheering crowds on the street. Well, the donkey doesn’t toss the beer; people dressed in classic Catrina doll costumes do the throwing. The procession is over and it’s time to reconnect with something slightly more athletic — like tennis.

The next day I phone and make an appointment with the owner of Gaviotas Racquet Club. The tennis club is a 15- minute bus ride away and is in the Golden Zone. I think it’s a good idea to leave our comfort zone of Centro and learn more about the GZ. The tennis club is just the right size for us. There are two clay courts and three hard courts. The one- time initiation fee is $100 (US) for two, and monthly fees are $50 (US) for two, for unlimited play. Nico, the owner, and I strike a deal; we don’t pay for the months we are not here. No play, no pay. We quickly fall into a routine of playing Tuesday and Saturday mornings in a pick-up round robin game. Some of the players live in the Gaviotas condos, others nearby — driving, biking or busing to the courts. We all make the effort to be there at 7:30 a.m. and play for two hours. Our games vary in levels and style, but that has no affect on the fun factor. Everyone is there to play tennis, and the attitude is all about fair play. No matter the numbers, we adjust the game plan as we go along. People come and go; it’s a smorgasbord of tennis. It certainly keeps us on our toes and our game sharp. It’s tennis heaven for me. I never worry if I’ll be rained out. The courts are surrounded by huge palm trees with large iguanas sleeping deep in the fronds. Occasionally their body temperature drops too low and they plop onto the tennis court. I think the lizards recover from the fall. Our only distractions are the bright purple bougainvillea blooming, the pelicans flying over head, the feathery pines swaying in the breeze and the Gaviotas staff quietly sweeping the grounds. Our laughter on the courts is the noisiest thing happening here.

One morning while walking back from tennis we discover the Balboa Beach Club. It’s set well back from the busy Sabalo street and overlooks the ocean. The two- storey dwelling has a very Mediterranean feel. It’s quiet, it’s tranquil — my God — there is no music playing. Just the sound of the ocean. Balboa becomes our favourite place for breakfast. The food is excellent, (they make the crispiest bacon in Mazatlan) the service is superb and the view is unsurpassed. At one time it was a private club, and it has 15 rooms for rent, some with suites. I ask around and no one seems to know who owns it. Some say it’s bankrupt, some say the owners split up and the family is fighting over the property. It’s a typical Mexican answer, no one really knows, yet the business keeps on ticking. I get the bright idea that it would be a great place to escape Carnaval. A quiet haven and across the street from our tennis club. Centro closes down; Alfredo can easily drive to the Balboa, and we can play tennis every day. I negotiate with Eva, the manager. She’s proudly wearing an English Academy T-shirt, so her English is good. I manage to secure the very last room. Carnaval does book up a year in advance. For fun, I pull out my Mexican senior’s card. Mexicans respond and respect government documents of any nature – especially when they are laminated. Eva offers us a 10% discount. I graciously accept. The per night cost is $64, including daily maid service. I think that’s a decent price. I have no idea of what the room looks like, or the size of it, because “they are working on it.” We can only hope the room will be ready by February 12th.

I’ve also discovered our senior’s card gives varying discounts in various pharmacies. It’s handy to have, and you can count on half off on all the long haul bus fares. I pull it out whenever I can; some times it works, often it’s met with a blank stare. Alfredo is impressed. I don’t think it has occurred to him to show it to local vendors.

Tennis, yoga and my gym are all underway. The Mazatlan Cultural Festival is about to launch and lasts until December 20th. I can’t wait to share this cultural series with Rosemary, who is due to return to Mazatlan November 12. Except, she is unable to leave Toronto. With Skype and e mail, I learn that while the operation on her knee on September 23 was successful in St. Mike’s Hospital in Toronto, she had not counted on contracting a wicked staph infection. Rosemary has been readmitted to the hospital twice, and the infection is not responding to the antibiotics. Her surgeon said, “Oh, someone might have sneezed during the operation.” She’s furious, and scared her retirement dream in Mazatlan may be shattered by a sneeze. All her worldly goods are in storage. The surgeon won’t grant her permission to leave Canada until the infection is under control. Rosemary’s new arrival date is now February. I completed her house closing in late October and feel badly her cute house is empty. We arrange for a house sitter to collect and pay bills, and ensure its safety. I quietly curse the revered Canadian health care system and loudly praise the fine medical care we are receiving in Mazatlan.

It’s just tickets for two then at the Angela Peralta Theater. I am standing in line deciding which performances to buy and trying to sort out what is dance, what is opera, what is ballet and really making no progress in my decision making. Fortunately an American couple ahead of me say it’s much cheaper to buy the entire series — eight performances, for $16 each — so that’s what I buy. Soren is thrilled with the idea and the price, he just isn’t sure what we were about to see. Neither am I. I deliver the Forrest Gump line: “ Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get.” And that’s really how it played itself out. We saw a very weird modern dance performance with no music. It was either about aliens, or the afterlife; we weren’t sure, as we exited at intermission. “Rigoletto” had no staging and a weak tenor; we left at intermission also. We enjoyed the Ballet Foklorico, adored “The Nutcracker,” but loathed the Big Band from the Municipal Center of the Arts — they could not hold a tune, it was painful and demanded an intermission departure. We heard the best hour of jazz in our entire life listening to the Ottis Ganceda Quintet. His music knocked our socks off and touched our hearts; we never wanted it to end. It was classical jazz that you could really, really hear. We are not in a smoky bar with people talking. This is the Angela Peralta Theatre with amazing acoustics. It was a magical Mexican Moment. The series finale is the Christmas Concert, Gala Navidena. You can’t help but love this wonderful performance with a choir of over 180 singers. It’s sweet, it’s festive, it’s professional; it’s the harbinger for Christmas. That heartwarming performance prompted me to buy a huge poinsettia at Home Depot for $3.75 ( US) to liven up Pepe’s concrete steps. Well, they do grow here. The Spanish name for poinsettia is Noche Buena, which means Christmas Eve.

Mazatlan is super bright now, dripping in Christmas lights; I’m hoping the grid can take it because the Mexicans, rich or poor, do not hold back on lighting up their casas. Somehow they dig deep into their pockets for pesos to light up the night skies. It’s so much fun walking the streets and observing the outdoor decorating skills. San Miguel would not approve of this. With a temperature of 26°C, with joy in the air, Soren and I prepare to see our friends over Christmas and ring in the New Year.

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