My Mexican Moments: Chapter 23

Wait Until Dark

Election rallies are clogging up our narrow streets and the Malecon. Stages are erected at a moment’s notice, while crewmen unload 500 plastic chairs. I’m convinced Mazatlan has a white plastic chair for all the residents, at least 500,000. Mexicans use them for every single event — from a wedding to a rock concert. There are dozens of stores which only rent plastic chairs. These rallies are either a sea of green T- shirts (PRI party) or a sea of blue T-shirts (PAN party) with speeches, music and marching bands. The grand finale of this hullabaloo is always fireworks. Which would be really enjoyable if the Mexicans waited until dark. But they never do. You can’t see the fireworks that each candidate has spent thousands of pesos on, because it’s still light!

It will all be over on Sunday, July 4th. We know we can’t buy alcohol from Friday midnight until Monday morning. Mexico has very few rules, but this one surprises me, because it’s so stupid. There are no safety belts in cars — well, there are, they just aren’t used. There are no car seats for children, because kids like to stand up and look out the windows and poke their heads through the sunroofs. Daily, Mexicans pile into the red pickup trucks (aurigas) by the dozens. Certainly no seat belts in an auriga. Just about everyone drives talking on their cell phones and usually there’s a healthy shot of tequila coursing through their arteries. Food carts are everywhere, with absolutely no health inspectors. I don’t even want to know what goes on in restaurant kitchens. I do like the no rules, buyer beware way kind of life. Nanny states never appealed to me.

However, the ban on booze is something the Mexicans plan ahead for. They simply stock up on Thursday and party in their homes all weekend. Many of restaurants are closed this weekend; it’s just not worthwhile to be open. Pepe’s Pedregoso Palace is also well stocked with cases of white wine and vodka. Candidates can’t campaign for four days before the election, so it’s peaceful again. Mexican peaceful. The weather is perfect and we people watch on our balcony. We’ve been at Pepe’s now for an entire year and our street yields up some crazy and some wonderful neighbours. The house to our west is owned by Pepe’s sister, who rents it out to a very strange family — or perhaps they are a group; we can’t figure it out. They never speak to us, not even an hola, and they appear to be grumpy and drunk. Moto Week was a nightmare as they had biker friends who fired up their hogs at all hours of the night. Moto Week is another living testament that Mexicans are hearing impaired. We spent 20 minutes last month with Alfredo and his family watching the bikers on the big Sunday afternoon parade. My ears were ringing, Soren gave me the eye roll and we quickly left. Even the teacher’s family departed soon after — it’s a horrendous sound. Lots of flash and flesh, but no fun for the ears.

Back to our neighbours to the west; one man is a 60ish American, but he never gives us a friendly nod. Red pickup trucks drop off and deliver nine children at a time for fiestas on a monthly basis. Those children’s fiestas are normal Mexican party noises and don’t interfere with our life at all. However, when the adults start drinking beer they don’t hesitate to share their music; thank God it’s Sarah Brightman and not some rap artist. I’ve never thought Sarah would appeal to a Mexican beer drinking crowd. One afternoon, an American man who lives across the street — we don’t know him either — climbed up on his roof and was screaming at our neighbours to turn their music down. They did the opposite, opened up more beer and increased the volume. That’s the only “street fight” we’ve ever seen.

Right next door to the east, lives Poncho. I think he could go postal at any moment. His aunt lives across the street and supports him. Last winter Poncho was “fairly normal” in that he wore typical Mexican clothes, was decently groomed and did some house painting for Pepe. Kind of like Hitler. I’d give him coffee or water and he was always very polite, using my name. I thought him unstable, quiet and perhaps intelligent. He could even be mediating for all I know. Or on anti -depressants? He worked hard under the scorching sun while completely covered in overalls. A month went by and I realized I had not seen Poncho on Pedregoso, nor at our local tienda – store. Then I had a sighting. Poncho had undergone a radical makeover. He’s replaced his knit yarmulke like cap with a blond Mohawk. Most odd. And he had a new wardrobe too. Loose cotton pants all with matching tops in every colour under the rainbow. In the morning it would be pale blue, at noon it would be purple and in the evening lemon yellow. He’s colour coordinated, I’ll give him that. And he carries baton- like thingees in his hands and twirls away on the Malecon. It’s wise not to ask him questions. During the light fireworks he stood at his window, parallel to our balcony, looking at the non event and I do believe he was naked. The window sill blocked my south of the border view which, was a relief.

Pedregoso has its share of fat ladies too. Really fat, over 400 pounds? There are four of them, probably all related. But they are friendly and take about 30 minutes to climb down our hill to the tienda. Sadly, they buy more chips, Cokes and tortillas. It’s the Pedregoso diet, not The South Beach. It’s a social event for them too. The tienda is a social event for us all. Joaquin and Gerania own this local store and it’s a beehive of activity. It’s a slice of Mazatlan life. You can buy one egg. You can buy one cigarette. You can run a tab. It’s the old fashioned general store with a Mexican twist. Stray dogs saunter in and out. Kids play on the electronic slots. The large carpenter shop around the corner (they have at least 30 employees) buy all their Cokes and sandwiches there. Surfers swing by to purchase beer. Every morning I ask Joaquin if there have been any overnight murders, but it’s always “everything is perfecto in Mazatlan.” Lourdes arrives at 9 a.m. with high stilettos and a deep cleavage for her shift. Joaquin opens up at 6:30 a.m. and needs to drive his clunker to the market to stock up on produce. She makes the coffee and starts selling cigarettes; one at a time. The afternoon shift is run by Gerania and her granddaughter, Leonetta. Always, after our yoga class, we stop in to chat and then buy evaporated milk, OJ, oatmeal, Corn Flakes and tostados. Joaquin is worried about me, he hasn’t seen me for many mornings. I explain that I’ve stopped going to the gym; it’s too darn hot. This is all in Spanish, of course.

It’s true: I no longer go to the filthy gym. The humidity hit in July and I refuse to end up in Dr. Levid’s office again with heat stroke. I learned my lesson last year. I turn up the ac in the bedroom and do a strange workout with my stability ball, medicine ball, weights and my yoga matt. I read about the Japanese four -minute workout called tabata, so I’m applying those principals as well. Now I do my routine to the CBS Early Morning News, which is a huge improvement over rap music. I miss Juan and Tito, all the weight machines and the treadmill, but these are small summer sacrifices which simply make sense. We stopped playing tennis in May. Soren and I both realize we are getting no cardio so we have cut back on carbs. I’ve been making wonderful salads filled with fresh fruit. Chef Madsen is still in charge of the evening meal. Summer light eating — it’s easy here.

The real jewel in the Pedregoso’s crown is Silvia Vega. Her peppermint green house is six doors from Pepe’s Palace, with eight steep steps leading to what else – a wrought iron gate. One day Soren noticed two sewing machines in the front room; I was surprised he could see them from the street level, so I climbed up her steps and sure enough, we discovered our local seamstress. I took her a few repair jobs. She’s sweet, she’s fast, and her “shop” was filled with projects. Her husband, Sergio, speaks some English so communicating is not a problem. I had been wearing the same loose white dress I bought in Toronto very often. It was cool, easy, and looked elegant. Why not have Silvia copy it, in linen? Why not, indeed. I gave her my Lida Baday dress, she took all my measurements and we agreed to start with white, blanca. She would buy the material, 100% linen, pre-wash it, and make it for $18 (US). After a yoga class I yelled, “hola” and Silvia appeared with the dress. Sergio stepped in the bedroom while I dropped my Lululemons and tried it on. You could see right through it. So it needed an additional linen lining. That brought the cost up to $20 (US). We agree right then that I want a blue one — what colour blue? We found the exact colour on a plastic bag. I want a green dress — we searched her shop but couldn’t get the right green. Soren is standing outside with his yoga bag and three eggs from the tienda, and is yelling, “Hola,” holding up a large leaf. It’s the ideal shade of green. Black, too well, that’s easy. Within ten days I have my uniform. These linen sheaths are so cool; I dress them up with funky jewellery and they look great with flip flops, sandals or my Skechers. I can wear them to conduct interviews, (just not with Señor Fox) to press conferences; really they are most suitable for any event. Soren completes the outfit with the perfect accessory. I always wear sunscreen. I have hats, but I hate them. The chef buys me a sun parasol, lined to block out UV rays. It’s small, it’s navy blue and now I can go anywhere at high noon and not be worried about the sun. Not for hours, but I’m safe for 30 minutes. It’s August 1st today; it’s taken one year, but I’ve finally figured how to dress, work, play and survive the Mazatlan summer.

Ligia cleans once a week, $18 (US). Sophia brings her portable massage table twice a month for an amazing hour and half massage, $27(US). Gilberto Machado Lopez arrives every Wednesday morning to pick up our laundry (not my smalls) and returns the following morning with it all washed and folded, $11(US). Hilda comes to Pedregoso Palace (she has no shop) and cuts my hair for $7(US), and Soren’s for $4(US). Alfredo gives us Spanish lessons twice a week, $35 (US). Oscar regularly delivers two cases of white wine, Santa Rita, at $8 (US) a bottle, and Soren’s Sambucca-like knock-off at $8(US) a bottle. I’m thrilled with “my staff;” we moved here to have the good life, and to give back.

The question is, are we making a difference with Hospice? It’s been very silent.

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