|Willis, Sr. in a passport photo taken shortly after he traded combat with Pancho Villa for the more challenging opponent, my grandmother.|
|Manspreading in the departure lounge|
This meant that when it was time to board in Chicago, I was on the plane early, with my easy-to-spot compadres. They were mostly well dressed, except for guy in the row right in front of me, who thought that gym shorts and an Ohio State golf shirt made him GQ ready. His younger, but hardly trophy, wife sported an equally not-quite-dressy-enough for Walmart outfit. Fellow upgraders, I presumed.
Since Puerto Vallarta is supposed to be Mexico’s answer to Provincetown, Key West, and Rehoboth Beach rolled into one, I used the opportunity of boarding early and lounging in my seat scaled to actual human beings to check out (i.e. cruise) the sans-culottes as they passed by, struggling with their carry-on steamer trunks, anvils, live chickens, and whatever else people try to carry on a plane these days. Among the families and women dressed trampy-by-Las Vegas-standards, there were just two promisingly cute-ish guys. Otherwise, it was slim pickings. The line of passengers looked more like the communion line at State College Presbyterian Church than it looked like people headed south of the border for debauchery on the Mexican Riviera.
When they opened the door of the plane, the sudden realization that—Wow! The heat and humidity are doing nothing for my natty outfit of navy blazer, white oxford, and khakis—brought me back to reality pretty quickly. Oh well, I thought, if the British could subjugate an entire subcontinent in weather like this, surely I was up to the task of a few days of R and R.
After a short trip through customs and immigration and I was met in the arrival lounge by my cousin Paul’s wife, Robyn.
Speaking of limes, while R. and I were in the store shopping my cousin P. made sure that we stayed hydrated and enjoyed a prophylactic treatment against scurvy with a gin and tonic for the ride to the house.
The trip north from P.V. was quite beautiful, once you got away from bits of unattractive strip mall development, presumably put up to make Gringos like me feel at home.
We passed by more roadside stands than there are in Cape May County, NJ which is saying something. It was coconut season--they were stacked up at every fruit and veg stand like pumpkins before Halloween back home. Paul pointed out one spot where a strip club was adjacent to a cemetery, the perfect spot for guys who never know if they’re coming or going.
Not long after the watermelon district we came we arrived at their home, Casa Largarto just off the now no longer very busy coastal road.
It’s not so much a house as a grouping of three small buildings that take advantage of the steep, lushly landscaped hillside site.
Mirador is the name of a famous estate near Charlottesville, Virginia that was the girlhood home of Nancy Langhorne Astor, the first woman to serve in the British Parliament. It’s as stunning as P and R’s mirador, but in a different of way.
A stairway leads from patio outside the living pavilion to the Pacific Ocean, about sixty feet below.
R. took me on a tour to get the lay of the land and to see see the other rock star houses in the 'hood.
|Just add Mick, Keith, etc. and you're good to go!|
|Somehow I doubt that these are officially licensed NFL products.|
I got quite a charge out of the Mexican approach to logos:
|Nothing says tasty like a cow smacking his lips at his hindquarters being turned into a steak.|
|Don't all happy hypodermic needles wear lab coats?|
|My temporary office. View was great; internet, not so much.|
One day, the cousins and I went to the beach—just a short four wheeler drive from the house. There wasn’t a soul there and we got a bucket of beers, and sat in a mostly deserted café at the edge of the sand. The water was warm and refreshing but before long, it felt as if I had barbed wire wrapped along my leg. Then one of the cousins said, “Did you just feel something?” Yes, we’d all felt it. Lo and behold we’d all been stung by jellyfish. It hurt but wasn’t disabling, like a mild case of shingles. We discussed peeing on our stings and decided against it. I was glad I’d packed ibuprofen.
My final night there, we had a bonfire on the beach. Even in Mexico, in the age old battle between beach bonfires built below the high tide line and the rising tide, the rising tide wins.
|L to R: Kristin, Rick, Paul, and Bill Bryant|
R. and P. put me on a bus and told me that when the bus arrived at an actual terminal and the driver got out, I’d be in Puerto Vallarta. The bus was modern, clean, and speedy. In fact, the roomy seat reclined so much that it was like taking a 90 minute test drive of a La-Z-Boy Recliner Rocker. The trip felt much safer and surely was more comfortable than the legendary Chinese buses that used to tote folks around the Mid-Atlantic states. Generations from now, my collateral descendants will not be wondering which ancestor was in a bus plunge in Mexico.
The building is an enormous John Portman-esque thing that would look a thousand times better if they’d just freshen up the exterior paint color. The color wasn’t baby shit brown but it made me think of baby shit brown. And that’s just as bad.
The hotel really was top notch even though check-in took 16 minutes once I got to the head of the line and my “Sucks To Be You” coupon for a discount on a massage wasn’t worth a whole lot since there weren’t any appointments available. But the thought was nice.
|The swim-up bar is on the backside of Gilligan's Island.|
|These guys do not exist in real life. At least in my real life, including my Mexican vacation.|
Once I'd settled in, I showered, shaved, and Aqua Velva-d and upped the snazzy quotient with some fresh madras for a cab to the Olde City, Puerto Vallarta's gayborhood. Perhaps it was a communication problem caused by his lack of English and my lack of Spanish, or he didn’t like Aqua Velva and madras, but the cabby was, well, creepy. It was the only time in Mexico I encountered someone who was creepy.
When I’d had given up on the idea of debauchery and had enough of the colonial charms of Olde Puerto Vallarta, I decided to take the bus back to the resort rather than to take another creepy cab ride. I called up the directions on my phone and found what looked to be a bus stop. Trip Advisor told me to wait for the blue and white bus that was going to the Marina, so I waited and waited and waited some more while lots of other buses came and went. After what seemed like an eternity but was probably really six minutes, my bus came by.
As soon as I boarded, I decided that the bus had been a washing machine in a former life. And not a Maytag either, but an East German 2-cycle washing machine that ran on whatever toxic waste there’s a surplus of in Dresden. After the bearings were shot, it was repurposed in Romania into a bus. I have no doubt that it shuttled Olympic athletes of indeterminate gender identity to and from their dorm to the Peoples Gymnasium #7 where they practiced the 250 meter rhythmic dodge biathlon, a sport that combines the floor exercise from rhythmic gymnastics (as in the wacky event where women cavort with the ribbon tied to a stick that calls to mind fly casting) with target shooting and dodge ball. It was considered perfect training for Communist bloc agents who were sent to the United States under deep cover as female gym teachers. But I digress.
I’m not sure if the bus had an actual suspension, but as we sped down the cobblestone streets, it felt, well, as if we we’re on the love child of the square-wheeled train from the Island of the Misfit Toys and an industrial strength Magic Fingers. I sat there, glad that my nephew was a dentist. If my fillings vibrated out, I’d at least get the family discount on some new ones. On the other hand, the fare was less than 10 pesos, and no one on the bus was remotely creepy. What wasn't to like?
The next day, after a breakfast almost as good as that of The Buffet at Wynn Las Vegas, and enjoying an hour or two of the best weather of my trip, I flew back to the U.S.
When I was waiting in O’Hare Airport for my flight to State College my phone came back to life, easing my DTs (digital tremens). I could now get back to the important stuff in my life, like following Lee Radziwill on Twitter. I’d had a great time in Mexico, reconnecting with relatives, seeing a new part of the world, and being thankful that I‘d waited as long as I did to get stung by a jellyfish.