Road Trip Photo Dump

Colonias Returning Home From WorkWe drove through the night from Melaque to Zihuatanejo. Twelve hours down the Michoacan Coastal Road. No hiccups.

Here are some photos from the journey.

It was fun. We had plans to stop in Pascuales, but Trisquit’s grandmother is sick and his mom–who is traveling with us–needs to be close to an airport. Thus, the long drive. (And yes, we were right next to Manzanillo, but Trisquit doesn’t do logic, dig?)

Anyway, more photos coming soon. And more misadventures are a guarantee!

Down The Road

We’re heading down the road to Pascuales this afternoon. Hopefully have some new photos up tomorrow of the journey and the big waves down there too.

More to come.

Melaque Diario, Agosto 3, 2009: Hitchhiking At Dawn

I hitched a ride with some farmers yesterday morning. The sun was just up. The beach, where they left me, has no name. Reyes left yesterday. Barton went back to the plantation. Both fled in terror of Trisquit’s mighty RV, which should arrive tonight. Hell, I almost left too.

But, after being out of commission for a day and a half under the jackboots of Montezuma’s cruel footsoldiers (not to mention no sun the day before that) I was not about to let a cloudless dawn go to waste.

The farmers dropped me (and my board) on the cliff above the beach. Dark volcanic rocks running down to a kilometer stretch of surf and turquoise water, green jungle creeping up the hillsides and a handful of pelicans: a perfect crescent under a just risen sun.

I walked across the beach. Surveyed the break. Close to the shore, but not so close. I wondered how deep it was? Only one way to find out. I swam out, leaving the board on the beach. I got about halfway out to the breakers and was only waist deep. This might work, I thought to myself. A sandy bottom too. No pebbles and no rocks. I looked out on the wave–a long swell, fifty, sixty yards long, a curl and then a hint of a tube.

The last week I’d been surfing very inconsistent waves, few developing a real tube. Now, I’m a beginning surfer, so to my mind a curl is different from a tube. A tube is something you can fit a man and a board in. A curl is just a big wave one can surf. And although I’ve spent a week getting beat up–without mercy–tossed and creamed and munched–these waves, I thought, while tall and a bit forbidding looked like a ride to me. I paddled in fighting the undertow. And the undertow is never to be underestimated, as I have learned many times, just ask the big rasberry on my ass.

Looking out on the surf one more time, crystalline water, white froth and the turquoise sea I felt a pang of guilt. I’m breaking a cardinal rule surfing on an empty beach alone. What if an accident occurs? A nasty tumble? A misplaced rock? A jackknifed board to the back of the head?

“Fuck it,” I say aloud. “If the light goes dark, so it goes.”

Grab my board and paddle out. I attack the first wave. “Shit,” I think as a wall of angry water climbs above me, “this wave is BIG.” I mistimed the curl, held on to the board, got tossed about but recover on the other side.

Next wave comes in, rising fast, paddle, swerve, get up, ride it, slip, tossed about. Paddle to the board. Miss the next wave.

The biggest one yet comes in. I’m up. Try to turn. I’m down. Almost, I think, almost. Repeat several times. No luck.

Lay back on the board. Floating. Panting like a dog. Heart racing. One waves passes. Now two. Now three.

I’m in a basin now–the place between the swell and the curl. I look West. Rising. Growing. I paddle in, position myself. No thought now. All action: rise, turn, turn again this time into the curl. The tube is rising over my head. Closing in. Adjust angle. I surge out of tube sliding on a sea of mercury. Wind in my face. Water at my back. Was it ten seconds or ten years? The wave dies and I jump into the water.

A smile. I pump my fist into the air and whoop as loud as I can.

My first perfect ride.

Melaque Diario, Agosto 2, 2009: Underwater

I rose in the morning before sunrise. Walked onto the beach, plopped down and pondered my Buddha-nature. I attempted to calm the mind. Breathed in and out, counting each intake, beating out a timeless moment between. Tasted salt on the breeze. Heard the crunch of sand beneath me. Waves crashed, receded, built and crashed again.

I opened my eyes–the source of all madness and confusion, as Master Ma would say–and used the grains of sand, orange, white, golden, yellow, as a mandala. Countless grains in a sea of their own, bordering another ever more endless one. Mind alive to potential. Discursive. Random. Associative. Looking for order where there is none. Meaning where it does not exist. Not to be tamed this morning as it circled a problem from several days before.

I’d just been tossed from my board. This wave was a big one. I was turning reverse somersaults in the undertow. As I curl up and rotate with the energy of the wave, conserving my own, I hear Master Ma’s voice:

“Breathing is the essence of life, Sean Paul,” he says, sitting serenely amidst the chaos of Singapore’s Guan Yin Temple. “Breathe, Sean Paul, and the path reveals itself. The path is the light. And the light is breath. Breathe, Sean Paul, and all will wash away.”

I twist back one more time with the wave, fighting against my lungs, screaming for air and ask, “Wise Master, how does one breathe underwater?”

“Carefully.”

Melaque Diario, Julio 30 2009: Nada

I’ve got nothing today except shoulders that feel like rubber bands, arms floppy like the tentacles of a dead octopus and chest muscles so sore it’s hard to lift the coffee cup.

I did get a text from ‘Trisquit’ this morning. It read: “Found crew with tractor. Truck is out. See you soon.” He goes on to mention something about an RV. An RV? God help me.

I did have a Crash Davis moment last night. But that would be too colorful for a family blog, no?

Melaque Diario, Julio 28 2009: Chorizo, Greg Louganis and Chasing Demons

MariachiFrom the Travel Journal, dated July 28, 2009:

Meditated on the beach this morning. Nothing quite like the sound of the surf coming in, each whoosh, slurp and crash, the ripples of the water on sand, the scratching sounds clear the mind. After four decadent days finding my center was critical. The waves came in threes: swell, curl and crash. Swell, curl and crash. Swell, curl and crash. Soon I was walking down a road in China or maybe India. Then I was worrying about problems at home. Breathe, I heard Master Ma tell me. The images dissipate. Breath. A bit of water sprays me, I sit motionless. The sun is rising and I feel the warmth. The sounds of the morning grow louder as I breath. Now like the waves, breath, hold, exhale. Swell, curl and crash. The moment ripples out like the water. All is quiet.

Then Reyes slaps me on the back.

“Guero, time to surf!”

I inhabit the moment, smile at him, my anger fades quickly. Swell, curl and crash. Grab the board and paddle out.

Reyes disappears, again.

And yet, after breakfast–a delicious breakfast of chorizo and eggs–I sank back into self-pity. I had meant to work yesterday, but got sidetracked. (That’s easy to do here and I was a willing participant.) What would Master Ma say to that? Might he say, “it’s good you got sidetracked! Now you can get back on the path.” He takes all things as they are. When will I?

I went back to the hotel room. Tried to write. Read for a while. Went out to check the surf. Wow, waves in mid-day? Saw a swell half a kilometer long, swell, curl and crash.

“Fuck this,” I thought, “I would rather chase my demons out there than sit here and have them chase me.”

There is no better cure for self-pity than getting battered, keel-hauled, twisted and pounded by two meter waves.

*****

Afterwards I sat on the orange-golden sands of the beach and watched a blond in a tiny string bikini wade into the surf. She’s going to lose that top in these waves, I thought.

Three minutes later she emerges from the water without her top. The joys of Mexico.

The beach is mostly empty today, however. It’s Tuesday. Everything is closed today. Six pelicans glide over the swells, wheel and then settle in the water. How can such an ungainly looking bird land so elegantly?

Reyes showed up around two.

“Hey man, you should have seen me out there today,” I said, “I was Greg Louganis: all cartwheels, somersaults, flips, belly-flops and back flips. I owned the waves in an hilarious way.”

He looked at me with irritation in his eyes.

“You are a clown!”

“And?”

“You’re not taking this seriously, Pablito.”

“Why should I? It’s not like you are, either, running up and down the Jalisco Coast like a randy goat.”

The crack of a smile emerged. “Hey,” I said, “I saw it. You’re smiling! Look, Reyes,” I went on, “Trisquit will be here tonight or tomorrow. And let me disabuse you of any seriousness from that point forward. When he arrives cataclysmic mayhem will erupt. You know it’s true!”

“La puebla es jodido.”

“You already said that.”

“It needs repeating,” he said.

“True.”

“You realize, Pablito, if he an Barton get going we may very well never leave Mexico!”

“Oh hell,” I said, “if Barton shows Trisquit his collection of guns we’ll probably end up joining SubCommandante Marcos down in Chiapas.”

“I should call the Federales and warn them now, no?”

“Maybe,” I said shaking my head at the thought of those two together, “it’s best if you and Barton head down to Pascuales before Trisquit arrives and stay until he leaves. I’ll join you after. Just say Barton’s stuck on the plantation.” I winked at him.

“You’re bad, SP,” Reyes said, getting the hint.

“But good too. There isn’t an excuse in the world I can’t conjure to delay the inevitable, no?”

“Let no man ever say your bullshit could not be put to good use,” he smiled.

“My father taught me well. He should have been a politician. He can wiggle out of anything.”

*****

“Reyes” I said seriously, “remind me. . . ”

“What, Pablito,” he said, a wave sliding over our feet.

“Remind me to do this more often, okay? I spend too much time being serious, lost in my head. It’s good to act like a child from time to time.”

Reyes looked at me with sympathy, sympathy born of many tragedies and joys shared.

“Sean Paul,” he said, “I can read your moods like these waves.” He pointed out into the bay. “I’ve never seen someone so free and confident about his place in the world, as when you returned. But I’ve never seen someone so bewildered by the loss of a dream well-lived, either.” He grasped my shoulder. “You needed this,” he said and pushed me into the water. But not before yelling, “and if you don’t finish that book I’ll kick your ass!”

Lazy Days . . .

The skies are blue. The weather is cooperating. It was supposed to rain. But it hasn’t. I’m pretty beat up today, but I’m going to walk around the bay, probably over to Barra, the village on the other side and take photos. So, hopefully there will be another photo dump this evening. The waves haven’t been so good the last two days and they weren’t swelling at all this morning. Well, enough to wake me up, but that is by the by.

I don’t know where Reyes is. But I imagine he’s okay.

Our buddy ‘Trisquit’ is lost somewhere between Hermosillo and Culiacan. He’s driving down from California. We expect him tomorrow. He did call. It was filled with nasty curses about Mexican drivers and something about a donkey. He probably ran into one on the way and had to pay the farmer off. I’d not put that past Trisquit, ever.

We’ll spend two more days here, then head into the jungle for a night or two at another friend’s papaya and banana plantation. Then it is off to Pascuales. I hope I am ready. But if the waves are too big, I simply won’t surf. Reyes says I’m a wimp. Maybe. But I don’t have a death wish. The idea of a cement truck full of water crashing down on my head doesn’t thrill me terribly much. No?

I did note the headlines of the local paper this morning: all Mexico is in an uproar about the “programma austeridad (sp?)” the government is pushing through. All is fun and games here on the beach. But there is a very real economic crisis ongoing in Mexico, as Nat’s posts have made abundantly clear. I’ll try to follow the news a bit more closely and talk to some locals about it. One cannot surf all day long.

Que suerte, no?

Melaque Diario, Julio 26 2009: La Vida Buena

Puro MelaqueBy one o’clock the clouds began to burn off. The waters, chameleon-like, morphed from gray-green to turquoise. The camel back island in the bay radiated orange and white. A sailboat slid into the mercury waters of the bay like a triangular ghost. It was Sunday. Many families had packed up to head home–ending their weekend getaway. But then the beach filled up again.

A bikini clad woman runs across the beach. Reyes hoots. “You are such a cad,” I say.

“Soy Mexicano,” Pablito. “It is my right to be a cad.”

A lone mariachi robed in linen sings, “no mas para mi,” to the family sitting next to us. A song about how he lost his heart (and his money) in the barrio of Monterrey.

The father of two lovely 15 year-olds asks him if he knows this song, or that song. The mariachi sings anew. The father and mother are singing along. The daughters blush, like teenagers all over the world, as the father lifts his cerveza in the air and tips it back. They ‘shush’ him, but are clearly enjoying it too.

“Reyes,” I said. “Trisquit just called. He’ll be here tomorrow.”

“Madre de dios! La puebla es jodido!”

A raven headed goddess walks down the beach. (Something one does not see in Turkey.) “It’s a good thing you’re sitting down, Pablito,” Reyes says. “No iron poles to smash into.”

“I’d find one. Trust me.”

By three o’clock the sun was giggling at me. The clouds blew out into the Pacific as cerulean skies returned.

“Pablito,” Reyes exclaimed. “Stop drinking. Surf is gonna be mas bueno this evening.”

“No shit?”

“Es verdad.”

“Carlonia,” I yelled at the waitress. “No mas tequila para mi. El mar llamate me!”

“Claro,” she yipped. “No mas tequila por Juan Pablo y Reyes.”

“Hey, what the fuck?” he said. “I’m the one who is allowed to drink and surf.”

“Not today. After the crap you pulled last night? Your privileges have been pulled.”

“Oye, pendejo, la Virgen de Guadalupe, I swear you will pay.”

“I just did.”

“Huh?” said Reyes, swaying a bit too much, reaching for his board.

“I paid the tab,” I said.

“Good idea.”

But Reyes was wrong, so we returned to the bar early in the evening. Carlos, a gray-haired, short, fair-skinned Mexican and I got to talking about life in Turkey and Mexico. He’s known as the ‘philosopher of Melaque.’

“La vida cara in Turciya?” he asked.

“No, not expensive. In the mountains and the countryside it’s like Mexico. But in Istanbul? Poquito cara,” I said.

“And the water? What’s it like?” Carlos asked me.

“El mar des Turcos es azul ondo como los ojos de Russa,” I said. (The sea of the Turks is deep blue like the eyes of a Russian woman.)

“Holy shit,” said Reyes, “that was good.”

I turned around, raised my glass and winked.

“But you still can’t surf, gringo.”

By ten that evening my Spanish had improved immensely. Carlos and I were discussing the relative merits of which conch shell makes the best horn. We were trying three different ones out.

“How you feeling Pablito,” Reyes yelled from across the bar, arms wrapped around a bikini clad Latina. How does such a revolting looking man do it? I think to myself, and then reply:

“Yo nado en el mar de tequila y cerveza. Y tu?”

*****

It’s now Monday morning.

“Cut it with the water,” I moaned at Reyes. And then the surf washed over me and I realized that I fell asleep on the beach. Then I remembered everything else.

I stumbled up the steps into the hotel. The owner greeted me, “Como estas Juan Pablo,” he said.

“La buena vida, Tio,” I said and walked off in search of my room.

Basin And Range

First Class BusThe moment the bus pulled south of San Antonio my eyes grew happy. Movement. Seeing. Even if it was a withering brown nothingness.

I put my book away and whipped out my notepad.

“Good to know old habits die hard,” said Reyes. “I bet that’s what you did the entire trip across Saudi Arabia?”

“Turkey, Reyes. I was in Turkey. And India. And Thailand.”

“They’re all Muslims to me, hermano.”

“Not only are you ugly, but you’re ignorant,” I shot back.

“At least my momma loves me,” he said.

“Jesus,” I said.

“Yes, how can I help you?”

“Look, I know that’s your name, but I said Jesus, not he-soos.”

“I answer to both.”

“Shut up.”

Two hours outside of Laredo the land cut up. Oxidized road cuts. Strange cube-like stones. Distant glassy peaks filled the background. Brambles and huisache, mesquite and spidery ocotillos reached up from the thirsty desert floor. Senderos rode out, hazy in the cactus flats.

We pulled into Monterrey. Reyes attempted a feeble joke about the local ‘beisbol’ team.

“What is it with Mexican’s and ‘beisbol,’ Pablito?” He said. “We should stick with ‘futbol.’

“We beat you. And Spain,” I said.

“Puta.”

“We still beat you.”

*****

Twenty minutes outside of Monterrey the mountains galloped up from the earth. Here was thrust, uplift, erosion–a living orogeny of ribs wandering up and down the hillsides. Peaks danced in the glinting light. Outcrops winked silvery and green. The late afternoon sun splashing across the horizon.

And then we crept into the flat desert floor–peaks scattered miles away like pebbles–filled with scare-crow cactuses, like awkward crucifixes. The sun set.

I sighed deeply, drinking in the last light in of the basin and range.

“Reyes,” I said, “it’s good to be on the road again.”

“Si, Pablito, it’s nice to see you smile.”

Swimwear Fail

Bahia NavidadA short tale is in order to give you an idea how serious the water and currents are here. It’s one thing to sit on the beach and watch the surf come rolling in, watch the swell rise up the beach for half a kilometer and down it for another two hundred yards. It’s another thing to see the curl begin down the beach and then hear it break. It’s like the roar of fifty diesel engines revving up all at once. And then to see a semi-swell crash right into the wave that just broke, sending spray twenty feet up into the air. Seeing the turquoise waters turn into a raging froth of white is viscerally powerful.

But this morning while out in the surf I missed a wave. Again! My board jackknifed into the air. I was too busy trying to fight the undertow and trying to miss the incoming projectile to realize that the water had ripped my shorts clean off.

Talk about hysterical!

Thank God–she does have a wicked sense of humor, however–Reyes was close at hand. He promptly went to get me some new shorts.

“It’s happened to me before, g├╝ero,” he told me. “You’re lucky I’m hungover. Otherwise I’d make you do it.”

Like I said, God has a sense of humor.

All in a morning’s work, no?