Saturday – Travel Day

Hola desde Mexico mis amigos.

As some of you may know I’m about to turn 45. I wanted to get a girlfriend for my birthday but it would have been awkward to do that in the same month that PuppyKat and I celebrate our 16th wedding anniversary. Since I couldn’t get a real life girlfriend to cheat on with my real wife, I’d thought I get different kind of girlfriend to cheat on the other love of my life – snowboarding. Which is why Cachorro de Gato and I are in Mexico. To learn how to surf.

We’ve been down this road before. Almost three years ago we learned how to snowboard in Park City. I’m hoping learning to surf is a different animal than learning to snowboard. Those first three days of snowboarding are physically a bitch. Like being in a car accident every day.

We’ve been to this same part of Mexico too. Four years ago when Cachorro de Gato was pregnant with Demonio de Tasmania we traveled to the Four Seasons in Punta Mita for a week. We went Hollywood on that trip. On this one we’ve gone neighborhood.

We almost didn’t get here.

It’s funny how you can lose track of time in a place where time matters so much. But that can happen with a three hour layover, especially when you’re at Ricky’s House, aka the United Club in Terminal E at IAH. Nothing like casually strolling through the airport when you hear the announcement that your flight has boarded and the doors are about to close. It’s the quintessential “oh, shit!” moment. All you can think about is the punishing depression that comes with killing time in a lifeless, soul sucking building. Like being sent to a special part of Purgatory reserved for travelers. Or worse, like being in a casino with no money. On the other hand, it does give you the opportunity to do your best “OJ before he was a killer and if he was wearing jeans, a t shirt and sandals, and he was a grey haired, middle aged, really, really slow white guy” impersonation.

I forgot how sometimes you don’t forget. And I’m a person who doesn’t remember much.

But this time I remembered everything about landing in Puerto Vallarta and driving to Punta Mita. It had been four years and it was only one trip but it was like watching the same movie twice. I read once where adrenalin affects memory. It’s why world class athletes can remember everything about a competition. Arriving in a foreign country, especially one like Mexico, is disorienting and thrilling and definitely gets the adrenalin flowing. It starts as soon as you go through customs when you can’t get the book Midnight Express out of your mind. It’s completely irrational but you wonder if you’ll spend the next ten years in a Mexican prison if you look at these guys the wrong way. Then you get to proceed to the Mexican shakedown otherwise known as the rest of the airport. There is a gauntlet you have to go through as soon as you clear customs. It looks official; white counters staffed by pleasant looking people all dressed smartly in white shirts and black pants. Very pleasant. A Mexican welcome wagon. Except the sole purpose is to sell you something you don’t want or send you somewhere you don’t want to go. The good news is it prepares you to say “No, gracias”… a lot.

We found our driver or, more accurately, he found us. Rico. Nice kid. He took us to our “2010 or better Suburban” which looked suspiciously and identically like a 2005 white Ford Econoline cargo van. I love the Mexican head fake. It’s what make this place so charming. Paradise but not quite. Perfect but flawed. The athletic facility with a treadmill that’s really a street. The condo with a full service kitchen that has a Viking range but no toaster or sharp knives. A washer, but no dryer. Two chairs, one cushion. Going to Mexico is like getting into the ring with a great fighter. You keep looking for the left hand and you get hit with the right.

Cachorro de Gato and I made our way to the grocery store which was a lot of fun. The Mega looked like any grocery store in the states. Produce section, rows with dry goods, meat section. Some things even looked familiar. But everything is in Spanish and you have to fumble your way through. It’s strange to walk into a place that your mind first goes into auto pilot because you recognize everything but then it slowly switches into survival mode when you realize you don’t have a clue. It’s like when a big storm blows a river in the opposite direction. instead of getting calmer as you’re exposed to a situation, you get more rattled. Is this really butter? How much is 80 pesos? Why is the orange juice in a box? Who is Tony Tigre and are those really Frosted Flakes or are they going to be mini-corn tostadaenchilacotillas with jalapenos?

Have I mentioned the dogs yet? They’re everywhere.

The Hotel Cinco is a great place. After a long day of traveling we were met by Horatio and Rodrigo who couldn’t be nicer. It strikes me how similar Mexicans are to the Irish. They both live next to rich neighbors who look down on them. They love God just as deeply as they love their music, dancing, and their big families. And, my favorite part, they’re incredibly warm and welcoming and funny but in the back of your mind you know that they know that they could kick your ass anytime they wanted to. The Mexican head fake.

I’ve learned from Ricky that no matter where you go in the world you have to find your spot. Here’s the thing about a spot: it only has to have one thing to qualify. That one thing? Great bartender.

We found our spot. Sam and Emma. He tends bar and she cooks and they both do it really well. After a long day of traveling, and grocery shopping, we were looking forward to a cold cerveza. We made our way to the rooftop bar at the hotel which is unbelievable cool. Sam gave us the lowdown on where to go and where to eat and Emma made us these awesome lobster tacos and this shrimp cerviche that was killer. Gave us a chance to collect our breath and get our bearings because we then…

…took a walk in Mexico!

So Punta Mita is a tourist town but not in the traditional sense. It’s very small with a couple of hotels and restaurants. There’s a surf shop and a place you can rent bikes and that’s about it. One block from the beach is safe but definitely not touristy. We forgot sunscreen so we decided to go out and grab some. We headed to a little store a couple blocks away on a nice romantic walk. Mexico and a couple cervezas can do that to you. As we were dodging rain drops we came across the archetypal symbols of Mexico: kids playing soccer barefoot in the street, men drinking cervezas in a open air bar, beat up cars avoiding being beaten even more by giant potholes, soldiers in fatigues walking down the street with semi- automatic weapons, dog..wait..WTFa Are those guys really carrying…? Holy shit. Now I’m certain even my gun loving friends would have thought twice about a couple of guys walking down the street with rifles. The Mexican head fake.

Well, that’s about it for Sunday. Thanks for reading. Hope to add more.

Oh, wait. The dogs. Can’t forget the dogs.

Almost missing a flight. Landing in a foreign country. Running the PVR gauntlet. Driving to Punta Mita next to 11 passenger pickup trucks otherwise known as the official vehicle of Mexico. Grocery shopping when you don’t know what the hell anything says or anyone is saying. Walking by guys carrying semi-automatic rifles.

You want to know what really bothered Cachorro de Gato?

Seeing two dogs getting it on. Seriously.m

I mean after the day we had and literally a minute after passing heavily armed men my girl was shocked! shocked! that two dogs would have the audacity to get funky in the middle of the street. The Cachorro de Gato head fake.

That’s why I love her.