A Little Too Much Sun

Vallarta Day 13

I’m out the door to Dee’s by 8:30 this morning. As I walk in, one of the ladies is bringing out somebody’s breakfast – eggs and bacon. I can’t resist and order the same thing. I can’t remember the last strip of bacon I had, which actually isn’t a bad thing.

Aside from the local regulars, there’s a crew of about 10 – 12 people that have been gathering here in the mornings for the last couple of days. They remind me of the group I traveled here with over New Year’s. We would come here every morning and get coffee and some yummy baked goods. Often we’d head over to the Bite Me Beach Club for breakfast afterwards, but they’re not open during this visit – my guess is they don’t have enough business during the low season. I always liked that joint, though, so I hope they’re not down and out for good.

Before leaving Dee’s for the morning, I stop in the back to use the restroom and end up chatting with Dee for a while. She’s originally from Calgary, Alberta and moved here 9 years ago. She sold vacation packages for two years, averaging a 50% closing rate between herself and a partner. Then she got a new boss and decided to leave – which mirrors my own experience. After bumming it for a little while she decided to go into business for herself, also mirroring my own experience, opening the coffee shop here on Gomez.

I asked her if she had a hard time opening a business as a foreigner. None at all, she said. Between the day the landlord showed her the space and the day she opened up, only 18 days elapsed. She says that she does everything by the book, no funny accounting, and has an attorney and a lawyer to help her navigate the bureaucracy of obtaining licenses, permits, paying taxes, applying for this or that, etc., that trips up many business owners. She’s heard stories from other people having a hard time and guesses that doing everything by the book has paid off for her in this regard.

During her first year in business the way taxes are calculated changed seven times – within ONE year. I don’t ask for specifics, but damn – that does sound complicated.

Dee asks where I work out and I tell her about Acqua. She’s aware of the place, but says that most of her friends work out at Golds, up near the hotel zone. I tell her that Acqua recently expanded a bit and how their customer service is so great. After using the gym for a week and returning 7 months later to have them remember my name is pretty impressive. It’s the small-community feeling, too, like Cheers – everybody knows your name. That, and I like to support small and locally-owned businesses.

Plus, that whole bus system is a bit intimidating – with their antiquated 30 / 10 air conditioning. One of the expats from the Alano club explained to me that you get the bus going 30 mph down the road, and roll down 10 of the windows to get the air conditioning on.

I depart and head over to the gym. Aaron told me about an easier way to get to the gym using a staircase next to The Swede restaurant, taking you to the top of the hill. Then you walk a block down the street to the entrance to another staircase down the backside of the hill, which comes out just down the block from the gym. I take this route and am reminded of some of the path explorations I went on in San Marcos through the jungle. I’m not sure I would have ever discovered this path, though, as I assumed the staircase led up to an apartment building. That and I didn’t realize the geography placed the gym just over the hill. I’m directionally challenged.

Again the gym is busy today. I chat with David and Aaron for a bit. It seems their attempt to improve their reputation in the community is working. I hope this keeps up for them.

After lifting I usually ride the bike for 20 – 30 minutes and sweat off a few pounds. There is a guy on the bike next to me today. I introduce myself but we discover that neither of us speak the others’ language, though he does manage to tell me he works on the Sunset Party Cruise – a weekly run tour on Saturdays that cruises the bay with an all-you-can-drink bar.

The guy’s friend comes over and says hello. It looks like he works in a bar as well – dark circles under his eyes and a belly. I think back to when I was drinking. I would go to the gym in the early evening and then to the bar afterwards, then sleep and go to work the next day (if I was lucky), just to repeat the cycle again. It was an impossible feat for me – keeping in shape while drinking the way I was. Needless to say, going to the gym without drinking every day produces better results.

I finish up and head home, deciding to take the scenic route – my old path down Basilla Badilla. There are many more people to look at and shops to peer into. The path over the hill, while quick and quiet, is a bit boring.

It’s still early in the afternoon and sunny out, so I for the beach to catch some sun. Dee asked me earlier why I wasn’t brown yet, and I explain that I’m a bit paranoid about burning, so I’m liberal with the SPF 30.

I decide to try going sans sun block today and see what happens. I lay out for a short while and then retreat under the palapa with a fruit salad from Blue Chairs. The server is straight, but clearly has a lot of fun serving the gay guys who flirt with him. I complain a bit about the small size of my fruit salad and he jokes, “Look around – there’s plenty of fruit on this beach!”

A younger couple come and take up an umbrella near me. I think this is their first time on the beach, or at least in Vallarta. They order daiquiris from the bar and are amazed at the size when they come. Later one of the jewelry vendors on the beach comes by, being waved off by everyone, but the youngster stops him and begins trying on various bracelets, finally settling on two or three.

After this, you could have sworn the guy was, as my friend F is fond of saying, “A used tampon in a piranha pool.” All the various vendors swooped in, having discovered a naive american with a free-flowing wallet. He did purchase a few more items. The bad part of all this was that the vendors all came to bother me when they were through with their victim.

During this vendor charade, another couple came and sat down at the umbrella in front of me. These were clearly members of the “A Crowd Gays”. Expensive glasses and swimwear, tan, muscular and sculpted bodies. They smoked cigarettes and downed drinks like kool-aid. I can’t figure out how these guys have such great bodies while drinking and smoking like they do. They’re either very genetically gifted or they have help in the gym with some extra testosterone.

Having read another few chapters of my Mayan book, I decide I’ve had enough of the beach scenery and head back up the hill.

I shower and take a quick nap, getting up in time to head over to the Alano club, with time to spare to stop in at the Coffee Cup for a protein shake from Angel. He’s sitting outside the cafe when I come up the sidewalk. He greets me and we chat for a while. We’re becoming more friendly and he’s an adorably cute and sweet guy. I hope he finds somebody good. He makes me a shake, the ingredients from memory now, and I depart for the Alano club.

I arrive at the end of the NA meeting and run into Carlos, the newcomer. He’s got that pink-cloud thing going on with tons of gratitude and happiness for his newfound freedom. He’s working steps with a sponsor and seems to be on a good path. He tells me he is celebrating his 90 days clean tomorrow and asks if I’ll be at the meeting. I tell him yes, I’ll be there – wouldn’t miss it.

The AA meeting starts inside with Bob as the trusted servant. He announces it’s a speaker meeting format this evening, after which we open up for individual sharing, and introduces the speaker, H.

We all clap and welcome H to the front of the room. She’s very blonde, very tan, and speaks with a fast pace in a loud voice. She talks about AA saving her life, and giving her 24 years of continuous sobriety, but then goes on to tell the group that in Feb she used ecstasy. She didn’t know why she used it, she just did. She didn’t elaborate on what caused that one-time use, or whether she’d been lax with her program, or stopped going to meetings, or didn’t talk to a sponsor … none of that was mentioned, but I found myself wanting to know – what causes somebody with 24 years of sobriety to relapse?

I’m glad she’s back in the rooms and it was only one time, but that’s not the case with everyone. The biggest worry about somebody relapsing is not the one-time use, it’s that they may not be able to stop again, and go on for the rest of their life in drug or alcohol-induced misery. I want to learn from those that have this experience, so that hopefully I can avoid the pitfalls they fell victim to.

Next to me is A. She introduced herself to me early on and is quite the personality. She’s got twenty-some, maybe 30-some years of sobriety. One-on-one she’s quite charming and has lots to talk about. She was a reporter for the local English-print newspaper for 10 years until she suffered a stroke and retired. She’s a hard-core AA old-timer, the kind of person who holds the meetings and attendees up to the highest standards – her own.

I’ve learned in my own life, that when I hold certain standards for myself, I tend to think others should meet those same standards. Whether they’re good, bad or indifferent standards, I tend to judge people when they don’t meet them. My sponsor, or some other older AA’er pointed out to me that I’m probably too hard on myself, which translates into being too hard on others – so I continue to work on this. I’m a work in progress.

Anyhow, back to A. When somebody mentions an addiction other than alcohol, she visibly cringes. If they talk about a mental condition she sighs. If someone speaks out of turn or cross-talks she’ll gasp out loud and then reel it in. If somebody talks about exercise helping them in their recovery, or seeing a therapist, she’ll fidget in her seat and cross her legs in the opposite direction.

Some old-timers share A’s views. They want to keep the meetings focused solely on the program of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 steps. No outside issues, no room for talk of drug addiction, etc. These are the principles that have kept AA going for so long without disbanding completely.

Personally, I’m pretty liberal with the idea of recovery. I got sober going to both AA and NA meetings and consider myself an alcoholic and addict, though I believe they have the same meaning. Both groups utilize the 12 steps and the fellowships are very similar. So when somebody mentions something outside the confines of AA in an AA meeting, I’m inclined to let it slide. Usually.

But A, and many old-timers get upset by it. I think it’s fine that they have these beliefs and express them, I even find some of the chair-twitching antics a bit amusing. I just hope they keep coming back 🙂

After the meeting, Art, Bob and myself go to Maxamilian’s for dinner. They’re running a special menu featuring some Greek dishes at a heavily discounted price. Art opts for one of the special dishes, but Bob and I each select a fish from the standard menu. All of our dishes are very good and we enjoy desserts afterwards as well.

The dinner conversation is always a hoot with these two. Between them they’ve got about 75 years sobriety, and all of the stories that come along with that. As I’ve mentioned before, they’re both talkers, too. En route to the restaurant, Bob ran across somebody he hadn’t seen in a while and stopped to talk to them. Art starts to tell me that he’s been called a gabber, but that he pales in comparison to Bob.

I laugh, as I’ve noticed they’re both gabbers and tell him I think they’re both roughly the same. I point out that I watch at the dinner table, as each of them waits for the other to pause in a sentence to take a breath and will jump into the conversation. I compare it to fencing, just waiting for the opponent to let their guard down and reveal a vulnerability, lurching forward with their sword. Art was hoping for some sympathy, but gets a kick out of my analysis nonetheless.

Heading home, it’s barely sprinkling. The second no-rain evening in a row. Arriving home, I disrobe and go to the bathroom, flicking on the light to discover I should have used the SPF 30 today.

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