Vallarta Day 8

Coco’s kitchen for the Vallarta Omelette, filled with avocado, topped with avocado. You can not take a bite of this meal without an avocado touching your lips. I love it. I prepared today, wearing my gym clothes to breakfast, with a beach towel in my bag. My everyday life here in Vallarta is becoming more efficient.

I’ve heard that Vallarta is slow-paced from the locals, so it’s not just my observation. People walk slower on the sidewalk. They drive slower. They talk slower. They eat slower. They prepare coffee slower. They build buildings slower. The bus comes when its good and ready. They take their time. One of the old-timers at the meeting tells me that this is part of the heritage of the town as a fishing port – as if waiting all day for a bite on your line has trickled down into the everyday culture of Vallarta. I don’t know if I buy it, but I suppose it’s plausible.

In any event, I’m fearful all of this slowness is rubbing off on me! My sponsor would say it’s a good thing – I need to slow down. When I was in Guatemala I noticed how Josh slowly made his way through town, showing patience and taking the time to speak with everyone. I struggle with that. While I love the guys at the Alano club, it often takes them 15 minutes after the meeting to decide on a venue. 15 minutes to walk there. 15 minutes to decide on and place their order. 15 minutes to divvy up the bill. 15 minutes to tell a story. 15 minutes to say our goodbyes.

That’s a lot of 15 minutes! I want to get moving onto the next thing and experience more life. Sometimes I express my anxiousness after withholding it for a period of time. The night draws to a close and I can feel myself getting more anxious as the time for departure comes. My hurriedness is perceived as rudeness, and that’s exactly what it is. Last night I tried to enter dinner with no expectations. I stayed afterwards to enjoy a little conversation and though I left before most of the others, I didn’t rush off after tossing extra pesos at the bill.

At Dee’s I order my usual Grande Americano and hammer out my writing. Coco, the stray dog about town, is sprawled out in the middle of the patio – forcing those entering or exiting Dee’s to step over her.

It’s funny how everybody in town knows this dog. I don’t know how he got his name; there’s no relation to Coco’s Kitchen that I’m aware of. He’s well-behaved and doesn’t beg for food, though everybody knows that’s what he’s looking for. He’s sufficiently plump, but I can’t tell if it’s a healthy plumpness, or maybe something akin to the swelled bellies you see on a Sally Struthers “Save the Children” TV spot. He never barks and other dogs are generally friendly with him – it’s just a shame that he has no home. The ladies at Dee’s will occasionally shoo him away if they think he’s bothering anyone, but he’ll sneak back in when they’re not looking.

A man walks by Dee’s and is staring at me as he continues down the sidewalk out of view. A few moments later he returns, his upright iPhone in hand; camera pointed my way. This is at least the second time this week that I’ve been photographed with my iPad. They’re just being released in Mexico, and other places around the world, today. People are enamored with it. One of the regulars at Dee’s suggests I offer photos for pesos.

At the gym there’s a crew installing another glass wall – this one with a couple of doors in it, on the other side of the juice bar. I suspect it’s going up to try to keep the loud dance music from penetrating into the massage rooms in the rear of the building. I don’t imagine a deep tissue massage to the sound of a remixed Lady GaGa single would be all that serenity-inducing.

From the gym I head to the beach. It’s still early in the afternoon – probably 2:00, and the sun is shining brightly. I find a little palapa for myself in the green chairs area of the beach and order a mineral water. The onslaught of beach vendors begins. Men and women. Most in white, and most with a hand towel laying over their shoulder to wipe the perspiration from their brow. It’s then that I notice many of them actually have some sort of license hanging from their bodies on a lanyard. I observe that the female vendors often sell jewelry or other hand-crafted items. If you decline them they go away. The men, however, try to sell you on the average tourist junk – the same t-shirts or blankets you find in umpteen shops up and down the beach. The exception are the henna tattoos. Many of the men, however, I’m convinced simply offer their wares as a front to offer you marijuana instead. When you tell them no, half of them are astonished that you say no. I can’t tell if their feigning the surprise, or if they’re truly taken aback when somebody turns them down. It must be an act, as they are almost always turned away.

I pull the beach towel from my bag, unfolding it to discover it’s the size of a bedspread suitable for a Queen. I didn’t think they made them this size – no wonder my bag was busting at the seems! Settling into my spot on the towel I close my eyes, roping my arm through my backpack strap and placing my sandals and sunglasses on top of it. If I fall asleep and somebody tries to take off with my bag, I’ll at least be alerted, if not able to get up and give chase.

An unknown amount of time later, I’m startled awake by the sound of a father and son mariachi band playing a guitar and a GIANT harp – right above my head, with the high-pitched yeeeaaaahhhhhhaaaaaaa drawled out with a rolling R at the onset of their song. They’re wearing bright aqua colored shirts with black cowboy hats and scarves tied in a feminine manner around their necks.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I ask aloud, though nobody can hear me over their music.

Only in Mexico.

I pack up my things and head up the hill towards home in my little speedo. For the second time this week there’s a man waiting, literally – in the bushes, at the top of the hill offering me a massage.

No gracias.

I get in the door and warm up the shower – this time trying the cold water knob for the heck of it. I hop in five minutes later and it’s scolding hot. Seriously!

I’ve been suffering through a week of cold showers because I’ve been turning the wrong knob? I should have figured this out sooner.

The Alano club is its usual self today, though there’s a new face in the meeting, C. The topic for the evening is picked out of Volume 2 of the Grapevine – a monthly periodical published with people’s written stories of recovery. This particular story is written by a woman who stops going to meetings and all of the reasons she finds not to attend.

It proves to be a bit of a controversial subject. After all, the topic of “not going to meetings” doesn’t often come up at a meeting, though as Art points out later, it’s obviously a subject people think about at some point or another because a large number of people who start coming to meetings stop coming at some time.

The shares are really heartfelt. I talk about how I’ve always gone to meetings since beginning my recovery – I don’t know how else to recover. At first I came to meetings to learn how to stay sober, but my reasons have changed over time. It’s still about learning, but meeting attendance has become more of a social thing and an opportunity to pass along what I’ve learned to newcomers.

I also talk about my feeling of gratitude for the gifts my sobriety has given me, and how I don’t want to let those blessings keep me from the rooms.

C, the guy I hadn’t recognized, shares about his recent relapse. About how he seems to have a cycle where he comes to meetings for a while, after which his life seems to get better. Once things are smoother he figures that he doesn’t need meetings anymore so he begins to stop going as frequently until they slip off the radar completely. Then his cycle of destruction begins again.

C also talks about how he’s come to realize that honesty is important to his recovery.

NA and AA refer to three spiritual principals one must be open to: honesty, open-mindendness and willingness. “With these, we are well on our way …”

C had been attending meetings and his life was getting better until he got into selling timeshares. He learned there that he had to slant the truth, skirt around it, or omit pieces of it, in order to sell timeshares. It reached a point where he was no longer being honest with himself or his clients, and it ate him up inside, leading him to drink. It was a good share.

Afterwards eight of us went to dinner – Art, Bob, Brooke, Dudley, Bill, Robert, Joe and myself. We hiked over to Cafe Bohemia in my neighborhood at Art’s suggestion. The sky was a bit cloudy, but there had been no rain yet in the day. Bob suggested we sit outside, away from the covered patio. At first I objected, but decided to let it go and try not to control the situation.

I ordered another steak. A few ordered the special – parmesan chicken. Art and Bob both liked the cafe, as it was family run and they offered good food at good prices. I was unimpressed, though. My steak was grisly and tough and my baked potato was small and covered with a layer of butter and cheese so thick you couldn’t separate any nutritional material from the bad.

Halfway through dinner, the rain came. Hard. We had to move our tables indoors. I was grumpy about it, but I got over it and didn’t utter one, “I told you so,” though I was certainly thinking it. Before long we were sitting under the awning, but the ground was quickly flooding – a river threatening to take your flip-flops from you as you ate. It was kind of comical. I stuck around for a while after the bill was paid and enjoyed the conversation with the old-timers and newcomers alike.

Heading home the rain was really coming down. At some points I thought it was actually coming through my umbrella, but I couldn’t tell. My shorts were soaked and my flip-flops slippery – squeaking with each step. I arrived at the bottom of the staircase leading up to my building to find a waterfall rushing towards me. Each step another step in the fall, creating white-capped waves lurching out at you every 8 inches up. I mounted the first couple of flights, but then departed for an internal staircase for the remainder of the ascent.

I fell asleep from the safety of a tall bed, the rain coming down in sheets outside.

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