Lightning Storms and Cockroaches

Vallarta Day 2

I woke to the sound of a propane tank delivery truck coming up Amapas. It’s not that the engine or the exhaust is loud, or the shocks are squeaking, but that it plays an advertising jingle from a loud speaker at regular intervals – like every 15 seconds. I can’t make out the words, but its sung by a high-pitched little girl’s voice, or perhaps two little girls. The melody would be appropriate for a cellphone ringtone. You know – the ringtone you can’t get out of your head once you hear it. It’s cutesy and makes you want to bob your head back and forth until you realize that you can’t stop on your own. That type of jingle. Broadcast over a loudspeaker at 7:30 in the morning on a Saturday. Repeating every 15 seconds.

Is there no decency here?

I got out of bed, threw on some clothes, slung my backpack over my shoulder, and headed out. Heading out of this condo requires climbing up three flights of stairs, and then down about ten flights to the street. The sad thing is that I can see the street 20 feet below my balcony – if there were only a rope or a fire escape, things would be so much easier. But there’s not, and that’s okay – because it forces me to get the exercise.

I stopped in at CoCo’s Kitchen my first morning here. They have delightfully unhealthy pancakes or cinnamon roll french toast, but I was able to control myself and limit it to a Vallarta Omelet – tomato, onion and avocado with a bit of bacon. That and a couple of biscuits on the side, heavy on the butter and jelly.

This morning I went directly to Dee’s Coffee for breakfast. I had spent quite a bit of time at Dee’s the day before and felt guilty for only purchasing a coffee and then sitting there for much of the morning to use the WiFi and upload photos. This morning I thought I’d order breakfast there as well and do my part to support a local small business and not just leech off their internet.

I ordered Mexicana Eggs – basically scrambled eggs with salsa. I was unimpressed, but had done my part. Then I heard the coffee bar calling my name and I stepped back inside for a piece of the coffee cake. This isn’t your light and fluffy grocery store bakery coffee cake. This is some thick, dense, high-calorie coffee cake. Of course I justify the diet choice with a variety of reasons. It’s hot, I’ll sweat it out. I have so many stairs to climb, I’ll sweat it out. I’m going to the gym today, so I’ll sweat it out.

And did I ever sweat. Still 90 degrees and humid, it’s nearly impossible not to. I’m trying to embrace it and enjoy it, reminding myself that it could be 40 below in Minnesota with a strong wind taking my breath away, chapping my lips and draining my sinuses.

After stopping at home to change, I venture over to Acqua, the gym. David greets me with a smile asking if I’m hungover from last night. “No, I don’t drink. Are you?” I ask.

“No, tonight though,” he responds.

I wonder silently, if he’s this friendly sober, what’s he like with a few cocktails in him?

There are a few laborers there working today. A new glass wall is in place since yesterday and they’ve removed the backdrop from the front-desk area. That backdrop had the gym’s name on it, and it’s removal makes me wonder if they’re changing the name of the place. Someone who I presume is directing the work and his body posture and body language suggest he’s in charge. He and David are installing various cabinets and stereo equipment. Generally David holds something heavy up, while the owner maneuvers around it with a piece of hardware or sound component. I don’t mind the show between sets.

David asks if I’d like a bath towel like yesterday, but I decline, citing my immediate sweating after the shower anyhow.

I head back towards the condo, but want to see what sort of clothes I can find in some of the shops on the way. Some of the cotton stuff I brought is simply too heavy for this humidity and I need to find some lighter-weight options.

I stop in at one store that has both men’s and women’s attire in the front window, but stepping inside it’s stuffed chock-full of women’s and children’s clothes. Or at least I HOPE those were children’s clothes, as my ass was certainly not going to fit in them.

I ventured across the street to a larger boutique and stepped inside. Again, I saw only women’s merchandise, but a lady directed me upstairs for the menswear. Then she followed me. All. Around. The. Store. She shadowed me, only a couple of steps behind, from table to table. Then I realized I had my backpack on, and perhaps she thought I was a risk for theft. Or maybe this is considered good service here? Or maybe she just didn’t speak enough English to feel comfortable trying to strike up a conversation? Or maybe a combination of the above?

I ended up buying a couple of shirts. One, a Harley Davidson T-Shirt that was obviously created illegally – the logo bleached out on a t-shirt with Puerto Vallarta underneath. I think they probably made them in the back room, tore off the sleeves to give it some flare, and then marked them up to 100 pesos on the sales floor. What a riot, I thought – I can support that sort of ingenuity! Seems almost on brand for Harley as well, always touting individualism and a “Fuck it, let’s ride” mentality.

Next I stopped into the Cyber Smoothie shop across the street from Dee’s. They double as an internet cafe, which, after stopping in, appears to be their primary business. The shop is empty, aside from the girl attendant, surfing Facebook on her laptop. She speaks very little English, but we make due and she makes me a chocolate, banana and peanut butter smoothie – just like I do at home. It was yummy and she even gave me a free ten minutes on a computer, so I was happy. The shake was a bit more substantial and filling than the watered-shakes at the gym, but it was probably three times the calories, too.

I remember that I want to buy some coffee at Dee’s to make at home, so I stop over there next and grab a half pound of ground french roast and then head back towards home.

Stepping up the initial steps I reach for my keys and they’re not in my pocket. Not normally one to lose my keys, I resist the urge to panic. I stop, set sit down and open my bag, searching through it. Not there. I remove the contents and still, nothing, not there. Now I’m panicking. I begin to reverse my steps and conclude that they must be at the gym and set out in that direction.

I arrive back at Acqua and David looks at me funny, like, you can’t really be back here for a second workout in one afternoon. I explain my situation and head to the locker room. They’re not in my locker. Had I any hair, I’d surely have pulled it out by now. In frustration I unzip all the pockets of my backpack and dump everything out on the locker room bench – and there they land.

That stressful little trek and back was like another free workout and I think this must be God doing for me what I cannot do for myself – push me further.

After a shower and a nap I get up in time to head to the Alano club for the 6:30 AA meeting. The club is located just a block beyond the gym – probably a half mile away. As I approach I see a few people laughing outside, smoking, with paper coffee cups – home at last! And that’s when it occurs to me that it’s been three weeks since I’ve been to a meeting! At home, it’s unusual for me to go three days without a meeting, and the longest I’ve ever gone without is a week.

Thankfully I’m still sober, but also grateful for the club here. I grab a seat and wait for the meeting to start. Ever frugal, the club’s air conditioning isn’t on, but I’ll survive. I can tell the trusted servant is a bit antsy. He keeps looking at the clock and rings a cow bell three minutes before the scheduled 6:30 start time. Hmph – the heat must be getting to him, I think.

This meeting is a speaker meeting, and our speaker, David F, is celebrating his 12 year sobriety birthday today. He’s brought his own cake that he had commissioned with some fancy bakery and it looks marvelous! (I do like a good cake)

Turns out David is gay and from Houston. He visits Vallarta quite often and knows many of the locals here. His story’s theme is “feeling a part of” and I certainly identify. During the break he serves his cake up and when I get to the head of the line he introduces himself and his friend Brook, who’s visiting Vallarta from Minneapolis. Small world, though I don’t recognize him.

We return to the meeting after the cake break and its so damned good I can’t stop thinking about it during the second half. Suddenly the rain starts pounding on a section of fiberglass roof and a loud clap of thunder catches a couple of us off guard. As if on cue, half of the lights and ceiling fans go out and I turn around to peer through the glass doors and view a tsunami wreaking havoc in the courtyard.

The meeting finishes up and the anxious trusted servant rushes us out of the building so he can lock up. Pushed out onto the street, I’m defenseless against the downpour and a follow a few of the guys to a little Italian joint just down the block.

It’s David, the 12 year birthday speaker, his friend from Minneapolis, Brook, and another guy from the meeting, Art. Art is an expat, having retired from a government job in DC a few years back. He’s 75, but seems to be in very good health despite the heart condition he cites on a number of occasions. He’s got a tendency to talk a lot and dominates the conversation for most of the night, but he’s got great stories and is a charming guy, so I don’t mind so much.

He talks about his five different jobs he held in DC, about his venture into his own business for five years, the failure of that business, then the year he spent driving a taxi, and finally after that, spending 17 years as a tour guide in DC. He tells us about his schtick, “My name is Art and there are a lot of buildings around town named after him, like the National Gallery of …, etc.” I can tell by David’s expression that he’s heard this story before, as I suspect he’s heard a lot of Art’s stories, but like I said – he was charming and the stories were good. They were my first time hearing them, so I didn’t mind.

He also mentions time he spent in the seminary, working in personnel, during which time he was confronted with his alcoholism at work, coming out of the closet after 7 years in sobriety, and his fear of public speaking – of which I can identify with tremendously.

David talks of his partner of the last 4 years. Living in Houston. Working as an elementary-aged special ed teacher. He also talks of living in Minneapolis for a year, having met and dated Brook there.

Brook tells me he lives in the warehouse district and attends the Central Pacific meeting in Minneapolis. We talk about people we know in common with each other. Brook’s got some sort of anxiety disorder. He stutters a bit and has some tics – turrets I assume. I politely ignore the tics and find he’s a really interesting guy. Very well-read and traveled. Unfortunately he gets dripped on once or twice from a leaky ceiling and decides to sit at the next table, by himself. He calls a few of the people we know in common and leaves messages with them about meeting me here in Vallarta. I am half-listening and find some amusement out of what I hear. I also try not to question his decision to sit at the next table and figure it’s just more comfortable for him this way. Later, he decides to pull up a chair to the other side of the table, and join our conversation from a more reasonable distance.

It’s only 9:30 and I feel ready for bed. The nightlife in Vallarta doesn’t really pick up until midnight, and there’s just no way I’m going to make it out tonight. A break in the rain prompts me to take advantage of it and take my leave of the group. I thank them all and tell them I wish to see them at the next meeting.

Back at home I flip on the television and watch some Shia Lebouf flic where his neighbor murders young women. In the light of the television I see a small spider crossing the floor. No matter, I think – maybe he’ll take care of a mosquito for me.

A few minutes later I see another movement and look down to see a GIANT cockroach scurrying across the floor, crawling directly beneath the couch I’m lounging on. I jump up, stand on the couch, and jump to the coffee table. I take a minute to catch my breath devise a plan. The bug is no longer in site, but I assume it’s still under the couch. I run to the kitchen cabinet and pull out a tumbler and slip on my flip-flops. Back at the couch, I crouch down at a safe distance to look underneath. I don’t see anything and think I may have lost it. Damn!

I flip up the couch and the little fucker makes a mad dash for the bookshelf. I run after and have it cornered near the kitchen bar and nab it underneath the glass. Holy heebie-jeebies, Batman!

3 thoughts on “Lightning Storms and Cockroaches

  1. Great Stories. I’ve not been to CoCos. Where is it? Our two usual breakfast spots are Memo’s Casa de Hotcakes on Basilio Badillo and Las Palomas on the Malecon across from the ladder statue. Las Palomas is good for lunch or dinner too. Nothing fancy, but reasonable prices and a great location if you’re up for a bit of a hike.

    I know EXACTLY the staircase you are talking about to get down to the beach. It *is* quite the workout. If you’re in the mood for a fancy meal (breakfast lunch or dinner), La Palapa at the end of Pulpito St has excellent food and you can sit on the sand of the beach.

  2. CoCos is right up the hill from Choco Banana, on the other side of the street, about half-way up the block.

    Between Vallarta and the volcanoes in Guatemala, I cannot wait to get back to civilization (aka escalators).

    I’ve been to La Palapa a couple of times on my previous trip. We happened to stop there on our first night just on a whim and had a marvelous dinner on the beach with teh sunset. They even have somebody on staff to keep away the beach vendors!

  3. We try to get there every March or so and usually rent the same house up the hill just outside of town. La Palapa is our treat when we go there. Mostly we cook a lot at the house and get to Las Palomas a couple of towns and usually try a new place. (This spring’s new place was El Brujo). We stayed at a condo this Spring owned by the same guy that owns the house. It was built on a hillside much like you described your building. It was 110 steps up to the road above. Nice place and a great price, but I’m not sure I would be up for the stairs again. Place we usually stay is at Casa Hortencias.

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