Mexican Time by Jerry Fenter
“Get in the damned car”, barked Richard from the passenger side in the front seat. “This is going to be an adventure!” Richard never just spoke, he barked.
Like a decorated general from the old English Raj he talked to Nancy and me like he was addressing his troops. Car fully loaded we shot out of the parking lot of the Costco in Puerto Vallarta into bumper on bumper traffic. Traffic on the main highway was particularly slow this morning. We passed small accidents. A crowd of people stood in a circle around a crushed ice cream freezer pulled by a bike. It seems the driver had been distracted by what he thought were three people carrying a kicking goat in the lane next to him. Watching the goat and not the road, he’d rear-ended an old rusty Chevy. The impact caused him to fly through the air into oncoming traffic. He bounced off the hood of a tricked out Ford with a decal of Guadalupe on the back window. His bike and its contents were destroyed in the crash. Traffic was stopped. People watched the ruckus from open windows, cigarettes dangling from their lips. Street dogs were having their fill of the sweet melty liquid spilling out of the tiny broken freezer. They lapped it up. They rolled in it.
“I swear I saw them crossing, the goat was kicking and I didn’t want to hit anyone,” the ice cream man explained.
The Chevy driver was pissed. He hadn’t “seen any fuckin’goats or nothing”. Richard didn’t stop. The accident disappeared from view. Richard pulled out his map.
“By map it’s only two hours to San Sebastian.” Richard shoved the tail end of a Costco kosher hot dog into his mouth. “Piece a cake!”
Nancy rolled her eyes. She knew that two hours Mexican time could mean anything. In Mexico time can be bent, go backwards, even stop. Time will always surprise you. We turned left onto an unmarked road just past the Botanical Gardens. The car stumbled up the vertical highway, over topes, past broken parts of huge boulders, some that blocked parts of the road. Each of us took turns moving obstructions.
“And this is the new road,” said Richard, relaxing into the passenger seat while hooking up the new hand held gadget for driving directions he’d just bought.
“Check this out Nancy. It’s called the Tom-Tom. It’s the latest thing in getting to wherever you want to go. No getting lost. Saw it on TV. Picked it up back at Costco.”
Nancy looked hard at the little screened device. Her attention was fully on the gadget in Richard’s hand. I held on tight as the car absently drifted to the left side of the road just missing a noisy large group of crossing chickens. As we rumbled over loose rocks The Tom-Tom guided us with its feminine voice and detailed map. The voice was confident with a strong English accent. You could trust this that voice to get you anywhere.
Trucks full of livestock, cars stuffed with oxygen tanks and old pickups sped downhill, swerving just in time to miss our car. Signs saying PELIGROSO marked hairpin turns. Yet somehow I felt safe. I had moved into a fearless Mexican mode. I was invincible. I had lost all doubt. We had the Tom-Tom and the English lady’s calm reassurance. Also, luck seemed to always stay close to Richard.
An iguana languidly crossed the road. The blazing sun was gone. We had entered the jungle. Unfamiliar plants entwined road signs. We crawled by dwarfed pineapple trees and overloaded banana plants. A mist rose up from the pavement and clouded our windows. I couldn’t get enough air. It was like breathing under water. I cleared my window. Gold light shined out of small openings in the trees like a promise.
The map on the Tom-Tom was harder to follow as we drove higher. Roads on the screen split, turned and even curled backwards where no roads could exist. The calm female voice repeated that we’d missed our turn over and over despite the fact that there was only one way to go and that was straight up.
We were surrounded by jungle. I imagined ancient animals peering through dark branches. Irrational geography confused the real with the unreal.
We drove around potholes as the pavement became cracked and broken. To our right the trees opened up leaving a half moon shaped clearing by the road. We slowed to a crawl. Too our right was an entire traveling carnival alive with dwarves, sideshow characters and workmen trying to push a dilapidated fallen trailer to an upright position out of a deep muddy rut. People appeared from nowhere just to watch. They talked and smoked as Siamese twins tried to wedge a plank under the trailer’s sunken back-end, every careful movement the exact copy of the other’s. The twins whispered to one another as they struggled with the weight.
“Tamales, tortillas, pan dulce,” a birdlike man called out to the crowd hopping from one foot to the other then setting his platter down to spin around and around. People surrounded him. The food was gone.
Nancy and Richard were arguing about directions. The road grew narrow. Moss dripped with moisture as bright pink leaves and dirty speckled lizards fell on the car. So many bugs smashed to death on the windshield made it hard to see. I turned and watched the circus vanish as we rolled up the steep hill.
The screen on the Tom-Tom went blank.
The English lady went silent.
“Shit, let’s get rid of this God damned thing.” Richard rolled down his window and tossed out the Tom-Tom. It vanished, sucked into the shadow of the jungle wall.
The mountain air was fresh and fragrant with mangoes. I could breathe. Above the mist of the jungle the sky was cobalt blue. Two hours turned into four as we crossed a one lane bridge. We looked down. A creek ran under us surrounded by white water. Standing birds lifted their wings and danced near the shore. We had entered a place where magic could happen. Church bells chimed the hour. The road now was cobblestone. The city of San Sebastian Del Oeste shined white with casas de adobe. We were inside living history full of old haciendas, gold and silver mines protecting ghosts from the past, acres of sharp blue agave plants and broken down tequila tasting stands. Bakeries displayed pan dulces fresh from the oven. We passed the Catholic Church in the square, drove another half mile and pulled to a stop. A statue of San Sebastian pierced with arrows shone in the afternoon light. We had arrived at La Galerita de San Sebastian, once a ruined hacienda and now our destination.
Richard’s voice quieted as he and Nancy settled into their private casita. I was alone with the jungle. Tiny birds moved from tree to tree, each telling their own story. Coffee beans brushed against my face. I carefully pulled one from a cluster carefully leaving the stem. Smoke rose. The roasting coffee smelled amazing. The statue of St. Anthony with his tortured eyes watched as I picked up my bag. I stopped at the door of my own casita. Two dark purple orchids shifted then turned toward me from their tree branch. Their spicy aroma teased me as I walked up the steps into my own private sanctuary.
Hi everyone. I thought you might enjoy a story an experience I had in Mexico. I’m hoping to get a few more people to sign up for my painting workshop. This years Mexico Class is in Melaque, Mexico at www.lapalomamexico.com/. The place is beautiful, and so much fun. Check the last post on this website for a sign up sheet. If you have any questions just give me a call at 509-365-5119 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Our dates are March 14-18, 2016.