About Me

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Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
"No, really!"

My Favorite Bit of Paper Cup Philosophy

The Way I See It #76

The irony of commitment is that it's deeply liberating - in work, in play, in love. The act frees you from the tyranny of your internal critic, from the fear that likes to dress itself up and parade around as rational hesitation. To commit is to remove your head as the barrier to your life.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Of New Friends, Old Travels and Foreign Languages

On my desk before me, tucked between the two huge monitors I use at my state-of-the-art mission control unit stands a greeting card I received from a new friend. The way I met this new friend is at least surreal, odd, unusual and a tribute to the good nature and good taste of two good women. It may also be unusual in ways that are more negative than positive, but whatever it is, right now it just is. Likely this new friendship will be covered in a future post, but the friendship will have to last more than a few short weeks before the writing occurs. Some of the feelings are still developing. The note my friend wrote inside the card is penned with a fountain pen. Fountain pens are pleasing both to my friend and to me.

The monitors so techno and the card with such a simple, serene image seem oddly juxtaposed. The card shows a crude chair and a table set with simple, homely linen. Past an aloe vera plant, through a window set off by vivid blue shutters, one looks out upon lush greenery clinging to a wall in sunshine. The note on the back of the card says the scene is set in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

I've spent a minute or two in Puerto Vallarta, and that is what I shall write about today. Of course, most people of a certain age identify Puerto Vallarto as the place where The Night of the Iguana was filmed. But there is much, much more to that lovely, harborside place . . .

During the years that we bounced around on Stepfather's fine fishing vessels, we often took very long trips, flying to some major airport and then taking further transport to whichever harbor where the Linda Mia II was anchored. Often the various modes of transportation included climbing down a rickety ladder into a water taxi which delivered us to the boat. Linda Mia II was too large to pull up to the dock in some of the shallow harbors. We'd scramble up the swim step, tossing luggage, souvenirs, books, CDs and gifts for Captain Sean and Frances (Sean's girlfriend), a gourmet chef and the woman who maintained the boat like a fine, luxury spa. After we boarded, Sean would start the engines and we'd set out for up to 3 weeks at a time.

I remember Amber pressing her nose to the window as the plane descended, huge black eyes taking in everything. "There's Linda Mia, Baby, see her?" "Grandma, how do you know that's her?" "Sean said we're the biggest boat in the harbor and that one's the biggest." "OK, Grandma!" At 6, Amber had such a crush on Frances that this mother felt just a few twinges of jealousy. On the flight home from a trip I remember, the little girl sobbed as the plane took off. "What's wrong, Babe?" "I guess I'm just Frances-sick."

The turquoise Mexican waters offer the richest show of marine animals imaginable. Anyone who has never seen a sunfish on the hoof has missed one of the world's most beautiful sights. They're as big as a garage door and other-worldly looking. We once pulled a sea turtle on board because we could see it had miles of fishing line wrapped around one flipper which was grotesquely swollen. It took 10 adults working slavishly to bring that animal on board, but we did it. It took many grueling hours to remove the line, and that turtle did not appreciate one minute of it. When it was finally freed, Sean cleaned the wound, injected an antibiotic and the 10 of us put the ingrate back into the sea. The anglers in our group would sing you a hymn about the good fishing in those waters. I'm not an angler and I don't eat seafood. I go because I like to see what there is to see.

OK, so there are a million boat trips to be described and maybe someday I will, but this was meant to be about Puerto Vallarta. After 3 weeks at sea, we needed some time on land to see if we could still walk. We showered and dressed as Sean pulled us into a rental slip in the harbor. Eschewing any mode of transportation other than our feet, we walked from the dock into the plazas and shops in the streets. It was warm and picturesque, and the earth beneath our feet seemed wonderful.

Gathered around a gazebo covered with bougainvillea were some 20 teenaged boys and young men, just lounging around. One had an iguana draped across himself. "Hi, I'm your friend. Little girl want picture with iguana?" Amber was 6 and quiet, very shy. Ex, Grandma and I each asked her quietly, "What do you think, Sweet?" She studied that gigantic lizard and eventually nodded her head, "yes". My heart swelled with admiration because looking at that iguana was making me weak in the knees. Her bobbing head must have turned on a switch somewhere, because with her nod, each of those young men whipped out an iguana from beneath his shirt, up his trouser leg, or who knows where else? They began to descend upon us, each hoping we'd buy the picture with the little girl and his iguana. Amber's eyes were enormously round. Ex's fists came up. I guess he thought he was going to take them all on simultaneously. My mother blew the whistle she carries on her keyring. I, however, probably the most distressed in our group, was the one who backed them down. I zoomed back in time to Spanish class, autumn of 1967 when I went to school with Brother Badger. "Solamente uno!" I bellowed at the top of my lungs. It worked. They backed off. Although I may only look like somebody's old mom from the 'burbs, I can stand up a pack of lizard-wielding hooligans by yelling "Only one!" in their native tongue. The picture of Amber and the (one) iguana is one we treasure.

In my ears right now: Crocodile Rock ~ yes, I know it's a stretch, but I can't think of an iguana song, offhand.

Something that charmed me: Matt called me his homegirl this morning.


  1. L,

    Your descriptions of your travels in Puerto Vallarta and on the beautiful gulf waters fill me with a powerful longing to return there. I recall strolling up from the beach into the steep tropical hills. How fortunate you were to be able to explore and experience that gorgeous area from a yacht. What a wonderful adventure.


  2. I've got a zillion of those stories - we did this for years, up and down the waters off of Mexico, both in the gulf and the Pacific. I can tell fishing yarns until the reader runs screaming! No wonder Amber knew by the age of 8 what she wanted to be when she grew up ~ and she's never wavered. She wants the boating life, a reel in her hands, days in the sun.

  3. A new friend, old memories, each of you with your own of a special place. A good story with good illustrations, and I want that Iguana pictured above. I think he'd made a great friend.

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  5. I'll send you a picture of a rainbow iguana via other means of communication! Badger, por que no jugamos a las damas chinas?

  6. Always with your mind on the dames, huh, Badger? I'll have you know that little phrase is a call-out to a rousing game of Chinese checkers. I bet I could kick your Badger-y butt, too!

  7. What a wonderful way to live! Is Amber following her dream? I hope! Y tu hablas espanol? Yo tambien...

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  9. She has never wavered from that dream since she spoke it out loud at 8 years of age. She has a good brain, strong drive and trust funds for education. She'll be practicing her science at a young age: oceanography/marine biology with a little fishing thrown in for fun.

    My Spanish is about what one would expect for a Cali woman who took a class in 1967, but has always lived among those for whom it is their native tongue. I get by using some words, some pantomime and studying the person speaking to me. The Chinese checker challenge and "where is the bathroom" and "tequila" are my best tricks!