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Jeff prepares to get back in the water in Sayulita. Photo by David Lansing.

Jeff is not a happy camper these days. As he says, he’s dealing with a number of “severe issues.” Jeff is a private man so I’m not going to go into what, exactly, those issues are, but trust me, you wouldn’t want to be dealing with any of them. Figuring that what Jeff needed was to get away from his own dark clouds, I invited him to join me in Mexico. He thought about it for awhile and then told me the plane fares were too expensive and, anyway, he was just too busy. Dealing with his life. I told him I’d find him a cheap plane fare, which I did, and convinced him that the best way to deal with all the crap at home was to flee to Mexico. Eventually he agreed.

I figured a guy in his position needed a little break in his life where he didn’t have to make any decisions. So I told him that once he got to Puerto Vallarta, I’d take care of everything else, including being there to greet him the minute he made it through Customs. Which turned out to be a little more challenging than I expected when, the night before he arrived, the Blue Whale broke down on me. I was hoping to get the Blue Whale taken care of before I had to leave for the airport, but this is Mexico and you never know. I had visions of him standing in front of the Puerto Vallarta airport in the heat and humidity, lamenting the fact he’d let me talk him in to coming down here. But, fortunately, I got the Blue Whale fixed an hour or so before Jeff’s arrival and had plenty of time to get to the airport.

When we got back to my place in Bucerias, I asked him what he felt like doing. “Drinking a margarita,” he said. “And then drinking another one.”

I could see how this was going to go.

Jeff is an old Southern California surfer, so the next morning I suggested we head for Sayulita where maybe he could rent a surf board. That sounded just fine to him. We packed some beers in a cooler and set up our beach chairs next to the rental chairs in front of Don Pedro’s. Now here’s a funny thing about Jeff: Despite the fact that he’s a surfer, he doesn’t really like the water. Any water. For instance, the afternoon before, we took our margaritas down to the pool and I jumped in, the cool water feeling good against my hot, sweaty skin, and waited for Jeff to get in as well. Which he never did. He didn’t even dip his toes in the water. And it was hot. Like almost 90. I asked him how come he didn’t get in the water and he said, without even looking at me, “I’m just fine where I am.”

So here we are at the beach in Sayulita and, again, it’s hot and humid. I’ve gone into the surf a couple of times but Jeff, the old surfer, hasn’t budged from his chair in hours. This is not a good sign. “Listen,” I say, “why don’t you go rent a surfboard? That shop next to Don Pedro’s is pretty good.”

Jeff doesn’t even bother responding. He just stares out at the breakers along the beach. After awhile, I go back in the water for another swim. I float on my back, beyond the breakers, watching the frigate birds circling overhead. When I swim back in, there’s a woman sitting in my beach chair next to Jeff. She’s got red hair and is wearing a bikini and has some sort of beaded amulet wrapped around her right ankle. She starts to jump up out of my chair when she sees me approaching but I tell her to sit back down.

The woman’s name is Gisselle. She’s a hairdresser back home in Vancouver but she also has a house down here in Sayulita where, in addition to doing the hair of women for weddings, she also teaches pilates. She’s trim and attractive and wearing a bikini. Jeff is smiling as he talks with her, which is something I haven’t seen for awhile. After awhile, Gisselle goes back to her spot on the beach not far from us, turning around every once in awhile to give Jeff a friendly smile. He smiles back. “I think I’ll go check out those surfboards,” he says after a bit. A few minutes later he’s walking down the beach, past Gisselle, a surf board tucked under his arm. Before getting in the water, he turns one last time and gives a little wave to Gisselle. She gives a little wave back. And then he throws himself on to his board and plunges into the surf. The boy is back.

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The deli ladies at Mega

A deli lady at Mega lures me over to sample her spicy chorizo sausages. Photo by David Lansing.

They could be confused for nurses or dental assistants, these ladies all in white with their little caps and surgical masks, but they are the deli ladies at Mega, the supermercado in Bucerias. It’s the best part of the store for me. They stand around, five or six deep, in the octagonal deli bullpen, pitching their wares to anyone who gets within hearing distance.

“Mr. Handsome,” they call out to me when I am still 20 feet away. “Come by and taste a little of my ham.” They are like hookers hanging out of the windows of a brothel, doing all they can to make a sale. They temp you with samples: a thin slice of jamon, a square piece of queso blanco, an olive or two or perhaps a pickle. Sometimes they go too far. They grill up spicy chorizo sausages and dare you to pass by the delicious aroma without sampling. And if you sample, you will buy. Just like I did.

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9:13pm election night in Bucerias

There I was, sitting in my little house in Bucerias, watching the U.S. elections live on a satellite signal that comes from Canada. How very international. And when NBC interrupted one of their talking heads to declare, at exactly 9:13pm Bucerias time, that Obama had won reelection, I just had to grab my iPad and take a photo of the screen. A minute later, fireworks exploded over the Bay of Banderas. Do I think the fireworks were related to Barack’s win? I do not. They were probably to celebrate a wedding or a convention of medical device salesmen in Puerto Vallarta, but I don’t care. It felt celebratory.

I know some of my readers are in mourning today. I’m sorry. I know how you feel. When Bush won a second term in ’04 I seriously considered moving to Canada. I hope those of you who supported Romney won’t be as dramatic or as rash. I hope, instead, you’ll do what Americans used to do after an election: Support your country and your president. The worst thing you could do–for yourself, for your party, for your country–is to just go all medieval on the country and decide you’re going to be against anything Obama is for, no matter what it is. That doesn’t help. And eventually what will happen is what happened in California; the voters will get tired of the roadblocks and elect a super-majority that just ignores the minority party. I don’t want that to happen. I want both parties to sit down and talk and compromise and work things about. But that can only happen if you agree to disagree and look for middle-ground. Let’s move foreward–not backwards.

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Getting my beans back

My bag of pinto beans, patiently waiting for me to come back and retrieve them. Photo by David Lansing.

A few days ago I went to the local supermercado in Bucerias, Mega, to stock up on necessities. First stop was the produce department where I got limes for my margaritas, oranges for my juice in the morning, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and cilantro for fresh pico de gallo, avocados for guacamole, and, of course, a bag of pinto beans. Then I went off and got everything else I needed from flank steak for arrachera to pan de muerto for my dessert.

I get up to the check-out counter and start grabbing stuff out of my basket: grapefruits, tangerines, zukes, poblano peppers. Wait…I didn’t pick out any grapefruit. Or tangerines. Or zukes or poblanos or any of the other fruit and veggies in the basket. Where’s my pineapple? Where’s my cantaloupe? Where the hell are my limes?

Obviously, while running around the produce department, I’d grabbed the wrong shopping cart. Or someone grabbed mine. In any case, Nothing I’d selected–from avocados to beans–is in my cart. “Lo siento,” I sheepishly tell the checker as I hand over the big bag of grapefruit, telling her I don’t want it. Same for everything else. Very embarrassing.

So this morning I go back to Mega. And as I wander around the produce department, I notice that on top of the mound of limes is a plastic bag holding just about the exact number of limes I’d bagged up a few days ago. Same with the tomatoes. And oranges. And there atop the tub of pinto beans is the plastic bag of beans I’d secured days ago. Like an abandoned dog, just waiting for me to come back and claim it.

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Sugar skulls in Bucerias. Photo by David Lansing.

As I wrote yesterday, the only way legally to keep an American car in Mexico longer than 6 months is to get an fm3 card which makes you sort of an honorary Mexican. But it’s no easy process. First you have to find the Immigration office, which, in my case, took about 3 hours on Wednesday, which just happened to be Halloween. So I finally find the office, sign in, and take a number. An hour or so later, I reach the front of the line. Numerous forms need to be filled in. They want to know what religion I am, what race, what schools I’ve gone to, what my degree was in, and what I do for a living. They also want to know how tall I am (in centimeters), how I would describe my body type (this is very confusing), and what sort of distinguishing marks I have on my body (no gun wounds but a few surgical scars).

Sign this form…and this one…and this one…and this one. Stamp, stamp, stamp. Now take these forms and go find a bank and pay 1,451 pesos to the bank (about $110), get two copies of a form saying you DID pay the 1,451 pesos, then take that form to a copy shop and get two copies of that form, and then go back to the Immigration office and wait in line again. All of which I did. Mr. Immigration Man goes through all my forms, which at this point are about an inch thick, and says everything seems to be in order. Come back in two weeks to pick up my fm3.

But the problem is, I’m not going to be here in two weeks. When I tell this to Mr. Immigration Man, he sighs, audibly, and says, What day do you leave? I tell him. He looks on a calendar. This is on a Saturday, he says. Yes, I know. Then come back to the office on Friday–very early–with your airline ticket and we will see what we can do. No promises. Then he smiles at me and says, “Happy Halloween. Next!”

And so it goes.

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