"Smacking the Bimbo, smacking the Bimbo..." for Foster it was only a natural thing to utter as he proceeded with his task.
"You do realize Foster that when you return home and they ask what you learned in Mexico, and you tell them that you learned to 'smack the Bimbo', you will be sent away for special counselling," I told him.
Then I had to explain why.
He first learned to smack the Bimbo downtown near the basketball court in Z-town. You can learn a lot of things downtown near the basketball court.
He also learned how to grill the ham and melt two kinds of cheese on top. And carving the aguacate is high art form. The onions, the tomatoes, the chillies. All of this he learned from Hamburguesa Man. There are many hamburger stands in Z-town, but only the old guy down near the basketball court has a long line-up and a global following. He smacks the Bimbo.
And Foster watched carefully. He replicated the work and I daresay maybe improved upon it. He even serves up our hamburguesas wrapped in tinfoil. And they are amazing.
This, really, in spite of the Bimbo. Because the Bimbo is nothing special. Bimbo is the national bread brand. You can buy ordinary bread and it dries out in a day or goes mouldy after a few days. Bimbo bread is good forever. Bimbo hamburger buns are invincible. It's like Wonder bread back home. There is something unnatural about it.
So if you want a good hamburger, you put your Bimbo down on the grill. And you smack it. Just gently. Just enough to make sure it has good contact and browns up nicely.
Go ahead. Smack your Bimbo. Gently.
They are really paint buckets. Recycled of course. I bought a bunch of them at the hardware store. Some are hairy. Some are spotted. They come in different colours. I think they will make wonderful gift baskets.
Foster is quite disgusted. He doesn't think that bulls' scrotums ought to be used for anything else after the steers are done with them.
We've been busy.
We killed our new high output alternator and the Mac computer. Neither one started a fire, though the alternator came close. It means electrons are in scarce supply and Foster has now finished the school year since his text books have been wiped out. Unfortunately our photos and Tracey's journal are also lost in darkness.
Oh and we've had guests aboard. Zach and Kaitlyn brought their folks down to Z-town to hang for a while. And Hadley is aboard right now with his parents here in Tenacatita. It's really nice to have visitors and show them around the interesting bits of Mexico. Don't tell Devin that Al caught a tuna.
Our little outboard is pushing us through the jungle river once again. This time towing a train of kayaks. And when it came time to come back, it started!
We flew home for a little bit between visitors. But please don't mention it to anyone because we didn't really have a chance to visit everybody. I had 8 or 9 job interviews with a very cool nuclear fusion company. They hired somebody else. Next time, I should probably think about wearing shoes and shaving. More Warren Buffet than Jimmy Buffet.
So weird to come home and have no house, cars, phones, or clothes. And cold. The closest we come to cold is if we work up a sweat and go shopping at the air conditioned Mega. It feels cold when you first walk in the door. Canada has cold everywhere. They should package it and sell it.
So busy. Traffic. Cars. Everyone on a schedule rushing off to do things that they think are important. We were glad to get back home to Blackdragon. The correct pace of life.
Not that we are judgemental about things like that.
There's nothing wrong with drinking eight cups of coffee a day and rushing around to earn the money to buy the things to save you time so you can drive slowly through traffic in an expensive car designed to go fast on your way to your leisure activities before you go home to relax in the comfort of your things and wonder why you still feel stressed.
Of course, if the alternative is drinking margueritas and a slow walk to the ferreteria to buy huevos del toros, I'll pick the alternative and be very thankful that we can do this. Extended cruising must be the reason God created the equity-backed line of credit.
Foster is slowly starting to accept my paint buckets to the point where I may be allowed to take them out of the bag. He says I can hang a couple from the turnbuckle on the mast, "That's where they belong - at the bottom of your big stick, Dad."
Whoa. It's been a while since I updated. We've been busy.
Our best friends in Z-Town are a wonderful couple from San Diego. Bruce and Craig are sailing the big cat Gata Go around the world. We hang out with them all the time, playing cards, eating well, and swapping lies.
We were down in Barra de Potosi the other day enjoying a little lunch after a visit to the wildlife refuge. We know them well enough that I felt comfortable addressing the subject matter.
"Do you know what a Lesbiana is?", I asked Craig.
"I have never tasted one," he replied.
"Well let's ask the waiter what's in them," I had seen them on menu boards around town and had never been brave enough to ask.
It turns out it's like a caesar made with beer rather than vodka. It has the clam pee in it and everything. We ordered up couple.
Very very tasty and refreshing. A new favourite.
If you asked me a month ago if I expected to be hanging out with my gay friends enjoying Lesbianas on the beach at Barra de Potosi, I probably would have said no. But that's what makes life interesting.
Speaking of interesting, we heard the radio call yesterday just as Steven was setting up his compressor to clean my bottom. He jumped in his skiff and headed for his boat Odyle. I started shouting at my other neighbour who looked like he had a fast dinghy.
"Mayday! Mayday! There's a boat on the rocks. Bring your dingy!" He acknowledged. I grabbed a handheld radio and headed for the swim platform looking at my engineless dingy.
He was alongside shortly. I jumped in and we were on our way. "Hi, I'm Steve. Nice to meet you."
"Steve, I'm Steve nice to meet you," he said. Steve had a monster 5 Hp Honda more than twice the size of my engine. It still wasn't enough to put the two of us on a plane. We decided we weren't going to be the first there to save lives, so we might as well see if we couldn't marshall up resources to save the boat. 5HP wasn't going to pull a big sailboat off the rocks.
We pulled into the beach at Las Gatos where the pangas were anchored. I had forgotten my copy of "Spanish for Cruisers" so improvised as best I could. I started waving wildly as we got closer, "Senor, Senor! Mayday! Mayday! Barco on the rocas! Barco on the rocas!" I said as we pointed towards the point.
It was crude, but it worked. We had two pangas with 50 HP outboards headed for the scene and they would get there quicker than us.
As we got closer we could see a beautiful wooden boat with full sail up pounding into the rocks with surf washing debris off the decks. We heard a shout and saw a head bobbing in the water.
It was Steven. He had just jumped off Odyle and was swimming towards the stricken vessel. I dragged him on board. He was on his way to board the vessel and help get sail down.
"Hi, I'm Steven," he said holding his hand out to Steve.
We manoeuvred in as close as we could. There was already a boat with a tow rope on. They were shouting wildly at us in Spanish. Probably saying something like, "Nice people in dinghy, if that knotted old rope breaks, you will lose your heads. Please select an alternate location." We dumped Steven off and got the hell out of the way.
Steven got the sail down. The tow boat pulled it out backwards, bumping it over the rocks and knocking off the rudder. But it was afloat and not taking on too much water. The boat was saved. Some serious damage, but mostly to the skippers ego.
A very exciting day. Heroic tales will reverberate around Z-town bars all the way through to Sailfest.
Speaking of exciting, we had our first Chubasco the other night. A rare out of season storm.
We were ashore for tamales when a little rain and wind storm blew through. . Soon there was no power and 4 inches of water in the street. We had another margeurita in candlelight and took some solace that it wasn't a named storm, so at least the insurance deductible wouldn't be outrageous. There was absolutely nothing we could do for the boat at that moment.
In twenty minutes it was all over. We returned to the main pier as Craig and Bruce launched their dingy to give us a ride to the boat. The canvas shelters at the cruise ship dock were blown down into the water, with twisted metal frames. There were plastic restaurant chairs floating half a mile off shore. Zihuatanejo Bay was full of debris. The good news was that we saw an anchor light where our boat should have been. Many of the other boats were nowhere near the positions they were in when we went ashore.
We arrived to find the dingy upside down. It still had the oars tied in. The spinnaker unpacked itself from the bag and lay in its sock on the foredeck, the bag hanging over the side with the clips on the lifeline. The inflatable kayaks which were on deck, not tied down, were still there wedged between shrouds and lifelines. An empty Styrofoam cooler that was on our foredeck somehow ended up in the cockpit with the lid still on.
The open starboard ports will be a subject of family discussion for some years to come. Inside the settee cushions were soaked. Two laptops on the main salon table were dripping wet and non functional. Foster was a both terrified and delighted that all his electronic text books were wiped out - no more school! After a day of drying in the sun, it appears the only casualty was a single little boat cushion that got sucked out of the cockpit. The solar panels didn't budge. GPS showed we hadn't dragged.
Winds were reported at 50 kts plus. A friend on a 48 footer broached twice, once to starboard and once to port at anchor. The harbour was nothing but blowing white foam.
Elsewhere in the anchorage, there is a 75 pound CQR and its broken chain lying on the bottom with a couple of outboards from dinghies that flipped over and dropped their loads off the transom. There is enough awning repair work to keep a canvas maker busy for a long time. A few boats got very wet.
It was our first Chubasco. Judging by the somewhat shell shocked reactions of the other cruisers, I think I'll be quite content to experience our next Chubasco safely in a restaurant. Next time maybe one that isn't open to the wind with a leaky roof...
And to keep things interesting, today we went Scuba diving. This was Foster's Christmas present. Today's dive was a lesson dive learning to clear masks and buddy breath, and control buoyancy. Tomorrow it's a couple of ocean dives down to 60 feet or so. Foster was cool as a cucumber. PE class is most interesting once you get out of the suburbs.
And finally, a couple of Canadians got shot today on one of the bicycle paths we were walking on the other day over by Playa Linda. Nothing serious, just a robbery that didn't go so well.
We always try not to look like Canadians, and that way we stay safe.
That's about it. I'll try to udpate again if anything interesting happens.
Wait. I almost forgot. Miracle of miracles. The new mechanico had a go at our outboard. It runs. It quit smoking. It's beautiful. All for 650 pesos or about the price of 20 Lesbianas.
01/09/2010, Playa Ropa
I don't know how it starts exactly.
Some little organism finds it way up into the through hull and attaches itself to the sidewall. Then it grows or reproduces and forms a little colony. Maybe it just sends text messages to its buddies and says, "Hey, it's great in here. Come on over and have a party!"
And slowly but surely they gather there and dance and party and slam back their little algae cocktails. Eventually the flow is almost blocked. A pump of the handle on the head yields but a trickle.
And we find ourselves back in the head fixing game.
Meanwhile, Hilda and Ishmael have our outboard motor. They took it to the best outboard mechanic in town. After several days, they came back and reported that the impeller was shot and the motor was not getting any cooling water and that's why it was overheating and making mucho smoke. No parts for Hondas are available town.
It was a great story. Unfortunately, our outboard is air cooled. It has no impeller. So we've taken it to Rick's bar for a second opinion. Rick's sent it over to another mechanic. The other mechanic was able to determine that it is smoking. It's really hard to stop smoking. So we are checking out a stop smoking clinic in Acapulco that has Honda parts.
Our outboard is going to have a little bus ride.
I don't know how it starts exactly.
Some little nerve sheath cell divides and it's DNA wasn't paying attention at the critical moment. And it mutates. There is an uncontrolled reproductive party. Pretty soon they're all hanging out having a party. They tap into a few arteries for a continuous supply of take out.
Slowly but surely, the little party of cells gets bigger. And when it gets big enough, they call it a mass. Pretty soon some surgeon comes along with a scalpel and the mass is removed and sent off for pathology.
And the results come back and we find ourselves back in the cancer game.
But we are not victims. We control our destiny. Every minute of it.
And so I pulled out the big yellow screwdriver, closed the seacock, removed the hose, opened the seacock and reamed things out until the water started gushing into the boat. And the head flushes.
We'll send the outboard to Acapulco and if it doesn't quit smoking, we'll buy a new one.
And even the cancer thing has solutions. It will probably come back in six months. We'll keep an eye on it. The next step is more radical surgery. Best followed by radiation treatment. Tracey found a place in LA that will do it for about $6000.
Amputation of the paw is also effective.
A clean fresh hacksaw blade is 15 pesos. A small torch and a bottle of tequila will be about another 200 pesos.
We control our own destiny. Who drinks the tequila - me or Scupper?
We had seen him drifting out there for the last several days. He floated in an old inner tube, kicking back and forth between shore and Blackdragon, casting his fish line and winding it back on to a little wooden paddle, over and over again.
I thought about it for a while and finally decided that we should do it. It was the small bottle of tequilla. The bonus gift that Tracey got in Puerto Vallarta for buying all the T-shirts in one shop. The little sombrero was too precious to give away, so we pulled that off and put it on top of the Christmas tree.
As we rowed ashore in our search for a restaurant for Christmas Dinner #2, we pulled alongside. "Hola Senor! Feliz Navidad!" We handed him the little bottle of Tequila. "A gift from Canada to Mexico," we explained, as though little bottles of Tequila were some cousin of Nanaimo Bars and butter tarts.
"Muchas gracias. Feliz Navidad. Welcome to my country!"
Not exactly a UN level dimplomatic exchange. Hardly a meaningful cultural exchange. And the tequila wasn't really an amount worthy of a party or even a good buzz. It was plain fun. Christmas was just the excuse.
Dinner #1 was a little more meaningful. Tracey called me on the VHF and asked if we could come ashore a half hour earlier and bring a deck of playing cards. We met Gerardo and Marie in the little town square where locals play some very entertaining pick-up basketball. Two stops to make on the way to dinner.
The first was the pinata market. The pinata market is like any Christmas Tree lot you find in the north. An outdoor, seasonally-erected area on a bit of unused land on the edge of downtown. Luis, the youngest, seemed to be in charge of pinata selection. In fact, he was the Chief Pinata Officer. His first choice was a giant Santa Clause pinata. Unfortunately, another family was already completing the transaction.
We moved along. Next Luis found a giant pinata. An enormous monster of a pinata. It was like the 10 foot tall Scotch Pine Christmas tree - destined for the large home of some rich people who have the cash to buy happiness. Gerardo had to veto, and Luis moved on.
At last he found one that he liked that fit within the financial envelope of Dad, The Grinch. As they were working through that transaction, including the value-added offering of the stick wrapped in ribbon, I was busy buying giant sparklers and little firecrackers.
Luis reached up to grab the sparklers from my hands. "No." I explained and pushed him away pointing a finger at my chest, "Mine!" I'm not sure he'd ever seen an adult act like a greedy kid. Initially he was perplexed, but quickly rebounded and caught on to the game, pointing a finger at his chest indicating his claim to the sparklers. The game continued all night with each of us alternately laying claim to the turkey, the pinata, the chocolate, the firecrackers and the tequila.
The last stop was the Supermercado for some candy to fill the pinata and cream to go with the strawberries. A few pesos in gasoline to make it up the hill and we arrived at Gerardo and Marie's. Sort of. Actually, we were at Marie's father's home next door. We walked up a long flight of steps on the side yard and I made a note not to drink too much tequila as there was a ten foot drop off with no railing.
Gerardo's house would be a millon dollar property in Vancouver with a stunning view of the harbour and the town. In Zihuatanejo, it's just a regular middle class house. Just one central room with three beds and sparse furnishings. There is no kitchen table, so that's why they were entertaining us at the father's home.
Tracey had been there all day learning to make enchiladas and preparing the turkey. In between times, she played games with the kids. Actually, she played dominoes with the kids. Dominoes is the only game they have.
The deck of playing cards doubled their gaming possibilities.
The kids mostly played outside in the street. We could hear loud explosions as the sparklers and little fireworks competed with what must have been quarter sticks of dynamite for pyrotechnic dominance. Every now and then Foster would wander back in and I would call him over to count his fingers: "uno, dos, tres, quatro..." Everyone would laugh at me.
In most of Mexico, it seems like you have the freedom to kill yourself. The state hasn't yet reached the point where all manner of things must be
regulated. So kids can play with explosives. Stairs don't need railings. Manhole covers are mostly in place, but sometimes not. My favourite is the
wheelchair ramp that runs beside the stairs coming down from the seawall in Zihua. It's regulation grade, smooth enough to roll over without feeling a bump, yet grippy enough not to be a hazard in the rain. And at the bottom - an eighteen inch vertical drop.
So the kids came inside and we played "war" on the smooth concrete floor. It's an easy enough game and they caught on quickly that high card wins the hand. They would scratch their heads though any time a "J" "Q" or "K" matched up against another one. Luis was soon kicking my but so I had to start slamming my cards down with a huff to indicate my displeasure. Who needs English or Spanish?
Turkey was magnificent. It wasn't traditional stuffing and gravy. It was loaded with chorizo sausage, onions, and tomatoes. Marie injected it with
wine and orange juice. Perhaps the juiciest, most flavourable turkey we've ever had.
In no time at all, it was time to bash in the pinata. Gerardo loaded the candy and a few coins. The kids were blindfolded. Luis went first. Marie
spun him around and walked him around the patio before orienting him in front ot the pinata. He had a few whacks and managed to knock off one of the cones.
Brian was next. He connected a few times but didn't bust it open. In the end, it was Foster who managed to whack the clay pot in the middle hard enough to break it wide open. The mellee that ensued was impressive. Even the dog stole a candy.
Eventually Luis managed to get the sparklers out of my hands and the kids lit them up before it was soon time to leave. Gerardo wanted to get us back to the beach before 11pm. By midnight, there would be gunfire in air off the beach as people began celebrating in earnest. Not a safe place to be.
The whole family helped us launch the dinghy and We rowed back out vowing to get together and go for a sail on Sunday to Ixtapa Island.
And sure enough around midnight, the random firecrackers noises took on a more serious tone as the guns were fired in the air. I think in Zihua you were either at midnight mass, or drunk on the beach shooting your gun the air, or you were a cruiser sitting in your boat, trying to remember whatever it was you might have known about the terminal velocity of bullets falling from the sky and whether or not they would merely bounce of the deck or go through the deck a human skull and out the hull before sinking the boat.
All the more reason to have a glass of sherry and wish one another a Feliz Navidad.
And today I noticed there were two more guys drifting around fishing nearby. I wonder if the first guy told them the fishing was good out near the sailboats.
I may have to get more tequila.
Tonight is Christmas Eve.
We gave it a good shot. Foster and I trudged through the touristy market with all the stalls of the mass produced crap individually crafted by artisans in our quest to capture Christmas.
We failed miserably.
Our mission was to find another gift for Tracey. It was difficult. We don't have room on the boat for any more stuff and we have about everything we need.
So after an hour or so, we abandoned our quest and headed down the beach toward the dinghy. And we stopped for a while, had a chat with Sergio, and decided to take one of his tables slowing down to have little lunch.
And we nibbled on the salsa and chips enjoying a beer and watching the boats in the harbour. And after a while as we were waiting for our hamburgesa, we came to realize that if we were home eating at McDonald's we would have finished ten minutes ago and already be back in traffic. Everything was as it should be.
We chatted with Sergio about Rooster Fish. How to catch them. What they taste like. How to cook them.
We were phenomenally successful.
And while we were enjoying maybe one of the best hamburguesas ever, Tracey was with Maria and her kids. They were out shopping at the other market. The non- touristy one. I'm not sure which one. It could have been the one with the stalls where you can find your chicken lying there with the head still on right next to the stall with the ladies dresses, but before the one where the pigs' heads hang on hooks. Or it could have been the air conditioned mega market where you can sip lattes and buy whatever you want just like anywhere else in North America. It doesn't really matter.
In either case, it will be authentic.
They are buying ingredients for dinner tonight. We've been invited for traditional Mexican turkey on Christmas Eve. We firmed up arrangements yesterday as Gerardo came to get the Kraemers and take them to the airport.
And as we were eating Quesadillas at Dona Aure's with the Kraemers and the Palacios and discussing what Natalie and Nicholas should blow their unused spending money on at the airport, I think maybe Natalie really nailed the whole Christmas thing.
She quietly asked Claudia to give her last Pesos to Tracey so that we could buy some toys for the kids.
It has been a year of extraordinary connections.
Like when we arrived in San Diego, we met up with some people who we had only ever corresponded with in cyberspace: Domenique, Zoe, and their kids. We received an email from Domenique on May 21st - the one year anniversary of Spencer's death and as it turns out the anniversary of Enzo's death, their wonderful 18 month old son who also died of neuroblastoma. Zoe who had never met me before, got out of her car and gave me a big hug. It was an extraordinary meeting. And it wasn't just the usual parent of a dead kid bonding thing, but the culmination of a rather extraordinary gesture.
Domenique, an archeologist, wrote to tell us that one of his colleagues, Sam Meacham is an underwater cave explorer. One day in April he emerged from pushing a new passage deep within the longest submerged cave in the world. They've made some new discoveries in a passage with ancient bones predating the last ice age when the caves were dry. Sam emerged from the new passage and bone site and told Domenique that is officially named "Spencer's Surprise". Sam presented his findings at the National Geographic Explorers Conference last summer.
So now Spencer has a little part of Mexico, a dark and liquidy part of Mexico, connected to the same Cenotes that he used to snorkel in, named after him. (But don't tell anybody yet, Mexico is very protective of its archeological treasures, and the authorities haven't authorized release of this information, so it's just between us here on the internet OK?).
We were utterly blown away and still have no idea really how to respond.
And maybe that's the whole point. No response required. Maybe all we can do is reach out and make a connection with somebody else. An extraordinary gesture at whatever scale. Talk to the waiter and learn about Rooster fish. Be nice to the cab driver. Take a moment to appreciate those around us. Share what we have.
If we all do that, we move a step closer to the whole peace on earth goodwill to fellow man thing and the stuff in the shopping mall, whatever shape in comes in, doesn't really matter all that much.
And I know every year I write some sappy sentimental Christmas letter pushing one virtuous thing or another, while under the tree there are hundreds of dollars worth of gifts and plans to unload hundreds more on electronics on Boxing Day.
But this year, we have nothing under our little 18 inch tree.
Just a few things in stockings hung by the chainplates.
Yet it may be our richest Christmas yet. Thanks for connecting.