The Other End of Sunset

Monday, March 26, 2007

The big waves are the sixth in the series

I've seen skies of blue
And clouds of white
Bright blessed days,
and dark sacred nights.
And I think to myself
What a wonderful world!
-- Louis Armstrong

I think this posting shall have no sad elements. Apparently, a couple of entries ago I hit a new nadir, and caused a raft of crying in various tranches of people who read this blog; one reader requested warning labels, to ensure that such entries weren’t read when the reader might be emotionally unready.

No such warnings are needed on this entry, at least so far. I guess we shall see.

I'm sitting on a beach in Mexico. Not actually on the beach, on my veranda overlooking the beach. I'm in a little cabin-type thing, with a patio covered with a grass-thatched roof on a cove in the Pacific. The beach has tan-brown sand, not the brilliant white sand of eastern Florida. It's odd, there is a huge amount of grass covering the 20 yards between my patio and the beach. So much that -- to my Californian eyes -- it looks like a golf course.

But the contrast between grass and sand is striking, and there are lots of palm trees that sway in the (strong) winds off the Pacific, and the surf crashes and booms against the shore (even though there aren't rocks). There isn’t any sun, the sky is overcast. It’s funny, it doesn’t feel grey or cloudy, but it is -- there’s no blue in the sky and that round yellow orb that appears in the sky sometimes to burn is not present. And it’s a bit chilly.

I prefer to think that the sky is blue because it reflects the color of the water.

I'm at some resort south of Puerto Vallarta. I thought it was about an hour south of the airport. We had a driver who picked us up at the airport and drove us here. It turned out to be about FOUR hours south of the airport. One hour in a car is doable, and would be kind of cool – fewer tourists. Four hours, on a bunch of twisty, turny two-lane roads is very different. I was carsick -- and VERY annoyed -- when the car finally pulled up to the gate of the resort. Yes, there's a gate. With a guard.

The guard checks your name against the registered guest list. And then, after you pass through the gate, it's about 15 more minutes, down more very narrow cobblestone roads before you get to the check-in place. It's so twisty inside the resort that we got lost, and the driver had to ask a groundskeeper how to find the check-in place. And there aren't very many cabins -- like 20 or so, I think -- and there aren't very many people in them. Very nice, can hear the crashing of the waves from my bed, and haven't heard more than another human voice or so since I've been here.

So far, it's pretty relaxing. We shall see. The downsides? There are mosquitoes. Lots of them -- feels like I'm back in Arkansas again. And the wireless Internet doesn't work (there's a cable problem, it’s been broken for 24 hours). And there is NO cell coverage, at all, as far as I can tell.

But most critical of all -- I forgot to bring BOTH my iPod and my SONY book reader, so I have about 3 magazines between me and complete boredom. There isn’t even a coffee shop or so at the resort where I could buy a few books to keep me occupied. Zounds! This may get ugly.

There is nobody around, and the palm trees around the cabin look a bit like a hedge maze. The doors to the bedroom are wooden sliding doors, made up of horizontal slats -- perfect for a Jack Nicholson imitation! "Here's Douglas!"

Perhaps I should avoid getting too bored, and definitely avoid beginning to talk to imaginary bartenders. All work and no play make Douglas a dull boy.

// Side note. For those of you who are totally lost in the past paragraph or so, I recommend you watch the movie "The Shining". Reading the book won't help you here, even though the book is more compelling and scarier, because these references are all from the movie. They are either not so clear, or not present at all, in the book version.

Anyway, the only thing less funny than a horror movie joke is explaining said joke.

Soon, I'll be into comparative literature about horror movies, and why there doesn't seem to be a single scary Steven King movie, despite the fact that his books are so awesome. Then, we'll move into contemporary psychology, and ask why King's protagonists' wives are always having an affair? From there, we could move to Hemingway, and his protagonists' common flaw -- erectile dysfunction, to use the modernist term -- and we would see, I guess, that men's sex lives, and their inability to control it, are scary topics.

But this whole discussion would be boring... and, lo and behold, as it turns out, it was.

Back to our plot line. Not that there is an identifiable plot here, in any case. More like Chekhovian theater – the plot is just in the way, so why bother? //

Last night, after dark, I was sitting here -- on this same windswept patio, on the same faded red couch -- and I watched as a family of raccoons went by, in search of food. Or whatever raccoons search for at night. I was greeted this morning by several piles of raccoon poo in my "front yard". I guess they have to go somewhere, might as well be here. And it doesn't seem to stink, although I didn't examine any of the piles closely. Even the scientist part of me wasn't that interested in the question of raccoon fecal habits. But, because it doesn’t seem to stink, I didn’t follow my best friend’s verbalization and call it a pile of stinking, fetid raccoon poo. There is something poetic about the word fetid, in a fairly creepy way. But, not today, no, we have no fetid piles today.

Instead, we have other things. Today, walking around the beach, we found a pathway that ran up a hill, to a strange empty building on the top of the hill. A great view from this empty cabana-like thing, on a cliff, overlooking the ocean. But strange -- what manner of creature creates such buildings, and then leaves them there? Speaking of creatures, while standing there, we saw a huge iguana walking across the path, and up a hill. It was about 4 feet long, and had a bright orange tail. If it hadn't been moving, I would have thought it was a statue -- it's too darn big. I love lizards, so I instantly bonded with the massive iguana. Especially in its choice of colors – orange is good, bright is always acceptable, why blend in? However, it didn’t feel the need to commune with me. It scurried away, I'm sure to some important rendezvous with a rabbit and a centipede, on a toadstool.

I don’t think that I'd get to see a huge, colorful iguana in my normal life. Lord knows, I am not in Kansas – or Ar-kansas, I suppose – anymore. And I don’t like little dogs, so you can keep Toto.

During the drive down, I noticed some interesting things. Lord knows, I had a lot of time to think, so of course I would note a few things. Having noticed them, naturally I must share them with you, mes amis. After all, the hand holding the pen writes, and then moves on. Although in this case, there is no pen, nor a great deal of moving on.

Nonetheless, there are some things that are the same, the world over. And there are other things that are unique to non-first-world countries. I wonder if the things that are the same are simply the product of the US economic and cultural hegemony, or there are some universal truths to be explored here?

Among the things that are the same the world over include the McDonald’s we passed as we left the airport – we didn’t stop, in case you were wondering. But McD’s are the same everywhere. When I spent a couple of years working in Southeast Asia, I would know it was time to go home for a while when I'd be overcome by desire to stop at a McDonald’s restaurant – ketchup tastes weird outside the US, but generally, beef McNuggets taste the same world over.

The driver who oversaw the 4 hours in a car had a rosary hanging from his rearview mirror, along with a hello kitty dangle. And he was wearing a Live Strong bracelet – you know, those Lance Armstrong cancer fundraising things? Apparently cancer fundraising is world wide, as well. Or perhaps this is a case of the natural lag in viral cultural change – it just took 5 years longer for the craze (a fashion craze, that is) to get here from the US.

We stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, in a town that had precisely one street running through it. You don’t pump your own gas here, instead there are attendants who pump for you. There seemed to be an attendant assigned to each of the three pumps. The gas station attendants were surly and annoyed that we were bothering them to get gas. Aah, this is definitely the attitude of gas station attendants everywhere in the world.

Just down the road from the gas station was a sign for a housing development. Condos that were not yet built, that were to go on sale for $1.5 USD. Felt like California – the views weren’t even that great. Wonder if they will sell? Another feeling like California there…

The coolest thing that is clearly constant the world over is little boys’ behavior. We passed a bunch of construction sites on the drive down. Many of them had some little boy standing atop a half built wall, looking out over his domain. The cutest little boy I saw was standing on top of a pile of cinder blocks that were clearly destined for the other wall of the foundation. He stood there, waving a stick over his head like a sword, daring all who passed by on the road to face him, the Dread Lord of Nowhere, Mexico. I felt I should make obeisance to him as we passed, to thank him for keeping the world safe around him, the Brown Knight.

But there are signs that are unique to non-first-world countries as well. The construction sites, for example. A large percentage of the sites were clearly abandoned. The foundation was built for a house, but had been left, and so grass was growing up between the cracks. More troubling were the sites where one wall had been put up, but no more. As you drove by, it looked at first like a house, then as you passed you could tell that it was simply a part of a house. Not a full life, but a life that is but a façade. Truly I felt Ozymandias the Great’s presence – I looked on their works, although not mighty, and despaired. Did the King himself despair, or did the Brown Knight’s presence give him comfort, hope for the future, hope for the other walls?

Are these walls and abandoned buildings akin to the Statue of Liberty, buried up to her neck in sand? (name that movie, readers)? Or is it a placeholder for future growth and hope for the next big thing?

Who knows, I guess we shall see.

Update: The wireless has been down for 36 hours now, and I'm thinking about volunteering to fix it for them. I mean, at this point, digging a trench, laying new cable, whatever, it’s better than nothing. But I found a place where the network DOES work, and I'm going to post from there.

So, I'm going to post this now, rather than try to write a cool ending that draws the themes together. There is a theme here, my OtherEnders, and I know what it is. I wonder if I’ve written it so you can see it.

Take care, and get some sun…