In the Cancun Airport, Terminal Three, a trumpet and guitars serenade travelers arriving and departing from Mexico. The terminal is full of duty free shops, and, if you didn’t pick up gifts before, this is your last tax free shopping opportunity.
Mariachi music belongs to Mexico though Mexican taxi drivers often listen to Willie Nelson and Classic Rock. This knob of Yucatan, Mexico has more in common with the Caribbean than Mexico but this fiery Mariachi group plays their Mexican style, in tune, with expression.
For tourists, Mexico is a place of bold colors and booming music.
For locals, there is much more subtlety and nuance.
Being a neighbor to the United States is like sleeping next to an elephant. If it rolls over you become sandwich spread.
I don’t want Mexico to be like the United States and I don’t want the United States to turn into Mexico.
Maintaining your national identity, in an increasingly homogenized world, is a true work of love and expression of freedom.
At nine sharp, practitioners dress in loose fitting clothes, clutch their orange or green mats, make their way into the yoga studio and begin exercises with a background of soothing music and the reassuring voice of a Yoga master who has learned the same way, on a bare floor in some distant part of the world.
Yoga Shala is similar to many of the hostels here, a compound of thatched roof cabanas, most with shared bathrooms, limited cooking facilities and wide open air porches for catching sea breezes and writing in notebooks in the afternoon.
On a wall at the head of outside stairs leading up to my second floor bungalow is a circle of painted Yoga positions, each position taking years of work and concentration to achieve.
Living without amenities grows on you.
Doing simple things well is hard work.
Learning how to breath was never something I used to have to think about,
At this point in our acquaintance,I’m not sure Yoga and I are meant for each other.
Most villages, towns and cities, small or large, old or new, have a Main Street.
Main streets have shops, offices, hotels, restaurants, government compounds. Some have divided boulevards for traffic, bike paths, sidewalks for pedestrians. Main streets are where towns were conceived, the center of an onion that keeps growing outwards as people move away from ground zero in search of more room, privacy, quiet, better schools, less crime,more new, less old.
This morning, the jungle pushes against the main road on both sides.
This route would have been used by Ancients who built the ruins to the north and other pyramids deep in Central American jungles. This road would have been more narrow then, would have been swept with palm fronds by slaves of conquered tribes. There would have been pageants with elites wearing feathered head dresses paraded to their quarters for religious ceremonies and political celebrations.
As this day begins, this Main Street of Tulum, Mexico is checking its own pulse, waking up to the sounds of tropical birds and breaking waves rolling onto white sand beaches.
Across the road from the Hemingway Romantic Eco-Cottages is an open air bar with picnic tables covered by Mexican tablecloths, salt and pepper shakers made with small Corona bottles, pithy signs and a cooking area where a chef makes tacos, a specialty of the house.
This VW bus, from the 60’s, has been painted, gutted, and parked in a visible location. Inside it, our waiter writes down our order, sits a moment on a small wooden bench, stands, adjusts his glasses, and, in due time, hustles his ticket over to the chef who is cleaning his grill.
This VW bus was driven down here in the 60’s and never made it home.
There are still people living in Tulum who came down, lost their passport, credit card, money and hangups, and stayed to the drum roll of the waves.
Fish, beef, chicken and pork are the four tacos featured tonight.
Joan has one of each and I have the rest.
Coming to Tulum was her idea, and it is a good one.
I call this jaunt a sparkling interlude moving to the bridge in a typical jazz standard with an AABA form.
They start as an idea, then move past idea to become reality.
Artists bring buckets and shovels, pots and rakes, sticks and bones, bottle caps or string, shells or seaweed to make hair. They kneel in the sand, and, with bare hands, sculpt, as best they can, their visions. When all is done, what they make stands till tides or careless feet sweep them away.
Sandy is Joan’s idea and, in her bag, are buttons, mittens, sticks for arms, an old pink ball cap,a Tecate bottle, and a composition scheme that allows sand to be stacked a couple of feet high.
As helper, my job is to capture seawater in a bucket, add beach sand and mix with a shovel till you have a material that will pack, hold together, and allow itself to be shaped.
It takes ten buckets to make ” Sandy “, and, when all is done, our borrowed shovel is returned to a hotel closet and the bucket is washed out and fresh water added for Felix the cat.
After photo documentation of the event, Sandy is left to face her public
The whole project is considered a success when strangers stop to take pictures for their Facebook pages.
When you have time to order mid day ice cream in a different country, served by staff who don’t know your language, with a white cloth napkin and clean silverware,you don’t need to worry about price or how quick to eat it.
This is a full three scoops of coffee ice cream plus strawberries with some nutty granola sprinkled around the base of the mountain for flavor and texture.
The ice cream in the bowl reminds me of a University of New Mexico professor in the English department who used to wear a red bow tie to class and extol the virtues of James Joyce and ” Ulysses. ”
Despite spending a semester in the novel, it would be difficult to sum it up in a neat little package. It was one hell of a book with a focus on little things, like taking a magnifying glass and looking at the weave of a handmade quilt that someone was quilting as you read.
In the hot summertime, the Professor in this bowl would become mud quickly.
Now, in February, he maintains his profile and will always be remembered as a crusty bookworm who should have been dusting library shelves instead of lecturing students in neat rows.
Ice cream is a small pleasure but a pleasure to be savored.
Joan and I share till nothing is left in the bowl.
From their tables in the dining area at Ahau Tulum, customers and friends watch the sun go down as the Caribbean Sea vanishes into dark. As sunlight dims, people leave the beach, wash away sand and suntan lotion,put on sexy night clothes and sit down to dinner and a few drinks. There are families here, romantic couples, locals who sit at their favorite tables, waiters taking orders and hustling drinks. Most guests are fleeing winter in Europe, United States and Canada. Table candles are made from Corona bottles and waiters bring little flashlights out of their shirt pockets to help guests read the menu as the sun hits the water.
If I lived here, I would spend most of my pesos at a local neighborhood establishment eating shrimp off paper plates, having local beer and Key Lime pie for dessert.
As a visitor to Tulum, I am enjoying living the life of the rich and famous, as I imagine they live.
In reality, as nice as this hotel and restaurant is, it is just another budget eatery for people, like myself, of modest means.
On the wall of a shop,these Cupid twins smile lustily, with a trace of the Devil in their expressions.
Cupids are often cherubs with smiling faces, flowing blond hair,rotund bodies. They fly in the air with ease and are particularly in evidence in palace gardens where men and women socialized in times past, held heart to heart talks on shaded benches and exchanged beautifully penned letters.
In this shop, the twins share one arrow and a common purpose – to release their arrow into unsuspecting humans and send them into the tizzies and trifles of love.
Poets, from Shakespeare to William Carlos Williams, extol the virtues, joy, pitfalls and pratfalls of love, a human condition celebrated on Valentine’s Day with flowers, cards, gifts, fond words, grand gestures.
None are immune from Cupid’s arrows and these grinning faces already have plans for this evening when they will fly out a partially opened window, buzz the town, and find victims.
Once shot by an arrow the results are not fatal, but wounded lovers sometimes yearn for death instead of living with the pangs of love.
Love and lust have little in common but they often bump each other in the night.
Along the Hotel Zone main road in Tulum, Mexico there are diversions.
There are small coffee shops that sell Mexican coffee, flavored with sugar, and delicious pastries for individual palates. Restaurants push seafood, Indian food, Italian, Chinese, Vegan and Mexican cuisine.Bars serve late at night and hotels have Vacancy signs hanging where they can be seen. Boutiques display designer clothes for women who need to look good, always, whether they are on the beach, dancing in a disco, taking kids to soccer practice or listening to pickup lines in the grocery.
Moments before this photo is snapped, a long legged woman in red, positions two mannikins on the street in front of her shop.She carries one out to the street under her arm and stands it next to the other.
With both mannikins positioned she turns and strides back to open her business. It is early in the morning and only a few vehicles are on the road. Light filters through trees and through her loose fitting dress that moves seductively as she walks.
It is not difficult to see who is and who isn’t a mannikin.