Archive for Mexico

Crocodiles and Floss Threaders

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 17, 2011 by davegerry

I know. I know. I have been woefully neglectful of this blog for a number of weeks and I apologize. I have no excuses except for laziness and the fact that every writer can only go to the well so often. I have been distracted with actually trying to earn a living . Oh, the burdens of real life!

The Frau and I have just returned from anther sojourn to Mexico. It is, as you know if you read here regularly, one of my favourite places on the planet. (see Missing Mexico)

The Mexican tourism industry has been taking it squarely in the monongalulus for a few years now…a situation that many Mexicans blame on the main stream media and on various American lobbyists intent on keeping local vacation dollars at home. Do I really need to remind people that Mexico is a big, big country with an overwhelmingly friendly population and, despite the violence you hear about in isolated trouble spots, you have a greater chance of being bonked by a coconut than winged by an errant bullet?

I guess I do. And now I have.

Every time we visit Mexico my wife goes on an intense hunt for some undiscoverable object. We know it’ll be a fruitless search but that doesn’t stop us from pounding untold cobblestoned miles in the blazing heat.  One year the quest was for a specific type of sexy sandal. There are a lot of shoe stores in Puerto Vallarta (in every major Mexican city) and we visited them all. We looked at thousands of sexy sandals and each pair lacked some mystical, intangible quality known only to the Frau. This, you learn, is when husbands earn their stripes.

Not the shoes.

This year she forgot her dental floss threader. I guess it’s a device that helps push floss through your teeth..I really don’t know. If you think finding the right shoe is a challenge you should try explaining (in broken Spanish) the concept of the floss threader to a Mexican pharmacist or store clerk. Needless to say, we never found them.

We always like to get off the beaten path a bit so we engaged the services of a terrific guide named Roberto who ran us up the coast to the old city of San Blas for a day. A couple of years ago we took Roberto’s tour to the former silver mining enclave of San Sebastion in the mountains beyond Puerto Vallarta.This time we nibbled along the way on such local roadside and beachfront goodies as freshly caught red snapper and shrimp, soft, young coconut flesh in lime juice and chilli powder and lovely golden segments of jackfruit…pretty much right off the tree. The creamy jackfruit segments tasted a lot like candy and I kept waiting to see if it would exit my system as quickly as it entered…but, gastrointestinally, all was calm.

Roberto and Dave noshing enroute to San Blas

Roberto (Robert) is a Canadian expat with a quick wit, a storehouse of local knowledge and a personalized approach to touring that I greatly prefer to the cattle drive ambiance of group sightseeing. With tourism suffering, you can probably negotiate yourself a better deal than the stated rates. Check him out at : www.tourwithroberto.com

If you ever get to San Blas throw back a few beers at Billy Bob’s bar. It’s right on the main drag. It’s the place with the ten foot crocodile named Fluffy in the back. God, I love this country.

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Missing Mexico

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 4, 2010 by davegerry

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I lay awake last night missing Mexico. These nocturnal visions were of neither the beach nor buckets of Dos Equis. I’m talking about the parts of Mexico that got under my skin and into my heart in dozens of quiet, reflective moments over the course of many years.

There is just something intangible that pulls you to one place over another. Maybe it was the mood you were in at that particular stage of your life that made such a deep connection. You can go back and often find it isn’t there anymore because, I suppose, you’re not the same anymore. But that has never happened to me in Mexico. Whatever reached me then..reaches me still. I suppose I will be forever smitten.

I produced two television documentaries in Mexico and both were handed to me on a silver platter. The boss, whom I think had just finished a round of golf with the Mexican consul general, called me into his office and said, ‘ The Mexican tourism people want to show Canadians the parts of their country that we rarely visit. Do you want to go?’ God bless that morning tee time!

So I went. I took a very talented cameraman, Mark Filmer (perfect name for a cameraman) and we were off to the heart of the country. We worked our way through some of Mexico’s colonial treasures and trundled across the Sierra Madre. We got hung up at train stations and bus depots and tried to stick to an impossible schedule while sometimes jamming our equipment into Volkswagen Beetles or into packs atop donkeys. And through it all we saw the kinds of things that you’ll never see if you never pull your toes out of the sand and emerge from under the palapa.

And there is no doubt that it spoiled me a bit. So what I am left with is a kind of sentimental slide show that flickers across my field of vision and reminds me of how much I miss the place. Here’s a random collection of images that reside in my mind’s eye. If you’ve got an ounce of sense you’ll get off the damn beach and seek some of this for yourself.

I see a dark, empty street around midnight in Los Mochis where Mark Filmer is able, somehow..without a single shred of Spanish…to persuade a group of teenagers in a nearby park to turn down their car radios so we can get a perfectly quiet audio track.

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=mexico+city&iid=208719″ src=”0205/2c379785-df72-4d77-ba03-cf11c76664e5.jpg?adImageId=12751852&imageId=208719″ width=”234″ height=”350″ /]  I see an elderly woman devotedly crawling on bloodied knees toward the main alter in a basilica in the colonial town of Tlaxcala.

I see a hoard of gleeful, uniformed schoolchildren running rampant in the subterranean confines of the Tepanapa pyramid in Cholula.

I see a wedding party of bride, groom, a local band and people holding live turkeys walking a dusty country road somewhere outside a village near Oaxaca and I remember the unflinching hospitality as they invited both of us, complete strangers, to tag along.

I see the two of us bouncing along while sitting atop a pile of propane tanks in the back of a pickup truck trying to make our way from one remote mountain village to another because the train simply didn’t show up that day. I remember wondering if we would hear our final boom.

I see countless smooching couples in countless Mexican parks and zocalos. I remember feeling a tad envious of all that unbridled latin lust.  I can’t recall how many times my head damn near spun off trying to catch a fleeting glimpse of some passing Mexican beauty. I remember their eyes. Boy, do I remember their eyes!

I see myself crawling on a ledge of the Copper Canyon, looking straight down into an unbelievable void, feeling a little weak at the knees and hoping that Filmer would hurry up and get the shot before I just pitched, like a flailing Wallenda, into the bottomless crevasse.

No guts, no glory

I see a man standing in the centre of his family cave near the mountain town of Creel. It was his father’s cave before him..and his grandfather’s cave before that. I remember thinking that it was a damn cosy cave as caves go and then wondering, coming where I came from, if I had any right to feel that way at all.

A third generation cave near Creel

There is much, much more of course and I have two documentaries that I can watch anytime to refresh my memory. But I don’t need them. I prefer to play it in my mind rather than watch it on a screen. It somehow seems a little purer that way.

Did I eventually make it to the beach? Oh sure. We took our two sons to Cancun and watched them disappear into a swirling haze of tequila volleyball tournaments and nightclub foam parties. That wasn’t Mexico to me..but try telling that to the kids.

Then there is Puerto Vallarta which I have found to be a suitable blend of both the old and the new. When we go we stay right in the old town and one night ,on that last visit, long after my wife had gone to bed, I remember standing on a hillside balcony and watching a massive thunderstorm knock the entire Bay of Banderas into blackness. It doesn’t happen that often, they say. Within a few minutes there were thousands of candles being lit in the windows below. And I had to smile because it was another moment. Another gift. Mexico always fills me up whenever I’m feeling low.

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A postscript. Mark Filmer died of lymphoma a few years back. We had shot five documentaries together. Overall, he was the best cameraman I’d worked with in more than thirty years of broadcasting. And he was a damn fine travelling companion too. I guess you’ll have to take my word that everything I say happened in Mexico really happened because the only other guy who can confirm it is gone. I miss him a lot.

Filmer, the filmer, at the Copper Canyon