From the Balcony

By Molly Williams

From the third floor balcony of the condo we rent overlooking Playa de los Muertos, we can almost reach out and touch the mariachis on the malecon. They could touch us, too, if the tip jar could reach, but music is abundant so this one is gratis. My favorites are the groups in black and silver, with a horn section and a really big bass. You know it is the shank of the afternoon when the big bass comes along. The mariachi more than anything else sounds like Mexico – trill, steel guitar, hi-ya-ya. Like everything else here the sweet Cielito Lindo is not the bargain it used to be, but the feeling it evokes is the same; longing and love.
From up here the rhythm of the beach and the malecon is like that of the waves – constantly changing yet essentially the same. Earliest out are the exercisers stretching, yoga-ing. Then the ex-pats – Americans and Canadians who spend months at a time here meeting for morning walks and coffees, sometimes inexplicable griping about some or another aspect of life here in this foreign place they have deliberately chosen. The unreliability of repair service, the labyrinthine style of civil service, post office, banking, etc. I suppose it’s human nature to try to adapt our environments, but as the Eagles said “I don’t know why you’d call someplace paradise and kiss it goodbye.”
The hardest working people in PV have to be Rafael and his crew, part of the wait staff at the beachside restaurant on the main floor of the condo building. I have never made it the balcony in the pre full light hours without one of them already out there, raking the sand in a Sisyphysian attempt to tame the beach, setting out table and chairs for the day’s play, picking up the night’s refuse.
They set out napkins and shakers, starting the breakfast fun which will morph into desemadoras and buckets of beer by noon. All day, every day, the crew back and forth, with cheer and clean white shorts and socks, possibly wondering why they have been cursed/blessed with this position in the sun. The cruise ship emerges on the horizon, materializing out of the mist smaller than my toenail. I have an odd fascination with these lumbering monsters – I announce their presence each morning and wave their departure into the sunset like some lovesick stateside war bride. I love being ON a cruise ship, but I am mesmerized by their slow approaching attack on this unsuspecting port town, belching out braceleted fun-shippers who tear up and down the shore in jet skis and banana boats.
The vendors and the excursioners love these day-trippers, but I am saddened that they never see the real PV I love. When they come back for a longer visit, I wonder if they feel someone has switched out the town on them.
My daughter finds this affair I have with the ships amusing. It is one of the ways I mark time here, though – days go by, and then next Wednesday the Carnival ship comes again, and a week is gone.
The rhythms of the day swell past the balcony, unhinging the restlessness of home, and allowing me the luxury of time; time to watch, listen, indulge.
Time to be in the present.
Time to be.

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