Saturday, June 06, 2015

Fear and loathing in SF and MSP

Another bid for love, another broken heart. 

Louise Erdrich wrote in The Painted Drum:

Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won't either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.
Love is my driving force, the impulse that guides me to make love connections with friends, family, lovers. And the quest for that elusive partnership with a kindred spirit who can love and accept me as I am now, with all my contradictions and unfathomable depths, as well as inspire me to evolve to a higher self. Yet as a woman of 55, a living my life alone is ever more likely. 

In a bar in Chinatown last November, I met a gal who managed a dating service. I love Chinatown and savor those narrow, cluttered streets, scouring the novelty shops in search of special gifts for friends or a bauble for myself each time I visit the beautiful pastel city. On a recent trip I made my usual stop for a Mai Tai at Li Po, a fabulously kitchy dive bar on Grant. After greeting my neighbor on the stool beside me and learning her line of work, I shared my observation that the dating pool for women my age is shrinking. Instead of reassuring me, she agreed. She said studies have found that most men want to be with a woman at least 10 years their junior. That means men my age are not looking for me. If I'm lucky, I'll pique the curiosity of a game 65- to -70-year-old.

Add to that fun fact the state of most men my age: fat, unambitious, uninspiring, inflexible. As women are gaining insight and talent with those grey hairs, men are becoming more insular, stodgy and unkempt. And so many of them can't get it up or keep it up. Or they get knocked out after the first round. 

For three years I've lamented the scarcity of men who fit my criteria for an acceptable partner. For one thing, let's be honest, he needs to be physically attractive to me, preferably sexy as fuck. Of course he must be reliable, responsible, compassionate, intelligent, a good and loyal friend, generous with affection, respect and praise. He needs to work hard as well as play hard. He must be ambitious - for success or learning or travel or wisdom or experience or all of the above. Also, I want him to want me and be willing to put in some effort to get me. So, when I met a guy who fit this fairly fussy description, I was so excited I literally bounced and clapped for joy. Goody! A unicorn!

Fast-forward to the day we ended the romance. As if the heartache and anger and regret and longing and the disappointment of unrequited love weren't enough, there's the existential anxiety that accompanies the realization that this may have been my last shot.

What's the one line you're loathe to hear but can't avoid? "You will meet someone else." He says it, your friends say it, your mother says it. But they know and you know odds are not in your favor. What's more, now that you're over 50, most likely you won't

It's different for men. For the guy I just broke up with, the unicorn, there are hundreds, probably thousands of delightful, intelligent, lovely, soulful women who would welcome his attention; he has only to turn his head in their direction. 

But unicorns are rare. And that awareness presses down on me with the weight of the ocean, and feels like what water flooding the lungs must feel like, what drowning must feel like, adrenaline spurting through your body, head pounding, limbs flailing, desperate for air.

Before I met him, the ocean was calm; I floated blissfully atop the soft waves, kissed by the sun of a contented life and many close friendships. But the break-up caused the sea to swell and crash and pull me under. As a kid in Hawaii and L.A., I was pulled down and spun around by the undertow. It's frightening and hard not to panic. But you have to stay calm and trust your instincts to guide you back to the surface. At last you surface and crawl back onto the beach, gasping for air, clutching the sand for dear life.

I've been pulled down by the undertow too many times. But fear of the undertow is not enough to keep me off the beach.


Enjoy this stroll through Chinatown (these images haven't been retouched. My photog friend Jew would cringe at the sight.)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Single White Female Seeks Family

4:00 a.m.
It's a weird place I'm in, a transitional space, a way-station between one life and another. I've been in studio #303 for a year now, but hardly know anyone in the building. I used to make friends easily; these days it seems like I'm repelling people. 

The three guys I’ve been hanging out with most recently, having become friends since I started this new journey, have gone off me for various reasons. One I had to force out, the pain of loving him more frequent than the pleasure of it; the second I guess I scared away; and the third I haven’t yet figured out, except perhaps I was too generous and allowed him to take me for granted. I think they will each gravitate back to some degree, but I need to embody more equanimity and less attachment. This is a challenge, since the thing I crave the most and thrive on is intimacy.

I have many close friends, whom I've cultivated over the 28 years I've lived in Minnesota, but it seems like I'm chasing them. To catch up to them, I have to travel to their lives to spend time with them. When I get there, I'm heartily welcomed and the connections are deep and meaningful, but then I come back to my life alone.

It feels like it did when I first moved here, September 23, 1985, trying to fit in, find a community, form a posse. Is it the curse of the single, white female, or is this life in the 21st century? Or just life in Minnesota.

Last time I was single was in my 30s. My community was Sweeney’s. We lived together and worked together. After work we partied all night together. On days off we went on shopping sprees together. For vacations we traveled together. I want that back! I want Entourage, Friends, How I Met Your Mother.

When I left my marriage I expected all that to fall into place. If I were gay, I’d have a ready-made community. Or Jewish, where there’d be plenty of enthusiastic matchmakers to set me up. But I’m not, so I’ve joined 20 groups in search of people who enjoy similar activities – several groups of dancers, one of beaders, but mostly of socializers of various persuasions – in my quest for a band of like-minded folk.

Here’s what I want: a tribe of intelligent, fun-loving freaks to accept me into their circle. I want to be with people who value intimacy and authenticity, who care for and nurture each other and watch each other’s backs. I want to be part of a family of conscientious objectors who are bucking convention and creating a model for a peaceful and loving society based on spirit and kinship.

AND I want a tall, gorgeous bohemian to love and respect and inspire me to greatness. I want affection and acceptance of all the personalities and contradictions that inhabit this body of mine. I want him to care about his health and the food he eats, but not so seriously that an infrequent indulgence on pizza or fries is out of the question. I want him to care about his appearance, have European sensibilities with regards to tastes, dress and cultural attitudes. I want him to be a gentleman AND a feminist, well-versed and well-traveled. I want to feel easy and safe and appreciated AND have freedom to engage my other relationships without jealousy. I want him to be responsible for his promises. I want him to go out of his way for me, make an effort, step up. I want him to have money and be generous but not irresponsible with it. I want him to be engaged, creative and curious, with plenty of friends and a full and interesting history.

Is that too much to ask?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Brazil, 1985 Part 3: Sleepless in Recife

January 24 - 3:37 am

Can't sleep.
First it was the heat.
Then the tinkle-wobble-whirring of the ceiling fan.
Turn off the fan.
Too hot.
Start to doze off and these itches erupt, one on the ankle,
another on the back
the arm . . . Scratch.
Gotta have a drink of water.
Get up, drink, lie down again.
Now I've gotta pee . . . . . . . . .
Back to bed.
Dreams start to take over but
they're nightmares of
kidnapping and rape
I force it out of my head and
now I'm awake again.
Itches pop up
this time in different places.
I'm convinced there's little
bed bugs; I've already felt
sand in the bed.
My mind starts to imagine
which soon turns to horrible thoughts:
What if a gang of gunmen
forced their way into the hotel and
pillaged the place, shooting everybody
dead with machine guns?
There's a little dog barking.
I'd slather his tail with
peanut butter and stick it
to a sheet of sandpaper
if I could.
The sound of a metal door rattling.
Oh my god, it's the gunmen.
Get up and look out the window
trying to see what's happening
in the lobby from a reflection
in a car window.
Can't see anything.
I couldn't jump from this high.
Listen at the door.
Back to bed.
Don't think any bad thoughts
Damn it!
Scratch Scratch
Fuck! Get out the
Calamine lotion
and feel around for bites.
WOW that's a big one
'bout the size of a quarter!
stop itching everybody
I refuse to scratch anymore . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
scratch scratch scratch
Now I've gotta go to the bathroom again.
What time is it anyway?
Scratch scratch
God, there's a big one right in the
middle of my forehead.
I feel like a triclops.
Head itches
legs itch
Oh no, what if I get lice?
Gotta check this out.
Light on, examining.
Find nothing but
that doesn't mean anything.
Can't sleep
might as well turn the fan
back on.
Oh great.
Sun's coming up.
maybe I can get up to the roof
to take pictures?
I'll have to take 'em from
my window here.
Try different shutter speeds.
one will come out.
Well, the birds are really
singin' now.
Guess I'm not
going to sleep
scratch scratch scratch

Brazil, 1985 Part 2: Thumbs Up

January 21
I have absolutely no idea what time it is. It's dark, that's all I can say, and we're hurling into the night . . .one more night, one more night, and I'll never want to get on a bus again. The highway we're on is full of ruts and I swear it's as narrow a one-laner. But no, it's two lanes and vehicles just slow down as they meet one another in opposing directions. We go slow, we go fast, we stop at a bus station in little roadside hamlets full of flies and it gets hotter the farther we go. A rolling dream of sleepless dreams and lobbing along this highway that seems to be going nowhere.

I like it here. One funny thing: I have a habit of flashing the OK hand signal when asked if I like something or it's the thing I'm asking for (which happens countless times each day). I've gotten a lot of strange looks and wondered what that was about. Until I learned that the OK sign in the U.S. means "fuck you up your ass" in Brazil. Not too good when you flash the sign to a merchant. I slap my hands a lot, now, and cover a grin and say, "no, no, I meant this." Here, it's thumbs up, that's the sign for "right on."

Another truck stop, here we are again. Everyone pile out, 15 minutes to get something to drink or to use the bathroom or inspect the wares of the local artisans: sandals, hats, t-shirts, dolls, etc. I'm looking for a new pair of sandals but haven't found the right ones yet.

January 22 - Recife
I'm here I'm here!! I'm in my very own hotel room and I took a shower and changed my clothes and put on lipstick and painted my fingernails. I'm gonna go to the bank and buy my return ticket for late Friday or Saturday morning. That gives me four days. I can take a bus to the beach or to town. My room is great, with a bathroom and a fridge stocked with guarana and beer and coke and a big fan and a window on the street. It's what I've always dreamed of!! My feet and ankles are all swollen from the bus ride. I'm here! In Recife by the ocean listening to Michael Franks on my headphones!! Oh long-awaited ecstasy!!

Brazil, 1985 Part 1: The Observer

[In December, 1984, I moved from San Francisco to Brazil to live on the beach in an exotic land and teach English, the ink still wet on my TESL certificate. I spent about a month in the interior with a Brazilian friend and work colleague named Julio (pronounce the 'J') who decided it was time to go back to see his family after a four-or-five-year absence. Julio's family didn't know (or didn't want to know) that he was gay and he tried to pass me off as his girlfriend. That, as well as my stubborn independence, caused friction between us, and, as much as I adored his family, I was anxious to be on my own and away from them. I had recently been offered two jobs in the small town of Rio Verde where Julio's father, a lawyer, lived. But I got on a bus headed for the coast to see what was what. I was to transfer buses in Belo Horizonte, about the halfway mark between Rio Verde and Recife, on the northeast coast of Brazil. These entries are from my journal.]

January 20

North by northeast - bound for Recife from Belo Horizonte.

"Strange sounding places
With strange sounding names
Calling, calling me"
Spent the entire day - 13 hours - in Belo Horizonte. Arrived at 8 am after an all night bus ride and wandered around the bus station for two hours, about ready to cry from needing sleep, seeing the long day ahead of me and not knowing how to kill it.

I asked a lady at a newspaper stand, where's a good place to go on Sunday? She gave me the name of a place. I got in a cab, traveled three blocks before finding out that the place was really far - about 15 kilometers - and got out of the cab at the bus station again. Went into the bus station, ate two slices of pizza, read a few pages of Jack Kerouac's "The Town and the City," about fell asleep, and decided to find out how much a hotel room would cost for few hours of sleep.

It cost 9000 [cruzerios, at that time, I think] so I got some nervous, weird dream-filled sleep in a funky, moldy-smelling hotel room, and felt much better and ready to head out into the world. I figured I'd get a juice and then catch the Hitchcock flick, "The Trouble with Harry" or "La Traviata" if I could find that theater. After my favorite liquada [fresh squeezed, blended juice] of papaya and orange, I kept walking until I found a park. Men eyeing me without conscience, people in row boats on a green slime pond, lush trees and palms everywhere, all wet from rain. I sat by a guy singing and playing guitar and tried to look Brazilian and casual in the environment. A girl of mid-late 20s walked past me and we smiled at each other. She sat next to me and commented on weather. We talked for a while until it started raining. Then we went and had a beer in a loncharia. I never did see the movie. At one bar, a guy winked at her and she showed him the tip of her tongue and he came over to meet her! So they talked and talked and I smiled and pretended to understand at least half of what they were saying. I had frango [rooster] and rice for dinner and they walked me to the bust station.

Now I'm listening to the Roches on a dark bus and my batteries are running low. I have so many thoughts and impressions but I tell myself, "don't think so much, just try to be here now." But I realize I am an observer on the wheeling journey called life. The other day, Julio's cousin, Nielha had a baby. There were several family members - about eight including the father - standing outside the room, waiting to hear its first cries. Everyone thought it was a girl when they heard it cry: "Chora de mulher!" (cries of a woman) they exclaimed. But when the baby was brought out into the waiting area, they saw that it was a boy because his ears weren't pierced. The father was about to cry, sitting on a bed in an adjacent room, and I went in to hug him and rub his neck, 'cause I was about to cry myself and I figured he'd appreciate the support. I was so surprised to see that nobody else touched him, until I understood that this show of emotion was not rare or something that needed comforting. It was natural and everyone was feeling it.

I got two job proposals in Rio Verde that I've accepted, one teaching kids between high school and university level literature and grammar, and the other giving conversation classes. With both salaries I'll be earning a million a month [about $200]. Sound great, eh? And I like Rio Verde and the family well enough to stay there for a couple or three semesters, until we save enough to move to the coast. My trip now is to see what the situations are, how much I'd be paid at a school there, how much is rent and the cost of living, etc. And, of course, to see the ocean once before I'm shut in by thousands of miles of land that takes so long to cross.

Saturday, August 03, 2013


The past two months have been a tumult. I spent all of June in a deep funk, with bi-weekly sobbing melt-downs and anxiety-laced dreams. My emotional state improved in July, getting trapped in the vortex of self-pity less frequently, symptoms of happiness persisting through the weeks. Now it's August, and I'm getting my mojo back if it kills me.

Reflecting on it (obsessing about it) - reading over my text messages and private Facebook notes, written to him, of course, when I was missing him - I see that I had already predicted our demise, almost from the beginning. My letters ache with pleas for more affection, for deeper connection. I read the signs of desperation, the knowing that he would never lust for me as I did for him. But the universe was responding to my request for a do-over, a re-igniting of my divine spark, and I accepted him as I would a gag birthday gift: not what I was hoping for, but given out of love, a shiny and delightful plaything all the same.

I miss him. Some moments I choke on the absence of him. It was such a whirlwind of music and laughter, life without him is a let-down. Banal. Pedestrian. Loving that manic-depressive was exhilarating. Everyone and everything else is boring by comparison.

We had an involuntary attraction, polar opposites pulled to each other like magnets. There were many, many happy days when he shined his light on me. I knew in my bones he was in love with me and I was euphoric. I was ageless and time stood still. Then the clouds rolled in and he would withdraw and shut me out. I became miserable, certain that he would realize the folly of our attachment, that he'd break the connection and I'd never feel him near me again.

The Brazilians have a word that intimately describes the feeling: saudade. It means missing someone or something, but there's an added sentiment of existential yearning that goes beyond the physical or emotional. Pronounced "Sow-DA-gee," Wikipedia says of saudade:

"A Portuguese and Galician word that has no direct translation in English . . . it describes a deep emotional state of nostalgia or deeply melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return . . . In fact, one can have saudade of someone whom one is with, but have some feeling of loss towards the past or the future." 
I feel saudade for my divine spark. I called him my divine spark, although I recognize intellectually that it resides within me, that he just brought the lighter. But, emotionally, I know that loving connections are the torch that lights a meaningful life.

My cup has been filled to the brim with loving connections. And I don't mean to sound like an ingrate: I love and appreciate my friends and all the beautiful people who have shared my life's journey; I don't trivialize or take for granted my friendships. But, while there have been many men who claimed to love me, no man has gone out of his way for me or made an effort to cultivate a partnership. No man has stepped up for me.


And letting go of yet another lover feels like letting go of the chance of love ever shining on me again.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Mexico 1987, Part 10: The Long Way Home

Dec 3
San Diego
This isn't Mexico. This bus is leaving on time, a bus much different than the bus I got off of about 48 hours ago. THAT bus was a Mexican bus. We got on with tickets that assigned us seats 11 and 12, but those seats were taken and the driver, not willing to honor our assignments, offered us 2 different, non-adjacent seats. I said no, we had to sit together. A 36-hour bus ride faced us and neither of us wanted to sleep on any strange Mexican shoulders. The only seats left together were 35 and 36, which I accepted blindly, having just been sent off from Andele's with 2 tequila slammers and not realizing those seats were right in front of the bathroom. It was the first time I hadn't gotten the seats I was assigned; usually they were fussy about keeping you in your proper space. But as long as we were together, I didn't care. Until, of course, we saw the seats. They reclined about an inch, no more, and the window seat was broken and slid forward and back with the jiggling motion of the bus.

Dec 11
North to Tijuana
We pulled out of the P.V. bus station at 8:40 pm., 40 minutes late. In the first few kilometers it became clear that the trip was to be horrific. It was impossible to sleep sitting bolt up right, with your head falling front, or to one side or another, and the stench from the toilet (which broke down shortly after we left the station) was sickening.

That's when Window Wars began. In the window seat in front of us was a father of 6, all sitting beside him and across the aisle. He was in charge of 2 of the bigger children and his wife across the aisle tried to keep the other 4, of varying size, in check. Tamar was at the window, which closed just beside the head of the father, so that he had control of it. As we drove out of town the window was open, but once we were on the highway one of the drivers asked everyone to shut the windows so they could turn on the air conditioning. With the windows closed, the smell of urine thickened around us and Tamar cracked the window again, just to get a small but steady stream of fresh, breathable air. Then, after a while, the father felt the draft and closed the window. Tamar waited a few minutes for him to nod off, then opened it again. This went on all night in about 15 minute intervals.

Four people got off in Mazatlan 8 hours later and I asked one of the bus drivers if we could change seats. There were seats available now, I explained, and since we were originally assigned seats 11 and 12, I thought it only fair that we be moved up now. But the driver was already giving our seats to older, bigger Mexican women and, he kindly explained to me, it wasn't possible to move us. I reminded him that 4 people had gotten off and I tried to impress upon him the inhumane conditions we had been forced into in those seats in the back of the bus. But he was not moving us and said we'd have to wait until Obregon to change seats, sometime the next day. This seemed less than reasonable but we had to accept it, under the circumstances. At least we'd get some sleep tomorrow. We just had to make it through tomorrow. Then we saw on the map that Obregon was nearly 3/4 of the way to Tijuana, a very dim light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

I was sitting by the window now; it was 6am and my turn to play Window Wars. I had my head pressed against the window to breathe in the skinny stream of air from the open crack. I had just begun to fall asleep when Tamar said, in a level yet forceful tone, "Goddamit. Monique, open the window." In my daze I hesitated, but she was adamant. Then I saw why. A pregnant woman, trying to make it quickly to the bathroom, had just thrown up on Tamar's chair. Tamar had just leaned up against the seat in front of her and was considering waking me up to switch when the wretch occurred. It was dripping down the back of her seat and had slightly wetted her shirt and skirt. She had to ride that way for at least another hour before we made a stop and were able to reach our bags.

Tired and angry, I approached the second driver at the next station, while Tamar changed clothes in the bathroom. I tried to calmly explain this new predicament and our more urgent need for new seats. He cleared the bus and sent a man to clean up the mess, and I thought he was going to rearrange us, putting single passengers together to make room for us, making it so no one had to have those miserable seats. But he intended no such thing. I had seen people retrieve their luggage and disembark and I again reiterated the problem, pointing to a very disheartened Tamar, stressing the fact that she had just changed clothes and we were not about to sit back in those dirty seats again. But the driver most graciously pointed out something I had not yet realized: This was not the United States, this was MEXICO!

Oh! Of course, that's why we have to suffer! I tried to smile because tears were roiling up into my throat and I didn't want to give the driver the satisfaction of seeing me cry. We retook seats 35 and 36, covering the pukey seat with a towel, staring blankly out at the Mexican desert rolling by. By noon, the sun got very hot by the window and Tamar moved to an empty window seat on the other side of the aisle. When the mother of 6 - who smacked her kids every time they so much as squirmed - saw that the seat beside me was vacant, she told the most hyperactive son to sit there. He had been playing on the floor and his white shirt and white pants and every other exposed part of his body were nearly black with bus filth. I didn't want him sitting next to me and I glared at him. That deterred him a little, and he grubbed a little more on the bus floor. But eventually, mother's glare won out and he slid onto the seat beside me.

Down the road a ways, immigration officials (we were told) pulled the bus over. We had to take all our baggage off the bus and they wanted to go through all of it. The night before, when they had stopped us, they had just asked to see our passports or identification cards. They took a guy and a woman traveling with him off the bus - who, we guessed, didn't have an ID - and we continued on without them. Now everyone stood out in the desert sun fanning themselves while the officers picked through our bags for guns or contraband.

Back on the bus, the driver decided it was time to try that old air conditioner again. Everyone closed their windows and waited for the rush of air that we so deserved on this first class bus. But it just got hotter, the stench from the bathroom thickening, and I could feel the bile rising in my stomach. Back to Window Wars. I leaned forward so I could inhale the air from the cracked window. The kid in the blackened white clothes was asleep in the seat beside me and, except for the nausea, it was somewhat peaceful.

Pretty soon, people started figuring out that this was Mexico and not the U.S. and that the air conditioner on this first class, air-conditioned bus didn't work and they opened the windows again. Then, of course, we came to another station. The first bus driver, now dubbed "Chuckles" by Tamar, came back to see what seats could be offered to new passengers and became slightly miffed when he saw the dirty boy asleep in the seat where Tamar should have and Tamar in the seat that should occupy someone else. He woke up the boy and put him back in one of the 4 seats (containing the family of 8) and asked Tamar to retake her assigned seat. I said, "What did it matter? That seat was vacant and clean and by a window." And he said, "Bueno, but that's the seats you'll keep." And I said, "Oh no, you said we'd be moved up in Obregon." And he sort of winced and screwed his face up and rolled his eyes and threw his hands upward as he pivoted back up the aisle. Tamar and I grinned at each other across the aisle - this was surely somewhat of a coup.

At about 4 a.m. we hit Obregon. After everyone was off the bus, it disappeared to get cleaned or filled with gas or something, and everyone stocked up on bus station food, which in Mexico is homemade food like tacos or tamales that a woman made in her kitchen and travel books say you shouldn't trust. The bus was gone for quite a while and, when we looked around, we didn't recognize anyone. I wondered aloud if Chuckles had gotten the last laugh and left us there. It wouldn't have surprised either one of us. It would even have been funny. Things were so bad by then, all you could do was laugh. But the bus reappeared and Tamar and I smiled at Chuckles and he finally smiled back. Then he disappeared with the seating assignment. Tamar said to his absent self: "Please don't give us new seats. We love our seats. We're just happy Americans in Mexico."

We boarded the bus and I looked at Chuckles for that long-awaited seat change, our release from hell. He had assigned us 15 and 16 - we were free!! As we took our seats across from the fat Mexican ladies who had taken our originally-assigned seats back in P.V., the closest one smiled and said, "So, you're always a winner." We still had about 15 hours to go and this was Mexico, not the U.S.

I just smiled back.

[Tamar just reminded me that, when we got to the border in Tijuana, we were pulled behind closed doors by men in white, short-sleeved shirts, badges and guns and asked to open our luggage. I had bought some tea for one of my friends back home who had recently developed ulcers - I was assured the tea would cure them, but it did look a lot like the shake of those days - and we had to explain what it was. After they pawed our stuff and sniffed my bag of tea, they eventually let us pass]

Mexico 1987, Part 9: Holiday! Celebrate!

Nov 29
Puerto Vallarta
Oh lord, how do I even start? We're leaving Puerto Vallarta (for the 2nd time) in 6 hours. A guy who's been bothering to play his guitar for us for the past week is here on the beach, trying to woo Tamar, singing - well, making up words to some song and strumming - to her. It's hard to keep from laughing. Oh good, he's gone.

This is a very long story, which starts on November 18 when I got to P.V. at 6:30 in the evening and Tamar was already here. We cleaned up and took off to find a good margarita, which brought us to Carlos O'Brian's. That rowdy place turned out to be our home away from home and provided us with unlimited men, booze, dancing, laughing . . . FUN!

The first guy we met was from Yugoslavia. He offered us stools at his table and said, "Mi casa es su casa," to which Tamar replied, "Mi cerveza es su cerveza!" That night is somewhat of a blur - it is still taking us a while to remember. One guy, Mr. Carmel, kissed my tattoo when I wasn't looking and got a swift reprimand from Tamar on the dos and donts of tattoos. I found a guy just perfect for Karin - tall, blond, mustache, muscular, showing off his chest with his shirt left unbuttoned to his navel. Mr. Chest, from Vancouver. He was a regular.

Somehow Tamar wound up sitting with two Germans who spoke very little English, but we were already a few sheets to the wind and not looking for conversation. I believe my guy was quite handsome - and kissed great! After Carlos O'Brian's kicked everyone out we somehow found our way to a disco - we didn't know the name of it for another 2 days of partying there - and danced until 4am when the place closes. But even after the bars close, the ocean is still open, and while Tamar and her German necked on the sand, my German and I went swimming!

[That's all I wrote about our stay. Madonna's "Holiday" and the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues," on rotation at Carlos O'Brian's, are songs that will forever remind me of those heady, carefree days on my first trip to P.V. We partied until dawn, slept 'til noon, then languished on the beach drinking fruity cocktails until sunset. We imbibed countless margaritas and queso fundido, and  made dozens of friends - both tourists and locals. In the market, where I thought bartering was expected, Tamar taught me that quibbling over a few dollars when our lives are so rich is not admirable. Thanks, gf, for that valuable lesson.]

Rolo, our favorite waiter under the
palapas on Playa de los Muertos

Both these photos are marked by
a flood that ruined all but a
few photos from that trip.

Mexico 1987, Part 8: Coffee & Cigarettes

Nov 15
Spent most of the day daydreaming, the rest of it with Raoul Roquet and his friend Antonio de la Plata, a once-great Spanish tenor. We had lunch at his house; Aidee is sick with a bad flu. My daydreams were - are still - romantic ones. Reading an article in Harper's about detective stories, I recall what Roberto says about his smoking filterless cigarettes: "I smoke Lucky Strikes. Marlowe, Tom Waits and I smoke Lucky Strikes." Scorpios are so naturally poetic, so in tune and intertwined with romance, life as romance, as poetry, it is no wonder that I am so feverishly attracted to them, more than any other sign. Leo's are fiery, true, and the other water signs are romantic, but none can match wit and emotion with such intensity as a Scorpio. Ay, lassie, there are sharks in these waters. Those shark bite bruises on my thigh and shoulder serve as candid reminders.

That last night in Merida, when we celebrated our birthdays and our farewell under a full moon, I, in black, with sharp black eyeliner and all my witch jewelry; he, looking so handsome, freshly shaven but still you could see the dark shadow on that soft face. I gave him my big amethyst because he admired it so and we talked about other realities, that sometimes he thinks he's a bit crazy. His sharp criticisms of U.S. imperialism and his fervent devotion to the revolution, to communism, made me feel ashamed and a little stupid, naive. We ate salad and drank a bottle of wine and two daiquiris, then sat in the park, still talking, still necking. We could become brother and sister, if we lived in the same place, so easy it was for us to communicate, to relate and empathize. I'm not sure that we could survive long as lovers - his fullness of self would soon suffocate me. He is engaged, but the girl doesn't want to marry yet. I picture her with big, dark eyes and thick black hair to her waist. She is prettier than me, obviously. It's the hair. One day I'm going to buy a wig. Roberto gave me a list of suggested readings, even offering to send me the one he was sure I wouldn't be able to find. Communist writers, of course.

Werner was standing at a table full of people outside the bar on the lawn of the Hotel Maria Cristina when I walked up. I had called when I arrived at the bus depot, early, and woke him up, so he knew I was back in Mexico City. Unfortunately for me, his ex-wife and daughter were also expected later and the people at the table were mostly colleagues, partners from Germany, and he had no time to spend with me. He kissed me cordially, the polite German, on each cheek as greeting and delivered the sad news, but I could see in his eyes that he was a little sorry, too, for the bad timing. I sat inside the bar with a margarita, thankful that I had planned to only spend one night and therefore would not be waiting around, hoping to see  him. When he learned I was only there for the day he said, "I'll make time." But I know it was just wishful, lustful thinking. He said he'd finally received my letter - it took about 2 weeks - and in this throaty, grunting voice he said, only loud enough for me to hear, "Very sexual. I almost got a hard on." Which, of course, was my intention. He bought me 2 more margaritas and insisted I call him when I got back to my hotel room and give him the phone number so he could call if he was able to get away. I knew that wouldn't happen, what with his friends and family being there, demanding his presence, and I said so. "I don't want to want you," I said. "No, please, " he rasped. "I want to see you. It's beautiful making love to you." And with a kiss and a grin I was off into the street to find a taxi.

Imagine, after 3 margaritas and nothing to eat, I decided to get out and walk. I ate a steak in a semi-fancy restaurant and then set off in the direction I was told my hotel was in when it started to rain. But RAIN!! I stood in the doorway with a few other people, in the dark wetness, and asked which direction Allende street was in. Per usual, I was given 3 different directions. Finally an older man came along and escorted me to my doorstep, but not before offering to get us a hotel room for the night in which we could stay together. I declined.

I harbored only a faint glimmer of hope that Werner would call in the morning but didn't wait around, I had errands to run, shopping to do. I had so fantasized a sweaty reunion, but that will have to wait. Werner is not very affectionate. In fact, except for the kisses on the cheek and kiss on my bare (tanned!) shoulder, he didn't touch me again until a little kiss goodbye. With him, it seems, kissing is for making love. And one would have to be very comfortable with sitting alone or with finding others to talk to (although when I did that their attentions made him angry) because one would never be the center of attention, except during those raging moments of union - hours really, with him - and after that, his attention is lost on something else: the T.V. or a shower or his room service. After we made love I couldn't get too close. We lied with our legs intertwined, watching T.V. (the Twins game, actually, the World Series winning game) because, he cautioned, he'd get horny again. "Be careful or you may be very sorry." And he wasn't kidding!! Imagine, after 2 hours of fucking he'd still have energy and lust for another round, when my legs were cramped and I could no longer move my hands from the numbness. But we did it again! For 3 days it went on like this and I needed each night to recuperate from total fatigue and frazzle. I felt, at the end of 3 days, like I was on speed or at the butt of a 3-day acid trip, so much energy had been released, passed between us, and taken in. I felt like the end of a frayed wire, spitting and sparking with electricity. I wonder how a Mexican woman (his ex-wife) could handle that lack of affection? I couldn't, if I were in love with him.

I'll have someone like Roberto, who is always touching in one way or another: holding hands, a kiss on the neck or shoulder when you're both sitting quietly reading, not really paying attention to each other. Even at night when we slept, if he'd half awaken or if I moved and awakened him, he'd caress or kiss me. It made it a little hard to sleep at times but I felt wanted  - and what GREAT FEELING! Unfortunately, the love-making always left me wanting more, which is exactly the opposite of sex with Werner. It's as if they were each half of the whole man I want. Werner is rather successful, dressed with style and taste but not stiffness, lives in Mexico City half the year or more and Germany the rest. He speaks 4 languages (that I'm aware of) fluently, has a great thirst for bars and booze and the society of it all, and makes love with a vengeance. Ah, but he's not very attractive, too much a man's man and, although quite a gentleman, it's probably more out of chauvanism than out of true appreciation. Roberto, on the other hand, is attentive (but tends to focus back on himself too often), in support of women's liberation - so much so that his appreciation  for equality has left him dry of that old-fashioned charm called chivalry - and actually enjoyed spending time talking with me, hugging and kissing, or just reading quietly together. He was a good friend and companion, handsome and considerate, well-read, articulate, bi-lingual and shared many of my interests. And he's a Scorpio who loves to travel and meet new people. But his love-making, although it has passion, lacks the real zest I enjoy.

After more than a month of feeling self-conscious about my shoes, but refusing to toil up and down the streets in 3-inch heels like every other Mexican chick 12 years and older (I swear they are born in them), I broke down and bought not one but two pairs of "knock me down and fuck me" pumps, the kind with a closed toe and ankle straps. One pair in blue and one white. I'm wearing the white ones now and they're killing me, but I feel more like one of "them." My Spanish gets worse by the day so I need something to make me feel less alien. Guadalajara is shoe heaven - a shoe store at least every other doorway, some streets have nothing BUT - and I'm here for 5 days! There's something about a new pair of shoes, even if they are cruel shoes. Mexican women don't shave their legs; Brazilian women do, isn't that interesting?

The Roquets are playing in a club here and I would like to go see them but I can't find an escort. I need and escort, see, because they are playing in a whorehouse. Without an escort I would be assumed to be "at work."

I have a pretty cool hotel room in this place I'm staying at. It's an old building with ceilings that vault about twice as high as necessary. You first walk up a curved, marble staircase to the second floor, where there's an indoor patio with ferns and song birds in cages. My room is at the far side, across the large tiled floor. It's bigger than my place in Minneapolis (which isn't saying much) but with furniture: a big bed with great big mushy down pillows, an armoir, a dressing table and mirror, a huge bathroom and small terrace with huge wooden doors with shutters. I even have a small table and chairs and pictures that aren't Jesus holding his heart in his hand or the virgin smiling deftly down upon me, and a little vase with fake flowers in it.  Quite cozy - and hot water! All for 8,000 pesos a night, which doesn't include breakfast - no place here does like they did in Brazil, which is somewhat disappointing.

But, I found a place with REAL COFFEE, Cafe Madrid, just 2 blocks away: an espresso machine, steamed milk and all. Most places serve hot water and the big, family-sized jar of Nescafe or hot milk and the family-sized jar of Nescafe. This just about drove the Italian to tears. But the toast is the same flat white American variety as most other places, so tomorrow I'm having what looked like scones . . . I hope the taxi driver I invited doesn't show up so I can read my magazines in peace.

[I ran into Werner a few years later on a flight to Frankfurt. Roberto and I corresponded and met in Italy twice between 1988 and 1991. We are now Facebook friends]

Monday, July 01, 2013

Mexico 1987, Part 7: B's the Bus, the Bouncing Bus

Nov 8
These jungle birds, with their wild noises and space cries - Star Wars in the morning - make for some pretty crazy dreams. Roberto got off at Valladolid 2 days ago, and I continued on to Tulum, Quintana Roo, to witness for myself the amazing BLOOOOness of the Caribbean and visit my first ruin. Not a stirring sight, until you climb up on the largest pyramid and look out over the sea. EXQUISITE! One has to double-take again and again to believe let alone describe it. Most of the tourists get off the bus at the ruins, then get back on when they're finished looking, probably heading back to Cancun. The rest, a sparse few, stay behind in the one small hotel we're in, or the cabanas on the beach, where I had intended to hang my hammock. There were 2 French girls on the bus with me, and since it was dark, we decided to take the last room - clean sheets and HOT WATER! - and avoid the mosquitoes and the cold morning ocean breezes. The feeling while on the beach is non-belief. You're sure you're going to wake up and find yourself back in some blizzard, scraping ice off your car. Lori says it snowed already.

The Frenchies turn out to be good companions - Natalie and Francoise - and are as enchanted with the paradisiacal (is that a word?) totally dream-like beach, so unbelievably post-card pure and virginal. The sand is nearly as white as paper, and the WATER! Transparent aqua marine to turquoise to azure, clear and clean to the white sand depths. One more day of heaven, then back ON THE BUS.

The buses are old, with windows that don't shut (or open!) all the way and at night the drafts are COLD!! The city buses are plastered with religious pictures, stickers on the window, the crucifix hanging in the front windshield next to the driver. The bus to Celestun had quite an impressive crucifix and I'm sure I felt safer. And there we were, the whole bus LOAD of people, pulling into a gas station to filler up! In the market you can buy and repair just about everything - there was actually a sign hanging in one of the stalls "reparacione de los santos!"  - reparation of saints! For surely they must get broken from unfulfilled wishes. Roberto says in Italy saints who don't grant requests are broken and thrown out.

Nov 11
Back on the bus, in the dark, a pretty fancy bus, too, decked out like a sleezy night club. Red fur around the rear-view mirror, sort of looks like a toilet seat with the lid up. But what's really special are the holes cut out  in the shape of a cross in the black backing of the destination sign at the front of the bus!! Ooooo looks really neat when they turn out the inside lights, like Christmas!!

I'm leaving Palenque, Chiapas, in the pouring rain, weather nobody understands for this time of year. The ruins were FABULOUS, in a clearing in the middle of the jungle, with long skinny paths through the vines to who knows where? My legs were almost cramped from climbing so many steps. One should definitely see the ruins when one is young and in good shape . . . I'm already planning the itinerary for the next trip to Mexico. One can stay here a year and barely scratch the surface. Tomorrow, after 16 hours on this disco bus, I'll be in Mexico City again. There I want to see the museum of anthropology, which will be enough museum for this trip. I wish I'd read more history and paid attention in Anthropology 101. I have a lazy mind.

Roberto regretted his decision to go our separate ways and tried to catch up with me. I learned this in a letter I received from him about a month later, which contained this photo and a Lorca love poem that I only just disposed of in one of my purging fits.

Mexico 1987, Part 6: The Italian Job

Nov 1
A bus ride from Vera Cruz to Campeche, through the night. There's cracks in the window frames like crazy and I freeze my butt off and can't sleep a wink, so that when we reach Campeche at around 8 or 9 a.m. I am too tired to deal with it. I retrieve my bag that has been deposited in baggage claim and back ON THE BUS. "On the bus," the analogy for life - you're either on the bus or off the bus. Sleep a little, very little. It's much warmer now. It doesn't take much time to get to Merida. What I really want is a cozy beach, not a city where people would stop to chat with the gringa on a street corner out of curiosity. There's a guy on the bus who's been watching me. He's not Mexican, I'm sure of that, maybe Brazilian or some dark European. Come to think of it, no Brazilians I know look like him! At the information counter at the bus terminal in Merida, he's looking for a cheap hotel, too. In Merida, the streets are numbered, not named. All of them. Why do I find this so confusing? There's a hotel with a price that appeals to both of us, Hotel San Jose, so we trudge off in the streets together, packs on our backs making us so obviously un-Mexican. I am so aware of looking like a stranger. I guess it has been an asset so far, but at the same time I feel self-conscious, maybe it's my need for acceptance. Check in at the hotel - pretty damn cheap, 7,000 pesos. We agree to meet back at the restaurant for lunch after a shower. He is Italian (I won't write his name since he's now lying beside me in the sand) and speaks very good Spanish but no English. Oh well, I speak pretty good Spanish but no Italian. We'll make out somehow  . . . and indeed we did.

After lunch, which included 2 beers a piece, we set out walking to check out the surroundings and after 10 minutes or so ended up in a bar. Far out! We already have something in common, we are both alcoholics! Turns out he's a Nov 17 Scorpio - another plus. AND, I found out last night, the same year. 1959!! Cool city. But these are just pluses. After we left the bar, 6 beers a piece later, we headed off in the city to find another bar, arms around each other, drunk, kissing on street corners. This is the most carinoso man I have ever met! I have been asking for him for years! Bloody YEARS! He fulfilled one of my greatest romantic fantasies, which is to sit on a park bench on a warm summer night under the palms, town's people strolling about, to sit and neck in public on a park bench, like young lovers, unashamed, like they do in these countries where the blood is hotter than chili. Everything about him is affection: his smiles, his kisses on the neck, inside the elbow, his caresses, his tender nibbles on the shoulder, his not-so-tender bites on my thigh! (a good-sized bruise that'll last about a month!)

Nov 3
So there's Roberto, in the hammock, reading "The Conquest of Mexico" by Cortez, in Italian, smoking a cigarette, constantly smoking, and actually LOOKS like he should be smoking. We have a day, maybe two, left together, before we each continue our personal trips. Today we took a boat to see the flamingos. Celestun is one of the few places on earth where there is a flock of flamingos, and a flocking lot of them at that! You have to go down this long lagoon to see them, jungle on either side. From far off you see this pink line stretching across the lagoon and you know what it is but you don't BELIEVE it. They are the silliest looking birds, especially when they take off, with those spindly legs. Quite a sight, and it really made me laugh. This trip has been thus far more than I had hoped for. I'm hoping it doesn't end here, that the high continues! Travel is such a delicious, sensuous drug and I am so enjoying this wonderous high!

Roberto shooting flamingos 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Mexico 1987, Part 5: Object of Interest

Oct 29
Vera Cruz
Besame mucho
Como si fuera esta noche
La ultima vez
The song gets fairly romantic - and no wonder, Latins are sex crazed and repressed. Mexicans seem almost too friendly, friendlier than Brazilians but I hope I'm not generalizing. I sent a letter off to Werner, my sex-crazed fantasy:

This heat intensifies one's dreams, makes them touchable. At the beach, I put my feet in the water and it is soft and swells around my legs, as the sea breathes in and out and the warm fingers of the wind caress my face and neck, my body: we are making love. The crash of the waves and crash of your body on top of me, bones against bones, thrusting and swelling inside of me. Even the cool rush of tide cannot quell the fever that burns on the sand. Of many men, few have taken me to the edge of ecstasy and held me there for so long. I must feel you inside me again or this fever will make me crazy.
I'm sitting in the 3 o'clock sun - an American "loca" because it's pretty hot, yet here I sit. I'm getting on a bus tonight, bound for Campeche, where I'm told I might find some nice beaches to langour upon. It's been a fun 3 days in Vera Cruz. After I got off the train last Monday I walked up to the zocalo, where there's a beautiful plaza filled with shade trees and a fountain in the middle, and encircling it are cafes and people, many people gathering here night and day, from all around Mexico, from around the world. A port city, this is, my favorite kind. In the plaza the sounds of birds crooning and music - mariachis and marimbas - and people talking and laughing and the splattering of the fountain dance in the cool shade. The bands are always competing for airspace, for money - no sooner does one stop then another begins, sometimes 2 or 3 bands at once, each a different song, and voices and guitars and xylophones, drums, bells, trumpets resound off each other and up, out, over the square. This is the zocalo, called by the same name in cities throughout the country, the center of town.

I have yet to sit alone, you can't go out if you want to be left alone. That first night I got my drink and sat on a bench to watch the spectacle. I sat next to two chubby, unattractive women, thinking this way I could be left alone. Soon, they got up and left and two men sat beside me. They struck up a conversation, which is common around here, and we got to charlando (chatting). Jaime and Soltero. Soon we were in the bar drinking, laughing, singing, dancing. The next afternoon I sat alone to have lunch and fill out my postcards and was joined at my table by two Cubanos and a Czech. One of the Cubanos wanted to know if I was Cubana. I said no. Mexicana? No, Americana. Oh, he has family in Miami and wouldn't it be nice if I could meet them sometime? The Czech also wrote out his postcards and then had each of us sign them. Eventually they wandered off.

That night I was standing in the plaza waiting for Jaime and Soltero - we were going dancing - watching the marine band practicing for carnaval (samba dancers and drums practice each night for about and hour outside my hotel), when a man with a heine haircut came up and said "no es rockenroll" and I said "thank goodness." He was from Kansas City - Iowa, really, I found out later - and he told me about the culture here, what hotels the prostitutes hang out at, which bars stay open all night serving food, who the local characters are. He's been living here a few months a year for 6 years? How long did he say? Then I spotted my friends and they took me out to dance the salsa in an old club. We were there 'til after midnight, then back to the plaza, then to another place to have a bite to eat. I got in at 3:30 am.

Last night I was too beat to go out so I stayed in. But as I was walking toward the hotel in the late afternoon, I was stopped by 3 teenagers. They spotted me as an estanjera and wanted to know where I was from. I've figured out that it's the shoes. The flat shoes are a dead give-away. But 4-inch heels in this heat? Forget it! These boys wanted to exchange postcards, they collect them from tourists around the world. So we exchanged addresses. It started to rain so we moved inside the hotel lobby. They fired questions at me right and left about the usual - where was I from, did I come here alone, wasn't I afraid, was I married (I've taken to telling people I'm engaged, it seems to ward off any misguided attention) - and told me in between about themselves while they chided each other. They went from travel to sex to religion - one believing in god, Jesus, the virgin and all the saints, one who just believed in god, and one who didn't believe in anything - until I had to tell them I was tired and wanted to turn in. That was not well-taken, but oh well.

It gets tiring after a while. A guy just came up and asked in English with a Mexican accent, what was I doing? And I said, what does it look like I'm doing? And he said, writing something, but what? And I said, I'm just writing. As he sat down he said, I don't want to bother you, I'm just interested, and I said, I'm enjoying myself right now, thank you. And thank god he got the hint! I was annoyed and I know he meant no harm, he was truly interested. As I have said, Latins are not shy, they have little sense of personal space or privacy, but I've nearly had it for today. After a while you get to feel like just some article of interest, something to gawk at. I'm just tired today. This heat makes me sleepy.

Mexico 1987, Part 4: Dirty Old Train

Oct 26
Off in the the distance are 2 pyramids of Teotihuacan. We're headed east out of Mexico City on a dirty old train, moving slow. There's a dirty little bushy kitten falling asleep on the floor under the seat in front of me. It wouldn't eat my saltines. I never met a cat who didn't like saltines. It's just beginning to warm up from the chill of morning. I had to get out of bed at 6am with a fully sprawled, fully naked man beside me, in the deepest stages of sleep, no kisses would wake him. Now I will dream of him; I'll be hungry for months . . .

The universe has sent me lots of help, friends, so far. Clearly I am moving in the right direction. I need to refigure my budget. Even w/people having paid for various meals, I've been spendthrifty. Now the kitten is in the middle of the aisle, curled up, eyes drooping, head dropping into sleep, with people walking down the aisle stepping over it, it doesn't move, must've found a warm spot.

Now La Palma. Now Irolo. We stop at each one, it'll be hours before arriving the 250 or so kilometers to Vera Cruz. There's a young boy singing a campesino song at the top of his lungs. Werner was so cute when he came home last night, very drunk, someone had taken his shirt, a beautiful light and dark coral red vertical striped silk shirt, and he was wearing their cheap white cotton shirt with blue stripes. It probably wasn't a cheap shirt. He hangs with some affluent people. I think I'm gonna undo my bags and send a few articles back, loosen and lighten my load, then I can BUY more CLOTHES HERE!!

This train ride turned out to be fabulous, scenery-wise, and I'm no longer enervated by it, even though these fucking stops seem to keep us forever from our destination. I feel like I've been on speed for days, or acid. Hallucinogenic sex. It's getting hotter and more humid, the climate that causes one to dream mad dreams. We went through some high misty mountains that rose green around us, out of nowhere. Now we're in the jungle, having left the dry flats. The composer in me is already writing a letter to Werner and the images get hotter the farther I get. It's gonna make a fever rise in him that he won't be able to put out until he cools the fire inside me. There are few men that I fully enjoy sex with, without inhibition, timidity, mistrust, when the shell is broken and there stands a person, not proud - no ego, just the soul and body. This man, his flesh, his bones on top of me, thrusting inside of me, his hot breathed moans from deep inside, has pushed me to some ecstatic hallucinogenic planet where the mind and the body truly lose themselves in each other.