We call it La Cruz because pronouncing names incorrectly embarrasses us for some unknown reason. Routine is setting in. Sometimes we go to the grocery store, dinghy to the marina, try to evade the security guy that charges us $40 pesos to use the dock, walk to the bus stop, ride to the Chedraui on the far side of Buserias. Someone told us you need to watch the cashiers there or they don’t give you the sale prices. We went to the Mega yesterday instead. I caught an ear infection, after swimming under the boat back in the swampy estuary at Nuevo Vallarta. Some sort of swamp bacteria got in my ear, the doctor told me the infection is in both ears and I’m on antibiotics. Someone told us the doctor has a twin brother who’s also a doctor at that clinic but doesn’t speak English. Patients show up and wonder why this guy they saw last week doesn’t remember them and only speaks Spanish. The antibiotics seem to be working and the swelling goes down a little each day but I’m still deaf in my left ear. I can chew food again, which is nice. I only got about half the barnacles off the bottom of the boat before my ear ruined my plans. I read somewhere that there’s a dengue fever outbreak here, so I guess I should be happy I don’t have that, although it’s probably a great weight loss plan. In the evening we’ve been gong to the beach for a swim. Last night we met two Hungarian ladies that live in Vancouver and are staying at the hotel we’ve been swimming in front of. It looks like the nicest place on this stretch of beach. They said it’s really nice. We discussed some politics and stuff and the one lady assured me that the Canadian government is still better than the Soviets, despite the cost of car insurance. It’s not been as hot here as when we first arrived, Nuevo was sweltering and breezeless, La Cruz has been a lot nicer and the temperature has been more tolerable. Anyone who’s watched the Walking Dead will know the character Rick, who’s always a disgusting sweaty mess. That’s how we felt in Nuevo, minus the zombies. The timeshare hawkers keep trying to get us to go to their presentations. They promise either $150 or $200 US. We don’t qualify, they want married couples and they check to make sure you have the same address on your ID, we don’t. They also want people staying at a hotel that are in town less than a few weeks. The guy yesterday promised we’d get paid anyway but I don’t think I believe him enough to risk sitting through a timeshare sales pitch. The money would be nice but is it worth the risk? We recovered our dinghy with new green fabric, so from now on when the marina security guy asks our boat name I’m gonna say ‘barco verde.’ Overall La Cruz is treating us well, it’s kinda like a smaller, more rustic version of Bucerias, which many many Canadians know well, and I’ve heard it called B.C.rias, which is a little unfair because there are plenty of Albertans and Saskatchetoonians as well. There’s usually live music at one of the drinking establishments in La Cruz and the beaches are almost deserted. We’re planning on going to the Sunday market and I’m seriously considering getting a lobster at the fish market. It’s an extravagant expenditure that I’ll need to ponder. Our neighbourhood seems a little clique, everyone seems to know everyone else already and we’re the newcomers who have no friends. We also have a generator making us electricity, which makes us unpopular with some of the fancy solar powered people who shun us for our noisy, environmentally unfriendly ways, so we hang out at the fringe of the anchorage and occasionally moon our neighbours as they cruise from boat to boat socializing. We haven’t been to Puerto Vallarta yet, it seems daunting but I think Cristobal wants to go do some drinking in the city one of these days and we’ll have fun once we’re there. It’s just so…. and the buses quit running earlier than you’d think. We could defeat the whole system by taking our dinghy, its only 12 miles, but that creates a new set of issues like where do we park it? And will we get run over in the dark by a cruise ship. Ouch! Last time we went to PV We got drunk and Kirstyn got a tattoo, so we should probably do it again
Recently a friend asked us what was the catalyst that sent us off on our sailboat adventures. He wanted to know, what was the series of events that led us down the path of being barely respectable, unemployed vagabonds. Could we narrow it down to a life changing moment? Yes we could and although I’ve never told the story, I’ve decided too now.
“What do you think this means?” Kirstyn asked me as we stood on the street corner in front of the Chinese restaurant we’d just had dinner at. She was holding the small slip of paper from her fortune cookie. I leaned in to look ‘take a step back’ is all it read. It didn’t even have lucky numbers on the back. “Very unusual” we both nodded in agreement. “Take a literal step back or a figurative step back?” I wondered out loud. There was nothing but sidewalk, buildings, all the stuff of an ordinary city street behind us. In front of us the little ‘do not walk’ Guy was lit up above the crosswalk but traffic was light and I’d been considering scurrying across between cars. “Should we try it?” Kirstyn suggested. I shrugged my shoulders and we both took a long deliberate step backward. As we arrived at our new space, a car that was probably going a little too fast came careening up onto the curb and slammed into the light pole we’d previously been standing beside. Debris scattered about our feet. We looked at each other and said nothing for a moment. “Did the cookie know?” Kirstyn asked. “Smart cookie” I mumble, “Maybe we should ask for another cookie” Kirstyn suggested. There was a crowd gathering by the car, and one of the onlookers was the young woman who’s the host in the restaurant. I showed her the slip of paper from the cookie. She stared at it for a moment, said something in Mandarin and then asked “did you?” “We were standing there.” I pointed to where the wrecked car sat, bystanders leaned in the drivers side, someone was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. “Could we have more cookies?” I asked the woman. “Come with me.” We followed her into the restaurant and through a door to the kitchen. She spoke briefly in mandarin to an old man who was cooking up a batch of breaded almond chicken. He listened, nodded, walked over to a shelf and picked up an ancient looking box. He walked over and handed the box to Kirstyn. He spoke in his native language and the woman translated “do not break open the cookies till the time is right. You will know when that is and the cookie will guide you.” “But how will I know?” Kirstyn asked the old cook. His eyes widened and his nostrils flared “You will know!” He said in English. We headed out of the restaurant and carefully crossed the accident scene and the street and slowly walked in the direction of our hotel. “What do you think?” Kirstyn asked me. “Very suspect, why didn’t he speak English sooner?” Kirstyn nodded, “I meant the cookies.” “Yeah, I mean, a lot of great Confucius like wisdom has come out of those cookies over the years, but can a cookie see the future?” I pondered, but Kirstyn was more convinced of the cookie power. “These cookies come from an ancient culture full of mysticism, I think I’m taking the old man’s advice.”
Months later, long enough that the cookie incident had become an anecdote, the sort of story you tell at parties. The box of cookies had been sitting untouched in a cupboard. It was a quiet night, we had ordered out for pizza and were fully engulfed in a Netflix binge. Kirstyn suddenly looked at me, eyes wide and nostrils flared, in a way that reminded me of the old Chinese man. “The time is right.” She whispered softly as she stood and walked to the cookie cupboard. That was when Kirstyn and Jerin’s adventures really began.
Johnny Chicago! Who’s the man? Johnny Chicago! When we searched about on the interweb and the Facebook groups for a boat sitter, we didn’t realize we’d be getting a celebrity. If you wanna know more about the amazing, the intriguing, the garrulous Johnny Chicago. About a month after arriving at Nuevo Vallarta, John fell overboard, into the crocodile infested water, where he floundered about drunk and injured until someone heard his gurgling pleas for help. That was the catalyst for Johnny Chicago to leave his drunken ways behind and become clean living Johnny. Fast forward to October, and we arrive to find our boat stuffed full of used water bottles and the dock covered in what some would call trash, but to John, its all treasures, discarded by those with lesser imagination. When we met our neighbour, Cristobal, from a few docks down, he knew of our boat. “Johnny Chicago stays at your boat,” he told us “he sailed here with an African pirate that he hides, a Somalian I think.” Others in the area had heard rumours of Johnny harbouring a fugitive from the dark continent. “Johnny Chicago, a legend in his own mind!” Declared Jaun, who operates one of those raucous party boats you see covered in drunken sunburnt tourists. John has difficulty with keys, he lost enough of them that the marina gave him a volume discount on them and reduced the deposit he had to pay whenever they gave him a new one. He also doesn’t like to learn new tricks, like how to flush the toilet on the boat. He confided that one time he new he couldn’t make it to the marina washroom, but that wasn’t to be the moment he learned to flush, instead he put newspaper down on deck and took his shit right there in the open air. Johnny Chicago! But John isn’t just an entertaining carefree, bohemian, he also successful took care of everything we asked him to do, so if you ever need a house/pet sitter, Johnny Chicago might just be your man. Today is a big day, John is moving into his new place, with his new roommates. He’s landed a job at a restaurant here in Nuevo, best of luck with your endeavours John. Our hurricane turned out to be a dud, at least here in the Bay of Banderas, I’m sure it was thoroughly unpleasant further up the coast. Willow’s arrival is imminent, very exciting for us, we haven’t seen her since Mazatlan. That was like eight months of Willow free living, although we saw her sister Olivia in Toronto in August, which is almost like seeing Willow. Willow can be a polarizing figure, some people love her, some people block you on Facebook if you mention her name. I was thinking about trying the parasailing at the beach here, until Cristobal commented “It’s dangerous, but you’ll probably be ok.” So I’m wondering what kind of dangerous we’re talking about. In Acapulco they’ve had some Parasailors hit buildings, I guess that hasn’t been an issue in Vallarta but the landings can be a little sketchy, with a guy on the beach waiving flags and blowing on a whistle, the parasailor is guided in and a couple of big Mexican dudes attempt to “catch” you. I watched one lady do it successfully, she made it look pretty easy, and the guy told me if I bring a friend we’ll each get a $10 discount. Cristobal tells me he can get me a better price than that but isn’t confident that I won’t break my legs. Life’s full of tough decisions.
Tropical storm Willa became hurricane Willa yesterday, and by the time we rolled out of bed this morning, Willa was being touted as a dangerous category 5 hurricane. If you’re not up on your tropical cyclone lingo, the 5th and final category is the nastiest of all. What that means for us is that about a hundred miles southwest of us, is a raging beast of a storm with wind howling at 155 mph. Currently the weather folks are saying it’ll make landfall to our north, somewhere between San Blas and Mazatlan. We’re under a tropical storm watch with our fingers crossed that it doesn’t decide to turn toward shore early. The locals are taking this thing pretty seriously, boats are being moved further into the estuary and the docks closest to the breakwater are being left empty. There’s already flooding in some areas, but apart from the rain, we’ve yet to feel the effects of the storm. Looking at the pretty pictures the US National Hurricane Center has on their website, we’re predicted to get 60 to 70 mph winds when it passes. Storm surge may be our biggest concern. We’re in a marina with high rise hotels between us and the bay, but the breakwater is just around the corner and they’ve already moved some boats that are further out on our dock. This is an exciting, potentially life threatening situation for us and I plan on keeping you informed and maybe even getting some great video, you know the genre I’m talking about, where the reporter is clinging to some fixed object while the storm rages around him. We’ll see.
I think I might know what you’re thinking, ‘how could our boat be in Mexico City?’ Or maybe you’re thinking, ‘are Canadians allowed to go to places in Mexico that aren’t near a beach?’ Or maybe you’re thinking, ‘Mexico is a country and a city?!? You just blew my mind.’ I should stop guessing. It’s been a long haul for us this summer, both literally and figuratively. We drove well over a hundred thousand kilometres, and passed through 29 States and 6 Provinces. We need a vacation, sailboat cruising may sound like a vacation to the uninitiated, but it can be kinda like a job at moments. So the decision was made to spend a few days unwinding and seeing the sights, but why Mexico City? Simple, we’ve spent months in this country and almost all of that time has been in tourist cities, fishing villages or National Parks on remote Islands. We’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we didn’t visit an inland Mexican City, and where are you gonna find more Mexican culture than a city with 20 million Mexicans? Before it was the Capital of Mexico it it was the administrative and financial centre for much of the Spanish Empire. Before that it was Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire. You get the picture. Our first full day in the city, we met up with our friend Sarah from Denny Island and headed way south to the very bottom of this vast metropolis. How did we do it!? Easy, Sarah’s a Mexico City expert, she knows the metro, she knows how to not get ripped off by cab drivers and she knows what time of day Uber is cheaper than a cab. Boom, we win! Xochimilco, say that three times fast. I can’t even say it one time slowly. Anyway, that’s the place where there’s canals and you can hire a boat with a guy pushing you along with a long pole. Like Venice but less romantic. Our boat driver was possibly the worst boat driver ever. He appeared to be dying of some sort of plague, he lost his pole twice and fell overboard once. All in all I highly recommend the canal trip. I should also mention that this boat was more of a party barge than a conventional boat, it has seating for 20, yet there was only three of us. There are many attractions along the canals, the one we chose to go to was the fish with feet. Apparently it’s an endangered species, very rare and unique. I felt like Charles Darwin embarking on the Beagle. Turns out the fish were in small dirty aquariums and we had to pay 10 pesos to look at them. There was also puppies at the fish place, so that was nice.
On the Uber ride from the airport, I asked the driver about the famous black market in Tepito. He looked horrified “please don’t go there, it’s not for tourists.” He went on to explain that there are so many markets in Mexico City with quality items, Tepito is full of cheap knockoffs, stolen goods, drugs and criminals. That’s why we decided to leave our cell phones and wallets at the hotel and hide our cash in several pockets. We spent about an hour and a half wandering the market and felt like we barely scratched the surface. Some of the streets are completely covered in yellow tarps suspended between the buildings. It’s a maze of store fronts and street venders selling fake brand name clothing, pirated dvds, sex toys, sporting goods, cheap electronics, comic books and almost anything else. It’s the only place I’ve been in Mexico where the smell of marijuana hangs in the air. Some of the streets are closed to automobiles but occasionally you need to leap out of the way as a motorcycle rips between the stalls.
I ended up getting a pair of knockoff Vans for 200 pesos, not a bad deal if they last a few months. Anyway, we made it out unscathed, but it’s as sketchy a neighborhood as I’ve ever been to. Later in the day we walked through the optometry district, and damn, I’ve never seen such high pressure salesmen! We were literally assaulted by men and women in lab coats hawking stylish frames at deep discounts. We quickly retreated to our hotel with sore feet and took a nap.
Before heading off to Mexico, I canceled my phone and asked for a final bill.
They did send me a final bill, that I paid. As you can see, I even had a credit.
But they wanted more money from me. They didn’t send me another bill, but in November, they sent me this heavy handed email with no further explanation.
True to their word, I was contacted by a collection agency. I told them politely to fuck off. Watch your bills closely folks, these guys would chuck their own grandmothers under a bus to fetch a nickel.
On the interstate between Los Angeles and Los Vegas there’s a town the has no reason to exist apart from the interstate. Or to be more accurate, the people driving on the interstate. It’s a place to load up on fuel and supplies and take a rest after the traffic of the city subsides a little. Baker California is a one street town with tourist traps, restaurants and gas stations. It’s home to the worlds largest thermometer and claims to be the hottest town on earth. Today the thermometer only read 96 when we arrived and 100 by the time we finished lunch, but I’ve seen it well over 100. There’s a flying saucer shaped establishment that sells beef jerky and ice cream. But one business stands out. The Mad Greek is the Greekest of the Greek restaurants. It’s almost a cliche or parody of a Greek restaurant. It also has great food and enormous portions of delicious food. Cheers to the mad Greek, you do your homeland proud.