Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Meeting Mexico Part Two: Ixtapa

This is part two of a series of guest posts from my wonderful friend Samantha Bennett, recounting her tales of her recent first visit to Mexico. Click here for part one.


Ixtapa once consisted entirely of coconuts, miles and miles of plantation acreage. In the 1970’s developers moved in and hotels sprang up along the beautiful beach. We leave the compound and walk to the town along manicured boulevards and pretty sidewalks inlaid with shell and stone. It is very clean, very neat, until we reach a sort of flea market, dozens of little stalls crammed together. I feel like I am in Mexico again when I enter here. It is dirty, smelly, hot and raucous, stuffed with jewels, bright clothes, ceramics, key chains, bags, hats. You name it and it is probably available to you. After 30 minutes of this I am claustrophobic and dart back out to the open air with Mumsy, and we continue our stroll past their version of 7 eleven, Oxxo, past Scruples, the big grocery store, and end up on the pretty side-walk patio of Salsa, where we order 2 for 1 margaritas and kick back. We are talking about Mum’s breast cancer a decade before, subsequent lumpectomy, and clean bill of health.

Me: If it was me, I would want to see the cancerous lump once it was excised.

Her: Oh, I did ask to see it. It looked like a lump of hamburger.

Me: Wow. Raw or cooked?

Her: Raw of course. Who on earth would want to cook it?

We settle easily into a routine, with days alternating between beach and adventures outside the complex, and nights alternating between dinners out and staying in. I love the evenings in with Mumsy. We cook, we set the table, complete with candles, and feast. The produce is incredible, as is the various fish. Conversation is free-flowing and intimate, with the strains of Duke Ellington wafting from my laptop. Then we each grab a book and slip into our beds for a long read, punctuated with chat. Mum tells me an exchange she had on the beach with Lady Kay, 87 years young.

Mum: (gazing skyward) I don’t recognise those birds up there. (pointing to some aimlessly circling)

Kay (speaking with authority) Fakawi

Mum: Fakawi?

Kay: Yes. Where the fuck are we?

A waterway winds through our condo complex, tangled and swampy, rising and falling with the tides. Crocodiles slide along the surface, scaly barges. Their slow watchful-ness is highly discomfiting. The white, pretty birds, Ibis, wade near the shore and keep a close eye on them. Last night we heard an awful screaming as a crocodile caught one and dragged it under. They can jump ten feet into the air. They can run faster than me. They make my blood run as cold as their own. The golf course is on either side of this canal, and in the mornings, at low tide, the Mexican caddies wade in to retrieve the balls. There are more than a few hands with fingers missing.

Before leaving Montreal I contacted friend Kelly, a Canuck now living in Cancun, and she put me in touch with a Canuck in Zihuatanejo, Patti. We have had a few tentative email exchanges and tonight the ladies and I are going to the Ixtapa Marina and Che Mangiano, a roof-top Italian restaurant, where Patti is singing back-up with a band. It is a lovely place but the big logo of Che Guevera in a jaunty Italian fedora would have the dead rebel spinning in his grave. I am nervous awaiting Patti. Never before have I cold-called a stranger and arranged a meeting. Too many variables. The options for lame-ness are endless. She could be stupid or bitchy. She may be one of those chicks who chatter endlessly about nothing. What if she is devoid of a sense of humour? Where will we be then, huh? Huh?? It occurs to me suddenly that I have never even seen a picture of her, so how the Hell am I going to recognise her? My eyes dart wildly around the restaurant. A girl has just walked in with a beachy blonde tangle of hair, looking a lot like Elizabeth Shue. She moves slowly through the crowd, smiling and chatting. I know somehow that this is Patti and I am up out of my seat and striding toward her. She turns just as I reach her, smiles up at me, and says ‘You must be Sama-‘ before I envelope her in a hug that nearly knocks her over. She is so clearly not a dud, and I am filled with relief. We grab the nearest table, and slip easily into one another’s vibe until she takes the stage to sing with the rest of the band. Mumsy, her friends and I are all up and dancing. My sandals are kicked off. The music is great. Candy Kay grabs a tambourine from one of the musicians and bangs it against her hip. At the end of the night, she and I are the last two left standing.

On the other side of the barbed wire fence running the length of the path to the beach is a jungle vacant lot and the concrete crumble of what was once a small two-story house, ruins now, with half the walls standing and a portion of the second floor sectioned off and roofed with the sun-faded greens and reds of an enormous old Mexican flag. A man lives here. I never see him, but Mum tells me of his roars and bellows which sometimes ring out in the night. I stand on my side of the fence, in front of the manicured golf course, peering through, feeling the disparity. Feeling fortunate.

(to be continued.....) Meeting Mexico Part Three

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