9. Runny Eggs Seasoned with Snipe


Sam chose the most gringo-style restaurant on the walking mall for breakfast. His limited taste in food ranked high in my canon of reasons to break up—but not as high as becoming a nark when his private investigation firm tanked.

Runny eggs seasoned with Sam’s snipes for breakfast. I envied the fishermen their happy banter and delectable smelling tidbits served from the giant blue pots. It didn’t matter what trivial disagreement we argued over, for me it was always about the same thing and I was still angry about it: Sam took a contract job with the DEA chasing cocaine dealers through the jungle in Belize two years before, straining our relationship to breaking. I threw him out one night in the midst of a lamp smashing, shouting match on our houseboat in Sausalito.

Although Sam had followed me down to my language school with a suitcase of clothes after the camper burglary, I was enjoying my single status and not rushing to make up. He hoped I might change my mind, but I resented his presence. Why couldn’t he understand that I didn’t want him there? This was my big adventure. But devastated at the loss of my five suitcases and the lack of concern on the part of the Oaxaca police, and with only the jeans and t-shirt I was wearing at the time, I called Sam.

I still don’t know what I was thinking! I was fine, Parsley was fine, and they were only clothes after all, but Sam and I had enjoyed traveling together— Australia, Belize, Mexico—camping or sailing or touring, it always was an adventure. Somehow—the shock and sense of violation after the robbery—I forgot another of the canon: I am the adventurous one. Left up to Sam, we’d have sat in a seedy hotel bar drinking Miller and eating grilled cheese sandwiches on Wonder bread, and that’s exactly what he wanted.

I agreed that I would put up with him‑as a friend‑ if he brought me some new clothes and a printer for my portable Toshiba computer. I was ecstatic that the ladrones—thieves—hadn’t found the secret compartment built in between the front seats that held the computer, my Nikon camera and lenses, and the pullout Clarion tape deck I installed before leaving. They weren’t very astute robbers because they left behind the 350 hp Honda gas generator that plugged into the electrical system and ran the computer, printer, and lamp anywhere I chose to stop and write.

Breakfast over and our provisioning accomplished at the under stocked and over priced tourist grocery store, we returned to camp to put on bathing suits and get ready for the beach. Three months in Mexico and I had lost an entire dress size.

“Must be the salsa!” I told Parsley as I slid out of my dress and into a new bikini and sarong for my day at the shore.

“Your turn,” I said, stepping out of the bus and smoothing the netting back into place.

“Why don’t you trot over there and meet the guys from California. I bet they want to go to the beach with you.”Sam spoke in his most obnoxious tone and gestured his hairless, perspiration damp pate toward the orange combi. images-1

Now what was he mad about? I glanced over to the lifeless bus whose license plate read: Mexico DF—Distrito Federal.

“It’s from Mexico City.”

“Whatever. Take them to the beach,” he said.

“Aren’t you coming with me?” I hoped Sam didn’t hear the hopeful glee in my voice as I walked off toward the gate, Parsley at my side.


7. All I Wanted Was Some Dinner

Las Palmas Trailer Park hunkered in a coconut grove at the north end of the bay. The camping spaces, defined by the trees, had brick barbecues with metal grates. Although the park was sparsely populated, I felt safe enough because of the tall chain link fence separating me from the beach, but Sam complained that it was too empty.

“Where are all the surfers staying?” He asked, squinting his eyes into a frown as if the surfers purposely hid.

I ignored him and checked the bathrooms. They worked. They had real toilet paper rather than rolls of brown crepe paper that might be left over from some celebration a decade past like the t.p. at Pepe’s Trailer Park in Zihuatanejo. The shower water even felt warmish—a plus.

“The bathrooms are okay. We’ll stay.”

We staked our claim halfway to the beach entrance. I sat in the wide side door of the combi and gazed toward the mouth of the bay across a fleet of low, open boats drawn up on the sand like colorful beached whales, but I didn’t start to unpack. Instead I thrust a folding chair toward Sam and handed him one of the Pacifico beers I picked up at the tienda. I figured he couldn’t talk if he had a beer bottle to his lips.

Parsley was giving me that “feed me” look. I fixed her bowl.

“That place smells good,” I said of a tiny taco joint visible at the edge of the trailer park. “Let’s get dinner.”

“Are you nuts? Looks worse than the roach-coach back home.”

“Then what do you want?”

“Aren’t there any coffee shops here?”

Parsley finished eating and we strolled onto the esplanade.

“What about that one?” I pointed to a place tucked under a thatched roof with blaring salsa music.

He looked at a menu posted by the entrance. “I want a hamburger,” and walked on.

“You won’t find a Lyons.”

We strolled to the end of the esplanade, reading menus and quibbling over which to choose: too dirty—too expensive—no hamburgers. All I wanted was some dinner. A quesadilla, tacos, whatever.

“Isn’t that where you’re supposed to meet William and Kathleen?” He thrust his chin toward a dumpy looking cinderblock building with faded paint and peeling trim, squatting at the edge of the street. An old sign said “Sports Bar” and the familiar flicker of television lit the interior. Sam trudged up the several steps to the door. “They have hamburgers.”

“You’ve got to be kidding.” I said when we stepped inside. A sports bar, indeed. Two huge TVs showed games and the patrons crowding the small, smoky room shouted and cheered in English.

Sam marched toward a table, but stopped and threw himself into reverse like a cartoon character when he realized the smoke was coming from numerous joints passing through the crowd. “Let’s get out of here.”

I looked forward to the World Series and that Acapulco Gold.

We settled on a restaurant across the esplanade from Las Palmas. Our waiter brought a dish of scraps along with the bowl of water we ordered for Parsley. My huachinango mojo de ajo was fresh and grilled perfectly. The fish was so delicious, I forgot to fight with Sam.

After dinner with our bellies full, and our attitudes toward one another more kindly, Sam and I cruised with the flow of tourists, lovers, drunk surfers, and locals, noting places to explore in the coming days before we returned to Las Palmas to set-up camp.

Palm fronds clacked in the gentle sea breeze and the balmy night smelled fresh and salty. Sam snored inside my no-see-um-netted bus. I was lost in Gabriel Garcia Marques’ Love in the Time of Cholera when an orange combi pulled into our trailer park close to midnight. I paid little attention. Parsley, on-duty at the edge of my tiny circle of light, kept watch on the two men who emerged from the VW, set-up camp and disappeared back into the bus, pulling the door closed behind them with a thwunk.

6. Puerto Escondido

The late afternoon sun angled toward the Pacific, painting our first view of Puerto Escondido a rosy gold that blushed across the buildings, fanning up the hillside from a strip of sand. Puffs of cumulus clouds congregated above the ocean, and reached toward the lighthouse that presides over a point rising sharply behind the old fishing village and marks the north corner of the mouth of the bay. The cobbled waterfront thoroughfare, shaded by tall coconut palms on the beach side was closed to all but foot traffic. We parked and walked.

Trees, bushes, and vines, blooming in a Crayola rainbow of colors, cascaded down the slope from every wall, gate and rooftop on the opposite side of the street. Stone steps twisted up between the tourist and surf shops, restaurants, bars and tiendas that brimmed with ripe mangoes, succulent papayas, trays of astringent smelling limes and oranges, and sweet, bee-attracting pineapples. I craned around corners and doors, snapping pictures, and hoping to discover the mystery of each enticing passage as it disappeared around the high, glass-topped stone walls.

Parsley strained against her leash, sniffing the smells with gusto. For an old girl she maintained her curiosity, and in Mexico, everything smelled interesting to a dog.

Sam stopped in front of a bar and sniffed the air. “Aren’t surfers a bunch of stoners?” he asked, wrinkling his nose.

“Keep your DEA badge in your pocket.”

“What are you getting at? It’s a Marin County sheriff’s badge.” Sam’s look would have frozen hell. “Let’s get going. Quit taking pictures. I’m tired and hungry.”

I focused my lens on Sam’s familiar frown. Click. Click.

“Put that damn camera away.”

A trio of pedestrians turned toward us, inquisitive.

“Quit nagging me. You’re such a stick-in-the-mud,” I said and raised my eyebrows at the tourists, as if to say it was out of my hands.

“You’re selfish and irresponsible. I’m going to find somewhere to sleep tonight.” He spun on his heel and stalked off in the direction of the parked camper. A sensation of giddy lightness came over me, and I grinned at the passers-by.

“Are you coming?” He demanded from several feet away.

A slight gust of wind rattled the palms. “I thought you were leaving,” I said, slowing my pace.

“Don’t sound so happy.”