• Mexico on My Mind, Part 2 – The Narrow Escape

    “Sir! Welcome to Mexico! Come, may I ask you something? Do you like tequila? We are serving free tequila! Look, let me give you this. Try this one. This one is called reposado. Good? Do you like it? Some for you Madam? Or perhaps a margarita? Yes? Wonderful, can I get a margarita for the lady? Here, please. Here you go. This one is for you. Real Mexican tequila, the best. Pretty good, eh? Now look at this one. You like mango? This bottle over here is different. This one is mango tequila. Here you go. Taste this. What do you think? No? You do not like the flavored ones. Just the straight tequila. I understand. A man of taste. Let me get you another.”

    We stood there bleary-eyed at a portable counter with our suitcases and shoulder bags, yet to set foot on Mexican soil. Across from us was a short man of about thirty and his female assistant who passed out tequila in small plastic cups with joy. Around us, other travelers were being compelled to stop off at counters and receive tequila shots.

    We were frazzled and ready to get to our hotel room.

    “Sir, before you go! you may have noticed coming down the corridor, the signs. There are many signs. Did you see the signs for Vidanta? Yes? Do you know about Vidanta?”

    “We already have a hotel.”

    “Excellent! May I ask where are you staying?”

    “The Hilton.”

    “An excellent choice, sir. How long are you in Puerto Vallarta?”

    “Only today. Tomorrow we go to Sayulita for the week.”

    “Ahh! Sayulita is wonderful! If you give me just a minute of your time I will get you free transportation to the Hilton.”

    To cut to the chase, Vidanta is a not-yet-finished resort. The whole presentation was about getting us to come to a one-hour tour of the Vidanta campus the following morning. The man promised to pick us up himself and take us to enjoy a free breakfast.

    (We later learned that “one hour” is actually literally the whole day. Trina and I fell for this once when we were newlyweds around 1992. They promised us a voucher for a luxury hotel if we come listen to a 45-minute presentation. We were dirt poor and naïve, and a free vacation was enticing. But you know how it goes: they trap you in a room for hours and pressure you to buy a vacation time-share package or something. It was horrible. We never fell for that again. I assumed that only American businesses could be so scammy. I wasn’t expecting it in Mexico.)

    To get us to sign up for a tour, the freebies started adding up. By the end, he had offered us:

    • A free taxi to the Hilton
    • Personal escort to Vidanta the following morning
    • Free breakfast before the tour
    • Personal escort to Sayulita after the tour was over (approximately a one-hour drive)
    • A full BOTTLE OF TEQUILA
    • 1000 pesos CASH! (approximately $50 US)

    He asked my name and wrote it on a registration form, thanking me on behalf of his poor children because he worked on commission.

    “Sir, we only want you to see Vidanta so you can tell your friends who may come to Mexico. To help get the word out with advertising, because Vidanta is new and not well known. Nothing else.”

    “But they want us to buy a vacation, right?”

    “There is no obligation to purchase.”

    “Yeah, but will we be pressured to buy a vacation, right?”

    He pointed to the registration form that said, “NO OBLIGATION”

    “I get it. We’ve done this before. They’re gonna twist our arms to sign up.”

    “Sir there is no obligation.”

    That’s when Trina said, “Nope. We’re gonna pass.” And I said “You heard the lady! We’re gonna pass.”

    “But sir! Wait, think about my children! What if I will give you ONE-THOUSAND PESOS!” And that is when we walked away.

    Suddenly the gauntlet of thirty other salesmen lining the corridor erupted into shouts— “SIR! PLEASE, ONE MOMENT! SIR! SIR! SIR!” They stepped toward us urgently, as you would for someone whose clothes were on fire, their faces shocked as if we had just personally insulted the whole nation of Mexico.

    For a moment, we sensed we could be in serious physical danger from the brigade of salesmen charging at us and pleading with us. Trundling our luggage behind, Trina and I huddled together and pressed into the fray like sailors into a hurricane. Adrenaline surged. We avoided eye contact. Perhaps the tequila steeled our nerves. But they didn’t follow us down the corridor. Thank God, we were safe.

    Physically trembling, hearts racing, and looking at each other in sheer astonishment, we approached the airport exit.

    But we were blocked by a line of people, like a game of Red Rover, urgently asking if they could hail us a taxi.

    [More to come]

  • Mexico on My Mind

    Our wheels touched down before noon at the airport in Puerto Vallarta, an overcooked tourist town on the sunset coast of Mexico, pinched between arid tropical mountains and a long sandy beach. I’d been up since four a.m., fifteen minutes before my alarm went off, to make some coffee and order an Uber driver to the Austin Airport. Now, at last, we had arrived at our dream vacation that had been canceled and rescheduled 3 times in the previous year due to the pandemic and the Texas Ice Storm of 2021. It was finally happening.

    The plans were to spend only one day/night in Puerto Vallarta. The following five days we would go to Sayulita, a smaller, lesser-known, less-touristy town an hour up the coast, or so we thought. More on that later.

    The international terminal and customs desks looked just like American ones, except Spanish was the primary language on all placards with English beneath in smaller letters. I don’t know what I was expecting. Armed militia with machine guns and berets? The officials and airport staff were well-dressed, clean and professional.

    I immediately felt a sort of gratitude toward them, perhaps for being
    so normal, for not demanding bribe money, or pretending to find something out of order with my paperwork and forcing us to sit in a
    sweltering adobe office for hours while the police chief returned from brunch.

    No, they positively seemed glad to have us in their country. They were patient, kind, and spoke perfect English even though I was all prepared to wrestle my Spanish back into use. I wondered if they would have been received the same way coming to an American airport.


    After only a short wait getting our COVID questionnaire approved and a
    few clamorous stamps applied to our passports, and an uneventful retrieval of our bags from the luggage carousel, we set out to find a taxi or, preferably, a complimentary, air-conditioned shuttle to the Hilton in Puerto Vallarta. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

    Now comes the part that I’m not sure how to describe.

    We had to pass through a series of corridors following signs for ground transportation. You are probably familiar with the way corridors of airports are often filled with poster advertisements of popular sights and events of your destination city. Sometimes they highlight cultural or artistic features or popular restaurants. Not the PV airport.

    The final long corridor out of the terminal had the typical poster frames regularly-spaced along the walls and video monitors mounted from the ceiling and hanging just above your line of sight. But these were all advertising only one thing: a luxury resort called Vidanta. Vidanta owned this corridor. Every square inch of ad space had been bought up by Vidanta. Sign after sign, TV screen after TV screen proclaiming only one message: the unalloyed paradise that is Vidanta—tan, slender bodies luxuriating in benign sunlight beside immaculate swimming pools, champagne glasses clinking in soft focus before a vespertine fireplace, the familiar swinging back-arch of a golfer just teeing off on a carpet of lush green grass. Vidanta was everywhere.

    Immune as we all are to advertising, it only made a passing impression in my memory because, well they just seemed so desperate! I mean, buy some ad space, sure. But to buy up the entire corridor? OK, whatever.

    When we left that corridor however, we learned what was going on with Vidanta. We entered a widened area in the corridor where folding tables chairs were set up. Here and there were highball tables with bottles of tequila and plastic cups. Soft music played overhead. And at least thirty men and a few young women stood lining the walls of our way toward the exits, dressed in not-quite business casual, each with a handful of brochures. It was the gauntlet. When we entered the room, all eyes—wide, hungry, tormented—turned on us.

    [To be continued…]

  • New Poem

    We Sail Ourselves

    You may be a
    yacht or a clipper

    or a catamaran
    or a little sunfish

    Whatever you
    are, you are

          on a voyage

    You are the
    little captain

          looking out

                at
    the seas ahead

          at storms or sunny breezes

    Sometimes we
    fear our doom

          when great waves hurl out stomachs

          and winds drive us off our course

    and leave us in
    uncharted waters

    Other times doldrums
    drag on

          and we can only wait

                and paddle

          if we don’t have a motor

     

    Yes, it’s a
    cute and obvious metaphor:

    I am a
    consciousness

          housed in a vessel

                a
    little man perched behind my own eyes

          peering out of my skull

    I’ve had my
    share of storms

          some victories too

    I steer this
    body that in a strange way

          is me

    Viewed this way
    I am

          a marvel to myself

     

    How did I get
    in here

          not exactly trapped

                but present inside this skull

          enfleshed and embodied?

    How is it I can
    control this hand

          holding this pen

                writing these lines

          that I am making up?

    Is this hulk of
    organic matter really me?

    Is this my
    home?

    I’ve known no
    other

          but somehow it feels provisional

    It’s the ship I’m
    sailing for now

     

    Some philosophers
    say consciousness is an illusion, a construct of billions of neurons passing electrical
    signals

     

    It is no more
    an illusion

          than a real captain

                sailing
    a real ship

          a little captain sailing a ship, sailing a
    ship

  • More love languages

    I was always a little suspicious when someone said there were only 5 love languages. After some years of gathering, here are some additions that I have found with my wife and family:

    • writing/singing jolly love songs by the water with s’mores
    • texting rude or risque memes
    • sitting on them
    • farting in the other room (not while sitting on them)
    • youthful deep-esophageal belching
    • saying anything in a British accent
    • peppering them with questions, frequently yes/no questions
    • telling a person to drive safely, wear your seat belt, keep your shoes on, and call me when you get there
    • making chicken sounds
    • hurting, pinching, pummeling, biting, tickling
    • telling them they are a dork, etc.
    • playing footsie under the covers (a form of sign language)
    • enduring the agony of listening to them describe a dream
    • eating food for them (food that they want but know they shouldn’t eat)
    • watching (another) sci-fi series with them on Netflix
    • not saying a damn thing for a while

  • Two classical music recommendations

    The first one I discovered on Radio Swiss Classical (which if you haven’t discovered yet, you should check out. There’s also Radio Swiss Jazz. Both have no commercials and just play music.)

    Not all classical music contains moments of sublimity, but when they do, there is something that aligns perfectly with something in the soul, a suspension, a discord, that resolves in a divine perfection.

    Tchaikovsky’s Sacred Choral Music is that way for me. I didn’t even know he wrote sacred music. Most people love the Nutcracker Suite, Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet, and his 1st Piano Concierto. But these 9 Sacred Choral pieces are magical. I became addicted and couldn’t stop listening to them over and over.

    The second recommendation is Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem in D Minor. Unlike the previous, these are set to music. Fauré was an organist so it figures prominently. I love especially the final movement, In Paradisium, which you may recognize.

    This one also contains those resolutions that the aesthetic sense finds so satisfying.

    Enjoy, and leave me a comment if you find them lovely, or if you want to recommend something to me.

  • Why it’s important to follow, repost, retweet etc

    If you are not a writer trying to publish a book, it may not occur to you.

    The first thing a publisher wants to know is, What is your platform? In other words, how many followers do you have on your blog or social media.

    For those of you who do not know, I have recently finished a writing degree and am transitioning into a writing career, and I need to get my name out there.

    So if you wouldn’t mind, I am asking you friends to 1) follow my blog by subscribing using the Subscribe menu 2) follow me on Twitter @JeffreyAMays 3) jeffreyallenmays on IG and 4) repost and retweet things of mine—when you feel you can; I’m not asking anyone to get creepy.

    Yes, this is a completely self-serving request. “Wouldn’t we all like to be reposted and retweeted,” you may be thinking. “What makes you so special?”

    If you do not want to, of course you do not have to. But I’m just asking my friends who are willing to help me get my name out there in this way.

    Thanks for considering my request.

  • Slightly Mighty IPA


    I am on a low-carb diet trying to knock off 10 lbs. This used to mean no beer, but I remembered Michelob Ultra and I would sadly drink it when with friends, wishing I could enjoy the full flavor of regular craft beers.
    Well I’ve just discovered that many other brewers have developed low-carb beers!
    Meet “Slightly Mighty” by the Dogfish Head Brewing Company! Only 3.5 carbs, 95 calories, and 4% ABV.
    While not as totally satisfying as 90-minute IPA or one of their other brews, this on is still far better than Mick Ultra.
    So happy I’ve found this!
    #dogfishheadbrewery
     @dogfishheadbeer 

  • Man, the human

    Things that demonstrate that man is still human:

    1. using utensils to eat real food. Or using tools of any sort
    2. handwriting and arithmetic, and using them to write a letter to your
      mother or a friend, or calculate the perimeter of your backyard
    3. locomotion by any organic medium
    4. making pies
    5. making music with hands, feet or breath, music that does not involve programming
    6. reading words on a page
    7. getting a hair cut
    8. elimination
    9. looking at a piece of good art, waiting there patiently until you
      begin to get it, having the lights come on, noticing things you didn’t
      see at first, feeling thanks in your bosom toward the artist, coming
      away with something new in your mind about human existence.
    10. throwing a ball with a dog in an open field, even if the dog doesn’t bring the ball back, or throwing a shoe at a cat
    11. drinking water. Or other real drinks like beer.
    12. burning a candle, or burning anything for that matter
    13. crying, trembling, hiding, greeting strangers on the sidewalk, wishing there was someone around, 
    14. becoming familiar with the stars and trying to get your mind around
      them in a kind of embrace but ultimately finding you are unable to do
      so, yet feeling their greatness and your earth-boundedness
    15. finding the harmony in your head to a note played by strange tone
      you hear somewhere but cant tell where its coming from; humming the note
      out loud, like the two-notes in a train whistle
    16. drying off with a nice towel after a shower and shaving with some
      kind, any kind, of razor, it doesn’t matter what kind, and combing your
      hair into a nice part and facing others having tended your own garden,
      not just wandering into public like an animal
    17. I’m sure there are others. Why not leave a ‘comment’ with your own additions?
  • The Toto Hole

    Late at night I’m minding my own business, doing my own thing, and then Youtube says, “Hey, you watched Rosanna last night.”

    I’m thinking, “Bloody algorithm. Leave me alone.”

    It wont leave me alone.

    “You wanna watchit again??”

    It’s the “40 Years around the Sun” tour version. Brilliant and totally epic. Delicious no matter who you are. It’s video cocaine. And when Steve Lukather goes into his guitar solo toward the end it’s like we were submerged under water. A fish tank of Time and Space descend and it’s an expanding globe of wowism and holy-what is this! You are lost in sound and sight and nostalgia, because, well, it’s a great song from the 80’s.

    And I’m thinking “Yezh I do, but no, because it’s too soon. I just watched it last night.”

    And Youtube wins. SO I watch it again.

    Then Youtube says, “You like Rosanna. You wanna listen to Hold The Line?”

    And I’m thinkin’, I gotta move on. There’s a whole world of content out there. But OK, YES.

    So I watch “Hold The Line”.

    And then Youtube says, “You wanna watch “The rains down in Africa?” and I think, like a prison victim, like a crack addict, “OK. Yeah, I’ll watch Africa.”

    And when I cannot take anymore, Youtube says, “You wanna watch Georgie Porgie“?

    And I say, Oh, Hell No.

  • New Beginning

    Today marks the first day of my new career as a writer, that is, not as a hobby or something to piddle around with on evenings and weekends. Today, liberated from a traditional American employment model, I now set out to discover what it means to be a professional writer.

    It also means the resurrection of this blog and likely other blogs to come. So I restart this blog with a poem by Langston Hughes that someone shared with me some weeks ago. It is a fitting vessel to describe my new endeavor.

     

    What happens to a dream deferred?
    Does it dry up
    Like a raisin in the sun?
    Does it fester like a sore—
    And then run?
    Does it stink like rotten meat?
    or crust and sugar over—
    like a syrupy sweet?
    Maybe it just sags
    like a heavy load.
    Or does it explode?

    —Langston Hughes