Friday, July 24, 2009

naked tales

There are eight million stories in the Naked City. This ... is one of them.

When I started writing speeches and essays, I was taught every good piece needs a hook -- something to catch the reader and reel her in.

It was a lesson I easily put to use in trial work. No attorney deserves to prevail on a case unless the reason his client should win can be stated in a simple sentence.

Yesterday was a recovery day. Somehow I have managed to contract another bout of lower intestine distress.

At the end of the day, Jiggs wanted to go for a walk along the beach. So, out the beach gate we went.

There was a young Mexican family sitting on the beach just outside the gate watching the night's sunset show: three adults and four children ranging from infant to maybe 5.

I grabbed Jiggs's collar. He loves children, and will run up to them to be petted. That has a tendency to horrify some Mexican parents.

In this case, the roles were reversed. Three of the children immediately mobbed him.

The adults then came over. And we started talking -- in Spanish. The young man was visiting Melaque with his wife and their infant, and his sister was along with her son and two daughters.

We had been talking for about three minutes when I realized we were actually communicating. We ranged from talking about the dog and his age, why e had surgery scars on his neck, whether he bites, whether he is a boy or girl. My usual beach conversation.

But we went past that to how long I had been in Melaque. How long I was going to be there. If I flew or drove. How many children I have. Where is the rest of my family. Am I lonely.

But I learned new Spanish words: neighbor, nephew, niece.

And I knew this was going to happen one day on my journey in Spanish. They wanted to know my name. I decided to be clever: I would write out the Spanish version of my name.

So, I grab a stick and started writing in the sand -- without one adulteress in sight. And then disaster struck: I realized I was not quite certain how to spell it. The sister did it for me.

If anyone says I am so stupid that I cannot write my name in the dirt with a stick, I can now say: "I have the proof."

It turns out the young man could speak a bit of English. He said he didn't try earlier because he was afraid he would make a mistake.

And there we have it. As long as we were all just trying to communicate, we were doing fine. The moment we got too concerned about impressing our listeners, we clam up.

I need to seek out more of these moments. This beach is beginning to fill up with people on vacation. Most of them are happy to talk with someone new.

Speaking Spanish is just like skiing: point the skis downhill and enjoy the ride.

There are hundreds of stories on this semi-naked beach. I just need to seek them out.


Constantino said...

finalmente consiguiendo con rograma, mi amigo!

Mic said...


Felipe said...

One good thing about your present circumstances is that I imagine you are not running into many Gringos, which means it´s an ideal environment for improving the español.

Todd said...

To reduce the occurrence of tummy trouble, start drinking Activa.

That way the next time some unwanted guests look to take residence in you insides, they will find there is a family already living there.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful sunset picture! And people wonder why you want to live near the ocean. Jiggs does a great job as a conversation starter.

Larry in Mazatlan said...

I'm really proud of you!! And a little jealous. You figured out long before I did that you need to screw up your courage and just jump in and flounder around a bit. As you paddle around you gain confidence and realize that you can really do this. Avoid sliding into English, even if the other person knows some.

On the tummy trouble. If you're sweating a lot and encounter the big D, it may not be a bug. In the humid summer here you can't let your electrolytes get off. A jug of Gatorade does the trick. Water is good, but too much will mess you up even worse without the electrolyte addition.


Steve Cotton said...

Constantino -- We shall see how my programa finally does get.

Mic -- Thanks!

Felipe -- The most Gringo conversation I have is in my Spanish class -- where I am still performing without flair. That is the problem. Instead of conversing there, I am trying to perform. These beach vignettes just let me do what I can.

Todd -- I think the digestive problems are related to the heat. If I am out in weather over about 72, the bowels have a tendency to loosen.

Anonymous -- The sunsets are the day-stoppers around here (literally -- as poor Joe Biden would say). And there is no doubt that I have far more conversations as a result of Jiggs the Gregarious.

Larry -- I have found that I learn most from people who know a little English. That is how we got to the niece/nephew issue. The husband did not know the word and asked me. He described the relationship in English. I gave him the English word; he gave me the Spanish word. I can now associate the noun with a concrete situation. I doubt I will easily forget sobrino and sabrina.

I think you are correct about the source of my D attack. If days start wander above 72, my bowels start looking for relief. And we have not seen 72 -- since I arrived.

Calypso said...

Estaban - Don't drink the water ;-)

Felipe said...

Okay, now that you know niece and nephew, how about cousin, grandson, mother-in-law?

I have never in my long years heard of tummy problems being related to the ambient temperature.

Jonna said...

¡Excelente! You're doing it right!

I agree with Todd on the Activa but you might also boost the defenses with an acidophillus pill, available at Costco and most pharmacies. Also, WASH YOUR HANDS ALOT!!! It's the best preventative for a lot of things. If you are getting dehydrated, look for Electrolit in the pharmacy, less sugar than Pediolit and it comes in some good flavors. Drink one a day if you are sweating and double the water.

Many recommend a few drinks at a cantina for improving language, mainly because it is the anxiety that keeps us from just talking. It's hard to get over the dislike of sounding stupid or ridiculous but you have to, it's the only way to improve.

maria luz said...

Good for you!! I am proud! Never pass up the chance to talk in Spanish. When there, I go around the country striking up conversations with everyone I encounter and have made many pals that way.

Steve, you are not alone. Every summer here in north Texas we bounce around from cold to warm to cool then the next day to burning up (literally). I am very heat sensitive and I have lived here forever.

Over the years, I have had several friends from cooler climes that have wound up in the doctor's office being diagnosed with heat sickness. It is very real. We used to have a neighbor who was from Scotland and she finally had to leave Texas and go home. It was so bad, she divorced her husband to do it and took her five kids with her. He remained, ever the stout Texan.

We have another from England down the street and she never comes out of her house in the summer.

Listen to Todd, Larry, and Jonna. They know their stuff.

Y cuidate!

Islagringo said...

You have stumbled upon one of the best ways around to learn Spanish. And your conclusion is so right. Just talk and don't worry about it. If you make a grievous mistake, they will correct you or laugh hysterically!

On the gastric problems, you need to get on a 6 month schedule of taking Oxal for parasites. I take it when daylight savings changes. You're not really sick with them, just a low grade stomach ache and loose bowels a lot. Usually pain around the beltline area.

Anonymous said...


You are spot on. When people want to communicate with one another, they find a way.

J. and I had a similar experience in the Yucatan. We spent a day with a Swiss-Mexican family touring. Jana spoke broken Spanish with them; I, broken German. We had a great time sharing the day together.

Two days later, I made the mistake of using my German on a German couple at one of the ruins. I said in German, I think, "I wonder how they made these walls?" To which the physician from Munich replied in impeccable English: "And I wonder which is worse -- my English or your German." I moved right along.


1st Mate said...

I bet the young husband was as delighted to be communicating with you. We are all so afraid of looking foolish when we try to communicate in another language, and when we "click" it's such a joy. I wish for you lots more such opportunities, I know you won't waste them.

glorv1 said...

Sounds like things are going good for you and Jiggs despite the tummy troubles. You seem to be improving every day and your attitude is good. Have a great weekend, you and of course Mr. Jiggs.

Cynthia Johnson and Mike Nickell said...

Aren't dogs wonderful?! Our search for Sitka got us talking to our neighbors FINALLY and while the communication was slow, there was communication. Good job, Steve!

Anonymous said...

That's the spirit, Esteban!

Jump right in! The water's fine.

Steve Cotton said...

Calypso -- The bottled water runs through me like -- Oops! I almost had a George Patton moment.

Felipe -- Bring on the whole family. Will I need to marry into a Mexican family to get all of that straight? As for heat and The D, all I can say is: "I'm not a physician, but I play one in the court room." There is some correlation. It seems to be more than coincidental.

Jonna -- One of my sailing tricks is to carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with me at all times. I have probably, single-handedly (or double-handedly), killed off every good organism between here and the border.

Maria Luz -- I never turn down an opportunity for conversation. But I now feel that I have a few tools to actually communicate.

Islandgringo -- When The D hits, my pain is actually higher -- around the diaphragm. Odd, eh?

J -- Great tale.

1st Mate -- Now that our beach is showing a bit more life, I am going to take the opportunity to start talking with people. The skimboarders, who seemed to live in their own world, have proven to be quite friendly.

Gloria -- I am enjoying myself. But, I must confess, the beach is getting a bit boring.

Cynthia anmd Mike -- Dogs are great. And come to think of it, our dogs were the connection between us, as well.

Anonymous -- At least I do not feel as if I am skinny dipping in the Spanish end of the pool.

Anonymous said...


Qué bueno! Ya aprendes!

Pero recuerda: sobrino y sobrina. No sabrina. Sabrina es una bruja famosa de la televisión.


Kim G
Bostón, Ma
A donde no tenemos mucha oportunidad de platicar en español.