Thursday, January 01, 2015

white like me

"Other than in the Melaque area, you are the only gringo I have seen since we entered Mexico."

It was my cousin Dan.  I had commented on the number of vacationing Mexicans we have seen during our trip south.  He trumped that with the same observation for his full trip.

I worked back through the our trips.  Colima.  Comala.  Agua Fria.  Lázaro Cárdenas.  Playa Azul.

He was correct.  And since Patty has beautifully browned skin and she has repeatedly pointed out that Dan's features are as dark as many Mexicans, my blond head is the odd man out.

Rather than driving further down the Michoacán and Guerrero coast, we decided to stay in Lázaro Cárdenas for another night -- and to celebrate New Year's Eve.  A quick internet search revealed that most coastal hotels are still booked.  After all, New Year's Eve is a big deal in Mexico.  Filled with enough traditions and customs to put the court etiquette of Louis XIV to shame.

Our stop for the day was obvious: Playa Azul.  All of the guide books praise it.  Even people who do not frequent this area of Mexico know its name -- though it is often confused with other beaches around the world.

We were positive we were going to encounter Coney Island-sized crowds.  Especially after the Christmas crowds we saw in La Manzanilla.

We were wrong.  The beach, along with its sand-floored restaurants, was almost empty.  A knot of tourists here and there.  Even the beach vendors were sitting in the shade.

I had forgotten which country I was in, I guess.  Most Mexicans, when on vacation, do not start their days early.  And that proved to be the case yesterday.  In the afternoon, families started drifting in -- most to stake out territory that will remain that particular family's turf.  Probably well past midnight.

Patty bought grapes to eat at the stroke of midnight.  But no one in our group has pulled out a suit case or bought red or yellow underwear.  We are undoubtedly risking our futures by not following in the steps of some long-dead practical joker who started all of this stuff.

While we were at the beach, Patty discovered something I have never seen -- a sand dollar.  A living sand dollar.  I have seen plenty skeletons of sand dollars -- after some enterprising soul has boiled the living matter off and then peddled the sad remains for the entertainment of tourists.

But the specimen she found was alive and kicking, with its primitive mouth and feet.  When alive, it is easier to understand their kinship with sea urchins.  The biggest difference is that the sand dollars are subject the ebb and flow of the tide.  We must have seen several score of them in our small portion of the beach.

Speaking of fishy items, I may be altering my view of fish as a dinner item.  Dan and Patty each had red snapper for lunch -- grilled and served whole, as fish should be. 

I gave it a try.  The consistency was meaty and smooth.  My biggest problem with fish is that it does not taste like anything to me.  It is always dependent on its sauces -- much like chicken wings and ribs, which I have never quite understood.

Since we will be eating in fish restaurants regularly on this trip, I had best get with the program.

What did not quite seem to be with the program was the Christmas village standing in front of the Lázaro Cárdenas city hall.  I am certain some wag can construct an essay on the shallow nature of Christmas commercialism -- based on this view. 

Can there be anything lonelier than Santa's seat several days after Christmas?  Rumor has it that he will be one of the three kings on 6 January.

There you have it.  Our New Year's Eve day.  Perhaps, one of the best I have sent for some years.  Because I spent it with family.  My people.

As for all of you, I hope you have a blessed new year -- even if you failed to consume your grapes while walking around the block in your red or yellow underwear while carrying a suitcase.

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