Tuesday, September 11, 2018

where there never was a hill

Some stories never die. But physical landmarks do.

On 1 July 2017, I reported about a construction project in between Melaque and Barra de Navidad (eating el cerrito). Or, more accurately, a deconstruction project.

When the major north-south coastal highway was built in the 1970s, the portion through our little villages encountered an obstruction. An ancient hill of rock sits on the shore of the largest body of fresh water on the west coast of Mexico. The choice was to go around the hill or through it.

Fortunately for the engineers, there was an easy solution. A portion of the hill was a small finger. It was through the finger that the engineers built. Leaving the large hill to the north and a smaller portion to the south. El cerrito.

For years el cerrito rested unmolested. A small structure (now derelict) was built on top looking a bit like those pillboxes in Hawaii designed to halt the expected Japanese invasion. In its highest glory, it was designated a tsunami evacuation point for grade schoolers.

In the ten years I have lived here, it has been placed on the market several times. And rumors spread that it was to be developed as a small, but exclusive, resort or as a view home for the usual list of celebrities.

So, when construction equipment moved onto the hill, the rumor mill shifted into full gear. And, of course, I stoked the furnace myself.

It turns out the reality was far more mundane than anything the gossips could conjure up -- as is true with life. The equipment was there to turn the hill into a flat spot beside the road. It was nothing more than a gravel pit. Or rock quarry.

For the past year, dump trucks have been carting off the hill's body parts to parts unknown. The word is that the corpse is being dumped in the Marabasco River as part of a dike project. So much for Carlos Slim or Salma Hayek moving into the neighborhood.

People who have been away from the area for the past winter will not recognize that part of the road. It has been deleted just as effectively as the dictator Stalin eliminated Nikolai Yezhov, his top cop, from photographs -- not to mention life.

Last week I had breakfast with a group of expatriates. We are all of a certain age. And that age is a number you will not find on a roulette table. 

There were seven of us older guys. The man across the table from me asked if I had heard that a Bodega Aurrerá (a medium-sized discount store owned by Walmart) was going to be built there. I chuckled and asked if he had read that on our local message board. A wag friend had started the rumor. I asked if he had heard the one I started -- that a Costco was going to be built there?

The man sitting beside me, who I thought had been listening to our exchange (at least, he had been nodding and watching us while we talked) asked: "Have you heard a Bodega Aurrerá is going in there?" I chuckled at his joke.

But, I could tell by the confused look on his face that he was serious. For whatever reason, he had completely missed the details of our conversation.

Similar let's-start-over moments happened that morning. And I have noticed how frequently large parts of conversation seem to go missing these days.

There is no doubt age plays a part. The majority of the men at that breakfast table wear hearing aids -- for good reason.

The last time I was in The States, I went to two movies. Both times I sat near older couples. The husband would recurringly ask his wife: "What did she say?" or "Isn't that the same woman that died? Why is she alive?" or "Who is that?"

And it is not simply age. I have a friend who is still in his 20s who will interrupt my stories asking about something I just told him.

"Yesterday I was at Papa Gallo's in Melaque and I saw the strangest thing on the beach."

"Where were you?"

"Papa Gallo's."

"Where is that?"


"What was on the beach."

"Never mind. I can't remember now."

There is no doubt, I may be partly to blame. I regularly dine with two different couples. Recently, I have noticed that the husbands tend to get glassy-eyed about two sentences into one of my fascinating anecdotes just seconds before their eyes start darting around like trapped animals.

Whether it is the age of my dining companions or my inherent boring nature, I do not know. But I fear my career as a raconteur may be drawing to a close.

Maybe the hill had the correct idea. After all, I have eked two full stories out of its dismemberment. Maybe I should follow its example as a body part shop.

The only problem with that career is that it would disprove my hook. Some stories actually do die.

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