“La gente de mi barrio” was the last post before things went off the rails with mi gatito. Where were we when we left off? Let’s see… I think I was living over in Old Town in an apartment with assaultive golfer art.
I’ve since moved into a charming studio near the main square and the church of Guadalupe, a central location on the edge of the cringily-named “Gringo Gulch” (though whether it’s the word “gringo” or “gulch” that makes me more embarrassed, I couldn’t say).
Where my old place felt and – eerily – smelled like a hotel, this apartment is homey. Indeed, it came furnished with two house cats: a portly tiger-and-white called “Gina” (and renamed “Heena”, in deference to the pronunciation rules of español), and a tabby called Bobby (renamed Lovey, because he is).
On the one hand, my place is unbearably romantic. It’s built in the open, traditional Mexican style and overlooks the ocean. The day I moved in, I saw whales breaching in the bay. From my living room.
A hummingbird feeder is fastened to the same hook as my hammock, and up until recently, I was regularly visited by a tiny, electric bird. The feeder’s hung unmolested for weeks. (“You know you have to be careful mixing the sugar-water,” my mother eyed me warily, barely concealing her concern. Well who the hell would know that, I thought, but kept it to myself.)
I’m writing this blog entry from the hammock, one eye trained on the reds and yellows of the sunset.
Sunset. That’s when everything changes. “Open traditional Mexican style” means I have neither a wall nor windows on one side. Basically, I’m camping.
When the sun goes down, the pirata ship drifts into the bay, carrying another evening’s worth of tourists. I’ve never actually bought a ticket to Pirates of the Bay, but due to an emphatic on-board amplifier and a trick of acoustics, I can effortlessly eavesdrop on the nightly event. Each evening somewhere between 9:20 and 9:35 pm, the show culminates in a short fireworks display: no more than four blasts that, despite happening every night, never fail to drive the cats, flat-eared, under the bed.
Within 30 minutes of the last fiery work falling back into the bay, the nightclub begins. “Roo” caters to the young and scantily-clad, and by “caters” I mean it ensures the constant rotation of Boom Boom Pow (Black Eyed Peas, for you oldsters reading) and We No Speak Americano (I don’t know – Google it). Roo is open until 5:00am every night of the week.
Shortly after I moved in I mentioned the “situation” to my landlady.
“I guess there’re no noise laws here, eh?” I said, conversationally.
“Oh there are laws, but the owners just pay off the regulators.”
Great, I thought, as I screwed in my earplugs and took a Baileys to bed.
My landlady lives above me with her teenage son and a renter who I gather is also her lover. He frequently greets the morning with a full-throated aria, or “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”, or a medley. I have mixed feelings about this: his is not a bad voice, but I think these outbursts follow exceptional evenings better left unimagined.
My aural discomfort is not shared (and therefore, not halved). It’s typical here in Mexico to simply cry out the name of whoever you seek, whether they be in the other end of the house, or in a different house altogether. Although they have my telephone number, if I’m needed for any reason, my landlady will tip her head back and holler out a shrill, prolonged, “Keeeeeeeeth.” (Despite repeated corrections, she’s still under the misapprehension that my name is Keth. I’ve decided to go with it.) The thing is, she needn’t even raise her voice. Indeed, my response – yes? – uttered at the same volume as if she were across the table from me, is always enough.
Outside is as noisy. On the Malecón, the Voladores de Papantla whip themselves into a frenzy with the dee-dee-deedle-dee of the flute, and ascend the pole to fling themselves off every 20 minutes or so.
I watch the display from my window, and I’ll grant you, the moment of launch – when all four men tumble backwards off the platform in their bright red costumes – is exquisite. The synchronicity and revelation of a flower unfurling is writ large, made flesh.
Speaking of revelations, I can’t write about the sounds of my neighbourhood without rightly acknowledging the riddle of the bells of Guadalupe.
Guadalupe is a major Mary-type religious figure, both for Vallarta and for Mexico. I live 1.5 blocks from her church, where the bells ring 24 hours per day. Luckily, I find the sound of church bells to be by turns soothing, dramatic, and comforting.
Also, perplexing. There are several concurrent yet separate expressions. A bing-bong versus a BONG! BONG!, if you will. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have a scientifically-minded friend visit who, through methodical note-taking and long periods of observation, was able to crack one of the codes. That is, on the hour, quarter-hour, half-hour, and quarter to, the bells ring: bing-bong.
Unfortunately, her 7-day visit was insufficient time in which to unravel the mysteries of BONG! BONG! and bong-pause-bong-bong… and so forth.
Finally, a word about my new neighbours (and these beat Marta-on-the-shelf by a mile). Among those living within a five-door radius of me include: A male dancer whose authentic friendliness demanded that I look past his erection; a Cape Townian muscle fag who keeps promising a wine date; and an exiled Cuban performance artist and his beautiful girlfriend who are preternaturally friendly and warm, but who make me want to slap them sideways for always looking so recently fucked. On meeting these last two, my mother remarked, “That was like meeting John Lennon or something!”
* La vida en la Mina
The life on Mina. I’m currently living on Calle Mina, Puerto Vallarta.