Archive for category Memoir
I would be lying if I told you I remember anything about the day this picture was taken. It’s 2010 now, so this picture was taken some ten years ago and a lot has happened since then…but I keep thinking there should be something here in my memory about this…
I don’t remember that store, I don’t remember picking out the hat, or who took the photo.
And why I chose to take center stage in a photo from a moment in my life I can’t remember, even with photographic proof of its existance is curious.
Catty and yet self retrospectively, I might say that all the girls in that photo were sometimes stupid and slutty.
I don’t remember the girl on the left. Her ability to sell magazines — completely non-existent– makes me forget her as default.
That one in the middle is, well I’ll call her Bri. She’s eighteen years old in this photo, gorgeous, and bouncy — a mag crew’s favorite new hire in the universe.
The one on the far right is Debbie (who is a whole other blog). We stole her from her job as a bartender at one of Leona Helmsley’s hotels in Columbus, Ohio and convinced her to be our boss’ secretary.
We (as in the whole mag crew) corrupted Bri so absolutely.
I don’t remember where she was from. I kind of hated her.
Well, Love/Hate. Just before she fucked my boyfriend and lied to my face about it, her and I were great friends.
I didn’t hire her, but I totally trained her to sell the shit out of magazines. She was sharp and everyone knew it but no one was putting her across.
I was bent on winning another contest at the time and wanted to go pick up my quota before lunch and be done with it, I didn’t want to be dragged down with learnin’ some new little bright eye…
…but I took pity on Bri, because she acted sooo innocent and everyone believed the act so I thought she just needs to see how I sell magazines.
It was lunch time and we were in Brendan’s car which meant we had a half hour gas station break.
I spent it with Bri. I took her to the pumps where I immediately spotted a young stud with a sporty car, filling up his gas tank. (Key here is, pretty men don’t get hit on, girls are WAY too shy, and I knew this, so I always sold the shit out of mags to pretty men).
“Hi!” I grabbed Bri’s elbow and made her run up to him with me. “We’re in a contest! Do you want to help us win? If you don’t help us beat the boys, tonight we’re going to get pied in the face! Help us!” (Jump, bounce, flirt, smile, wink) “Oh my God, your car is sooo wicked cool, you must be really successful at your job!” (Lounge, touch, shimmy, grind) “Bri, show him your contest list!” (Jump, smile, leg kick) “Oh my God, you probably already get Maxim, huh? God I bet you get so many girls, you’re so cute, this car is so amazing! Oh my God! You must be soooo good at what you do….you must make so much money…Bri show him how many points he can help us with if he gets Car and Driver.”
So now she has an order on the day, she’s two weeks into the job, Brendan no longer completely hates everyone because there’s still time to make our car average if this new girl can at least pull it out and get five today.
“Alea,” Brendan pulled me aside, “Take Bri out with you and get her going, get some orders.”
It was another hot day in Florida. I remember getting dropped off in some apartment complex.
Brendan’s rule as car handler was neighborhoods in the morning, if you have five by lunch you get apartments at night.
Bri was getting spoiled by being dropped with me in apartments. As a new girl with two weeks she counted towards our car average but she hadn’t had her first five yet, so in Brendan’s car that meant two things, one, he hated her and wanted her to die, second, she would never see an apartment complex.
So the sale at lunch really made him happy I guess.
We split two orders that drop.
When we met Brendan at pick up he said,“O.k. you two stay in here and split it up. Go alone for the rest of the night, though. I’ll check on you, right here at 6:30.”
Bri came back that drop with three and ended her day with eight sales: It was her “High day,” her “first five day” and her “first seven day” which a person’s first seven sale day also equaled a “steak dinner” on Belo’s crew. (Mine was in the revolving thingie in Seattle, that’s for another blog).
So that day ended well, I remember. Our car was high on crew, I was in the front seat, all was well with the world and Brendan shared some beer with me on the way home.
(Please pretend like there’s a segue here.)
I can’t blame Bri and my boyfriend for sleeping together. They were both so hot!
She was young, but I know she knew better, I knew she was lying when one day, in the bathroom before morning meeting she said, “If I was fucking him I would tell you.”
This in reply to the whole crew finding out the morning my boyfriend left for a few weeks that he had carried on with some other girl, a girl I actually did hire and also trained to sell the shit out of magazines (and in a minute will be telling you about the time her, Bri and me all went to Miami and met Blondie).
I remember thinking, “You just did tell me, Bri.” But I was reeling from too much information already that day.
Mag crews, just like any group of people, maybe more than other groups of people, always strive to protect the status quo. Everyone kept quiet what everyone knew. And that included me and my boyfriend.
My boyfriend was the boss’ son, I was a contest winner. We were together. That was it. Didn’t matter how much it wasn’t working with us, it worked for the crew.
We both did what we did with other people and tried to keep it quiet.
We lied to each other so what does it matter that Bri lied to me?
One time before all of it was out in the open, my boss sent me to lead my first and only spur crew.
I got to pick two girls who would go with me. I picked the two that would make me the most money, it wasn’t my fault I also happened to want to get close to the two girls I remember being pretty sure my boyfriend wanted to make the sexy time with.
I did just totally admit to that. I kept my enemies close to me, I thought that’s what I was supposed to do?
We were being sent to Miami, (a whole other blog, trust me, which involves getting lost in Hialeah, having to stay the night in a hotel where the front desk guy cussed me out and called me a stupid, fucking American as he was handing me the room key, having to sneak in one of the girls because we only had enough money for two of us to rent the room, the weird, yellow-sweat stained guy who opened the door to peer at us, the non-locking door, the only channel, porn, no blanket on the bed) to work the University of Miami.
So back to the Love part of the Love /Hate.
We were working these awesome rich kid dorms at U of Miami.
The student parking lot was filled with Boxsters and Beamers.
The dorms filled with head’s of states kids and ambassador’s kids and Saudi national’s kids and by noon all three of us had ten sales each and that’s with working for two hours. Cake money.
We called it a day.
Our hotel was on the A1A and we were going to go back, change into our bikinis, get some Cuban coffee and go lay on the beach when we heard that Blondie was going to be at the Jackie Gleason theater that night …. literally right down the street from our hotel, we could walk.
Tickets were fifty bucks, we went straight away and bought them.
We were like the only girls there that weren’t boys and weren’t gay and after the (most awesome) show, Bri ran outside, around the building to where the limos were and struck up conversation with one of the limo drivers, she worked out an invite from the drummer, and then she hailed me and the other girl to jump in and off we went…
…to an exclusive, roped off section, in a night club, in Southbeach, with Blondie. Bienvenido a Miami, poppy.
Photographers were asking us, “Who are you?”
“Hahahaa we sell magazines, now about that bottle of Dom, you’re standing in the waiter’s way, move MTVeejay person so he can pour me a glass, ugh.”
Drummer dude was working it on Bri, trying to convince her to go on tour with them. I was like, “GO BITCH ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?”
But I guess Bri’s daddy issues aren’t / weren’t as big as mine and / or it’s true what she said, that she wouldn’t leave me and the other girl alone for anything in the world.
Drummer dude gave Bri a hundred dollar bill for a cab. We went home (what other people call a hotel), changed into our bikinis, went Domified / Blondified swimming in the ocean.
We laughed about how awesome we were.
The next day we went shopping and Bri bought this outfit with what was left over with drummer dude’s hundred dollar bill. I wonder if she still has it.
And I kind of wonder how she tells this story.
Because you KNOW she does.
Sometimes I wake up
And I think, “Where in the fuck am I?”
Then I roll over and see you laying next to me.
And I think, “Who fucking cares?”
The boat was blue. As was the ocean and the sky. I was glad I had a fistful of Vicodin thrown into the bottom of my bag. Every time the boat’s helm hit the top of a wave, the center of the 30 passenger (currently at half capacity) water taxi to Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico gave a little yawning, cracking sound. I finally had the headache I knew was going to come and had therefore prepared. I had managed to survive a twelve hour layover, a flight full of margarita tipsy honeymooners, a taxi from the Puerto Vallarta airport to the Los Muertos pier (the pier of the dead, anything but) and the company of American men who bought my friend and I a lobster lunch.
I watched as the Mexican man getting our lunch emerged from the ocean a few yards out, carrying the lobsters in a trap. When he got onto the shore he pitched the little red devils onto the fire pit that the café used for cooking. Along with red lobster, there is always in Mexico an endless supply of Pacifico and Corona beers. The American men introduced me to a local mota dealer who met me in the bathroom with a half ounce in tinfoil and a complimentary pack of orange Zig Zags mashed into the middle of it for twenty USD.
Mexico, is, as always, bienvenido.
From the Americans at the pier, my friend and I learned that the next day was El Dia de los Marineros in Yelapa. It is the biggest holiday of the year for the hardworking Yelapans, who, finally, in June, have their village mostly to themselves. In summer is when most of the tourists and ex-pat gringos are gone for the yearly summer drought. In Yelapa there are 1,000 year round residents.
A small fishing village in Bahia de Bandera, it is one of several villages that dot the coast, surviving thousands of years in obscurity until the seventies when artists like Bob Dylan discovered Yelapa for himself, and would escape there from time to time to write and relax.
So, most people leave Mexico in the summer, but this is when I went. I was running away, it’s true. There are other places I could have gone, but this place, this place that Cortes had laid his blessing upon, was where I wanted to go most.
There are no cars, because there are no roads. No roads leading in, no reads leading out. The boat’s wake disappears into the ocean, I couldn’t leave bread crumbs for someone to come and find me.
I needed to go someplace where no one knew me. I needed to go someplace where I could be myself, true to my core, where I could write, where I could dive into the ocean on a whim, where I could ride horses along the beach or up into the mountains, jump off of cliffs, spend hours relating to hermit crabs and orphan dogs. The people in Mexico in June are the hard cores. I am a hard core. I belonged there, for that moment in time, and I needed to be there. And everyday I want to go back. As the years pass I wonder if I will.
I was married then, and I wanted a separation, but my husband refused to give me one. I understood where he was coming from, that I might use the time to indulge my senses in other men was true and he could not bear the thought of it, even though he himself wouldn’t touch me. But I thought that if he really wanted to save the marriage he would give me a chance to be myself again.
At the time, it had been over four years that we had been together, married for a year of that. Things were far from perfect, I believe we had fallen out of love with each other.
But he didn’t see it that way. He told me everyday how much he loved me, he gave me jewelry, credit cards, new cars, a $50,000 re-model on the house located only a mile from Lake Michigan. I had anything I wanted, all the things maybe he thought might put a band-aid on the issue or maybe a blind-fold over my eyes, make me blind to the fact that my own husband couldn’t understand that I needed to be loved.
But had I married for money I would have been happy, but that’s not why I married, so why did he try to give what I never said I wanted? Why did he think that a diamond tennis bracelet would take the place of his hands cupping my face? Why did he think a stainless steel kitchen would make up for the absence of a warm embrace?
I tried to tell him, but he wouldn’t listen. So, I took my leave without permission. I had to.
As the boat neared the shores of Isabel’s beach it is 100 percent true that my headache suddenly disappeared. The Vicodin that I had been taking every day for two years for my chronic and mysterious headache went untouched the entire time I was in
As we got about twenty feet out I stood up on the sides of the boat and held onto the frame, when I could see the water was obviously shallow, I leapt in and grabbed the line to help guide the boat in.
With the boat pulled in, I looked up into the craggy cliffs, saw the natural and man-made haphazard stairway leading to the palapa hut where I would be staying for the next couple months, perched 30 feet up and built so as the back inside wall was the rock face.
My friend and I were the only ones getting off at Isabel’s beach. Less than half a mile up shore was the little beach and then the main beach after that was where the rest of the passengers would disembark. This was Isabel’s beach, a retired art dealer, professor, author and eighty-plus-year-old matron of the palapa villa where I was coming to make my home. This was the beach a terrible storm had made the year she first paid the lease, twenty years ago.
Isabel was not there to greet us. She was in Puerto Vallarta on a two-day supply trip and would be arriving back on the last taxi several hours from now. When I met her finally, she was carrying arm loads of packages up the long winding steps to the main house.
The drought had begun to settle in awhile back, she explained, as we helped carry things up the mountainous slope.
Soon, some of the Mexicans Isabel employed at the villa came to help and the six of us about twenty feet apart from the boat to the front door formed a line to get the packages up to the house
Later at dinner, Isabel explained that no one doubted the drought would end naturally, but just in case the Huichol Indians were going to come down off the mountain and out of the jungle soon to do the full moon peyote rain dance ritual on the cliffs overlooking the bay. They were already on the way, making their way through the thick jungle, it would take days, there are no roads.
The trip to the current location of the Huichol village is by foot and it takes a long time. The people are almost completely untouched by the modern world and have remained thus for thousands and thousands of years. They are direct descendents of the Aztec.
Isabel explained that as little water as we have now, would be as much water as they would have later. That great torrents of fresh water would fill the two rivers to overflowing, that sheets of water would come rushing down the mountains, tumbling hermit crabs and pebbles, rotted mangoes and coconuts that would heap along the mountain-side perched palapa houses.
She told me for the first time then, and over and over for the next several weeks that when she left in September, that was when the rain would come. She told me about keeping the drainage holes free of leaves and other debris so that the water would have a quick escape to the sea and not swell up and fill the place with water ruining everything. The whole affair was of great concern to her because it happened that last year’s caretaker didn’t do a good job keeping the drainage holes free and it was a disaster.
I left before it started raining. I left too soon. It was months before I told my husband our marriage was over, but I came back from Mexico wild again, and he must have known from my dirty toes and the look in my eyes that it was over. He let me go easily, and I still love him for that, because it showed me I made the right choice. They say marriage is a leap of faith, but so is divorce. No decision that changes a persons life is easy and I was waiting for a sign. Maybe one of my biggest signs is I didn’t have to take the headache pills while in Mexico, but had to start again as soon as I got home.
Or maybe my biggest sign was how, as the boat came to shore that first day I hiked up my white skirt and leapt into the ocean, feeling the warm gulf waters envelope me up to my thighs, wading to shore with one of the crew, helping him to guide the boat in.
I guess this was when I knew the uncomfortable truth of me having to leave my marriage. Because I knew I was being defiant, and I didn’t like having to feel as though I was being defiant at thirty years old. At thirty years old I should be able to leap from anything I wanted to leap from, no one should have that power over me to tell me what I could and could not do.
In the back of my mind as I leapt from the boat I heard my husband telling me to get down off the sides of the boat, I saw my husband turning red with embarrassment when I hopped into the water, my skirt up, grabbing the boat line in one smooth movement as I hit the water, pulling the boat in like I lived there and did it everyday. In my mind I could see that if he was there, I would be beside him, only wishing I could do what I did.
I know what today is;
I will not try and tell you that personally.
But if you find yourself looking to
One day, bubula
— if you are looking for the words
That connect you to EARTH
— then you should know,
what today is.
At the edge of the sea we sat. The dark Mississippi night rolling in on surf and sand bugs, the beer was warm, and we wore bikinis and promised our love for one another would never die and pinky swore we’d never fuck each other’s boyfriends. Biloxi where the boys have bonfires, where the beer is free and flowing, and the girls get drunk and say things they forget.
It was 1999. Our shit hotel across the street was only for sleeping. We sat in the water, telling stories about the Jones on T and thought we were wise for our years. Did we think we were clever? Did we think we had gotten one over on the whole damn world, that we had some secret to living life that could only be attained by the chose ones, us? Maybe. It was no secret we had maddening Ninja-like moves on territory. And while our five combined ages were less than one hundred years and certainly we didn‘t know much: We knew some things for sure; like how to put on an act that would convince at least ten people a day to buy a magazine.
As we sat and watched the surf come in, the blue light from Treasure Bay the only light in the sky, the water so dirty, but we didn’t even notice, but I notice it now, looking back, the water so dirty and the casino’s light the only light in the sky. The air almost green with envy at our carefree ways, our naivety and wet legs witnessed by the black cherry and sycamore trees. The heat clinging to the air, coating our lungs. We passed a cigarette around and I know I was the only one who searched for the moon in vain that night and went back to that dark, little hotel room too early because the only thing more depressing to me right then was the beach.
Those girls, those lying bitches. I wonder what they’re up to these days.
In Cortes, Arizona, the sun sets into the burning ivory shadows. They are orange-cream, sunsets, bisque memories alongside the pinkish, tan pueblo house, a cotton field with Gila monsters, puffs of white cotton floating up and into my hair all day and into the blue air all around — rows and rows standing between me and the black-rimmed mountains on the horizon twenty-miles away if it was a mile. I learned to take aim at lizards with a bb gun and ride a bicycle in the yard with a century plant that snarled and yawned in one the corner, dusty clumps of life here and there, a forgotten, tumbling down waterfall, surrounded all around by a graying, side-ways leaning chain-link fence, no neighbors to speak of. The rumbling, empty drone of the highway in the distance, close enough to be dangerous, close enough for mom to keep the shotgun loaded while dad was at work at the Exxon gas station, pumping gas mostly, maybe an odd brake job.
We would kick dirt, my little sister and I, and throw a baseball back and forth, catch lizards by their tails, play with our dogs and our cats.
One night my mother went to the kitchen barefoot to fetch some milk and stepped on something. She didn’t investigate right away. In the morning she saw that it was a scorpion she had smooshed into the linoleum. We all had to be more careful after that, not that we were. Life in the desert, even for the children, is lived right by the skin of the teeth, bones always wanting to be picked clean by the vultures, showing through the thin skin on the knee or the ribs, the birds circled and lick their beaks. Some days our eyes grew yellow like the sun.
The details of that lovely place are all draped with the gossamer wings of a butterfly, drenched in the crystalline blue of an endless sea beneath a great and mighty sun and twinkling like a net of stars above the palm fronds swaying gently in a balmy, tranquil night.
The drought had settled in before I came, and went on long after I arrived, but no one around me doubted it would end; that great torrents of fresh water would fill the two rivers to overflowing, that sheets of water would come rushing down the mountains, tumbling hermit crabs and pebbles, rotted mangoes and coconuts that would heap along the mountain-side perched palapa houses. No one doubted that as much time as we spent now conserving water we would spend an equal amount of time keeping the drainage holes free inside our homes of leaves and other debris so that the water would have a quick escape to the sea and not swell up and rush our homes over the cliffs, not to mention our pot and pans, books, wax-candle stubs, and mosquito netting, that five dollar USD bottle of Pantene champu, snorkeling gear, a broken piece of mirror, other things hard to come by in the sticks of Mexico.
No roads to speak of led in or out of the village. One could come up to four hours away in a vehicle and then have to hike the rest of the way because the foliage in the jungle was impossible to get through in any other way other than having someone lead the way with a machete.
The best way in or out of Yelapa is by boat. One disembarks from the mainland, Puerto Vallarta, from Los Muertos pier, which translated, means “the dead.” Of course that side of town is anything but, with fifty dollar USD fresh lobster feasts, children selling tiny, wooden, bobbly-headed, brightly painted animals, ten for a peso, and women selling jewelry up and down the pier. For 120 pesos you can hitch a ride to Yelapa, on a boat that looks like it will crack in two on the next wave.
I watched from high up on the cliff the tourist boat coming in, loaded with couples on their honeymoon, looking for some authentic adventure together that would seal their connection. I dig my toes into the crevices and squint my eyes and whisper to the ghost of Pepé who is always close by, a constant companion. Whenever “his” palapa isn’t rented to someone (and sometimes when it is) I will go there and sleep away the night or for special guests “we” will make red snapper ceviche with fresh garlic, tomatoes, and avocado. Pepé insists I use his recipe for the ceviche. No one ever says anything but, “muy bien” about Pepé’s ceviche.
He died probably before I was born I think. He was almost certainly Isabel’s lover, but while she won’t admit it and neither will he exactly, whenever they talk to me about each other there is an intimacy in their voices that coats their words like mango juice.
Isabel is a retired art dealer, professor, author and eighty-plus-year-old matron of the palapa villa that stray cats like me and Pepé find ourselves at – hanging out on the porch for so long we eventually get taken in on a more permanent basis. We make ourselves useful and we’ll get fed at least.
Of course Pepé — whose time was spent doing only-God- knows-what while he was alive, like aiding and abetting the Black Widow who hid out in the mountainous jungle of Yelapa for awhile before the FBI tracked her down, or smoking marijuana with Bob Dylan — a long-time expat Yelapan in Bahia de Banderas — was dead if I didn’t make that clear and he didn’t really eat anymore, but he did make himself useful. He was a broken-down old ghost, and we related to each other in our infinite sadness, and poetic way of looking at the world. I guess. He was better company than myself alone was at any rate, and I spent my time in Yelapa mostly alone, writing: My alone time was interspersed with horseback rides into the mountains, snorkeling trips, bird watching, rodeos, beer drinking, bailars, hikes, hang gliding, soccer on the beach with the locals…
It is legend that when Cortes arrived on the beach he was so taken by the beauty and serenity of the small tranquil playa that he built a church to show an everlasting truce between the people of that land and the kingdom of Spain. The church remains in the village on the sea and Cortes, while he was not so kind to the rest of Mexico, kept his word and never returned to Yelapa to cause harm to the people or the land.
One day, a young Huichol Indian family journeyed to the village from down out of the mountains. It was a young mom and dad and their tiny papoose who didn’t wear any clothes ever and just peed anywhere.
The dad was 16, I found out, and so now they were kids who were running away he tells Isabel in Huichol and broken Spanish. They know each other because she has purchased his art and sold it before in California and he has brought some of his art with him and wants her to sell it for him so he and his bride can be together with their baby and have money.
While he explains all of this I take the mom and the baby down the twisty path through the jungle, down to the tranquila Bahia, the sparkling sea under the sun and we go swimming. The baby is delighted and so is the girl and the light sparks rainbows in their eyes and in the droplets that splash around us. She speaks no Spanish. I speak no Huichol. I can’t tell her how adorable her baby is so we just laugh when he does and call it a day.
After dinner I search the linen closet in the main house for tiny rags to use as diapers and a bin of sorts for baby washing, soaps and creams and blankets, whatever I can find and take it to her. When I arrive in the candlelight glow of their palapa I get the baby from her hip and diaper him on the table in front of them.
The trip to the current location of the Huichol village is by foot and it takes a long time. The people are almost completely untouched by the modern world and have remained thus for thousands and thousands and thousands of years. In 2009 almost nothing is any different in their world than it was thousands and thousands and thousands of years ago: This young family are direct descendents of the Aztec, and as such we treat them reverently.
In Yelapa, like anywhere, there’s always a million things to do if you want to do things and need to get them done. There really are a million things to do but life isn’t lived like that here; the jungle is just kept at bay, it is never conquered.
Work is done joyfully and one’s own pace. People’s individual skills appreciated: The pie lady makes the best pie, the piano player the best notes, the fisherman, the fattest fish he finds everyday. The children of the village play among the trees, when they get old enough they take a boat to Catholic school in Puerto Vallarta each morning. But like I said, each memory of the place is honey and granola with chunks of the pineapple I picked off the tree and cut up fresh just that morning, still warm from the fire of the sun. La cocina in the main house is always full of laughter as the women cut mangoes into containers with Isabel. Ana, the frail, olive skinned girl with big dark eyes and a British accent, and a woman from British Columbia who can’t take the heat and while she doesn’t complain, certainly she wants to. The history professor from Yale who made documentaries in South Africa during the fall of apartheid, the Huichol family making cooing sounds to one another on the porch as the sheets from all the guest beds in the palapas flutter prettily in bright colors of pinks and yellows in the smooth and hopeful breeze, a well-tended garden of popping red, orange and purple blooms, high on the mountain, perched on the cliff, overlooking the ocean, multiple colors of blue waves caressing the rocks far below, birds of paradise float by, and always in my memory when a mango falls off the tree, lands on the roof and rolls into the court yard , I go and get it.