“Clean” Dean the mighty Marine
Couldn’t tell whom
He’d killed or he’d seen.
He was classified to be in many Black Ops
And his superiors referred to him as one of their “mops,”
Because Dean Ian the Cleaning Machine
Was able to leave no trace at a scene.
A contractor is working?
Now he’s working no more.
Disappeared forever to even a score.
Clean Dean the Careful Marine
Left the place looking like
His hit had never been.
One day Clean Dean left the Marines.
He stopped lifting weights;
He became long and lean.
He got into the horses;
He got into the tracks;
He read books about gardening
And espionage paperbacks.
Clean Dean the mighty Marine
Met a lady one day whose name was Colleen.
They got along smoothly,
And he bought her a ring.
He proposed in the fall,
And they were married in spring.
Clean Dean bought a car for the baby
A safe car with four doors
Because Collen was expecting.
The years passed by,
These Dean could not sweep away.
He lived through the seasons;
He lived through the days.
Clean Dean grew old and found God.
His babies had babies,
And he once thought how odd
It was to grow old,
When he’d been convinced he’d die young.
Clean Dean, however, lived till he was ninety-one,
And before he died, his doctor marveled at him
Said, “It must be good living that has kept you so trim.”
And Clean Dean the Ruthless Marine
Gave not a thought to the horrors that he had seen
To the corpses he’d made or the dark places he’d been,
But said with a smile,
“Doc, what’s fascinating,
Is how the world keeps on turning,
Without taking notice of you
It’s a sphere of green and of white and of blue,
And taken at a distance, like from the nearest star,
We folk are so very tiny, that no one knows who we are.”
And so Clean Dean the Mighty Marine
Died one day and Earth kept revolving,
Persisting in its course as it does for all men,
Going and going as if we’d never been.
I met a fellow in the bar last night
Who thought he was William Tell
Wanted to shoot a beer can off my head
I told him to go to Hell.
But he gave me a look like the last buffalo
Dying out on the plains
So sad and lonely it made me act
Like I had forgotten all of my brains…
The barman told us to take it outside
But I told him that I liked where I was
Sitting in front of that big saloon mirror,
Listening to the neon lights buzz.
I took up a bottle of cold Miller Lite
And I set it on top of my head
But when the fellow stumbled ten paces off
I figured I’d soon end up dead.
He cocked back the hammer on his Colt three fifty-seven
And as I watched the cylinder turn
I froze up with my brain full of spiders,
And my stomach crawling with worms.
He closed one eye, and I saw the gun waving
Not a few inches upwards and down
And I cautiously asked him whether he meant
to shoot up the ceiling or into the ground?
The fellow slurred, “I used to do this when I’d hunt antelope
I’d calculate the angle, the distance, and slope.
I’d never miss then,
I’d put bullets through hearts,
For gunmanship is nothing but poise and practice and smarts,
And I possess each in equal parts!”
He stuck his tongue between his lips
And told me to stand very still
And as the barrel waved before my face
I turned a snake green, and I felt very ill.
The fellow slurred, “Whatcher eyes wide for?
I won’t do you no harm!”
Then he licked his lips and drooled a little spittle,
And then the fucker shot me—right in the arm!
The bullet knocked me back against the bar
And the patrons all screamed and ran
A tequila bottle shattered, my stool fell and clattered,
And I heard a shout of “Goddamn!”
Well I clutched my arm, and I started to stand
When I saw the fellow aiming again
I started a prayer, and I leapt out of there,
Talking fast on my way to, “Amen!”
He fired the gun, and the mirror blew out,
Shards of glass flew all over the place.
I poked my head up over a table
And found him aiming the gun at my face.
So I made myself scarce as the gun fired again
And destroyed a bottle of gin.
“Ceasefire, truce!” I shouted to him,
“The bottle’s broken—you win!
If you want me to tell folks you shot it first try,
By heaven, I’ll put it in song!”
“Can I count on you?” he slurred in a shout,
“I want ’em to know I don’t shoot wrong!”
“You can count on me till the end of your days,
From now until the end of all this!
By the time I’m done talking
The people will say, There goes the man who never once missed!”
“Well, I suppose that’s allright,” the drunk fellow said,
“My friend I’ll take up your word.”
Then he looked all around and he put the gun down,
And he said, “I’m sorry I shot up the bar.
But to see the mirror blow out
And hear folks scream and shout
Well that’s enough to make a man’s day.
And after all no one got hurt, just men being men,
Let me buy you a drink, my new friend.
This’ll all turn out right, the world’ll keep turning,
And we’ll all end the same in the end.”
I said I could use a beer and cigarette,
As I picked myself up off the floor.
“A cig?” he said, “I could shoot the cherry off it, I bet.”
And I took off running—right out the door!
Bill “The Butcher” Proctor was the town’s local doctor
And he had had much more than a nip.
When a woman came in with a broken hand,
He took off her leg at the hip.
When the woman woke up she just looked down and sobbed.
“Why, oh why, do you cry?” asked Doctor Proctor,
“It may be true that you’re left with one thigh,
But you’ll get used to that by and by.”
“You fool, you bastard!” the woman screamed at the man,
“I came in to your clinic with a pain in my hand!”
“Hm,” said the doctor, looking down at her leg.
“Well. Yes. Hm. I see.
“In my condition I thought I saw something wrong with the knee.”
And he thought, “Left uncorrected, this could spell serious trouble for me!”
“I’ll sue your quack practice for all that it’s worth!”
Screamed his patient in fury as she wept and she cursed.
Dr. Proctor scratched at his chin, then he put her under again.
He murmured, “I’ll fix this wreck right up in a sec!”
And with the sound of a snick and the sound of a sneck
He cut off his patient’s head at the neck!
“There,” he said, holding her head up by the hair,
“There, there, there! Now, now, she can’t complain to anyone anywhere!”
She heard the click of the ratchet,
and saw the oil pan, sweat, and the grease.
Heat waves shimmered out over the prairie,
while wind stroked the wheat.
From his back beneath his black ’70 Camaro,
he saw her bronzed, crossed legs swinging.
He tightened the oil plug, came out from under the car,
and filled the reservoir with oil.
He wiped his hands with a red rag, and he felt
her eyes on him.
She was sitting on a lawn chair sipping lemonade,
with the prairie stretched out behind.
She didn’t smile when he looked at her,
but she met his eyes.
He checked the oil level, shut the hood,
and ran the car while he put his tools away.
Want to go for a ride, he said.
Yeah. Where to?
It’s the road that matters, he said,
And what you do while you’re on it.
So you don’t know where you’re going?
I know exactly where I’m going, he said.
I’m going where my heart leads.
She smiled at that, and she got in.
They drove out past the steel pump jacks
into a fairy land of wind farms, where the towers
stood like giants and cast shadows
that bent northeast.
As the stars wheeled up, they stopped roadside
to pick buffalo grass and daisies, then they drove on again.
The moon was a quarter full, and as they swept
through the panhandle, she put her bare feet
up on the dash, and she knotted a daisy necklace.
She put it around her neck, and when he looked over
she was wearing the flower necklace,
and hanging in her ears were silver earrings
shaped like crescent moons.
Although he knew already that he was in love,
He felt it again, and he told her so.
When the night was deep and black, they stopped again,
out there on the pavement, and he put his hand around her waist.
Together they looked up to the stars,
and they made up stories for constellations,
listening to one another, to the cicadas,
and their hearts.
Limericks were popularized by the artist Edward Lear (1812 – 1888). Most of mine are grim and funny.
An Ant in a Shoe
There once was an ant in a shoe
Who said I’ve got nothing to do
Then a man came along
And he put his shoes on
Now that ant’s nothing more than a goo.
A man lived in Ecuador’s Embassy
In London by the Thames and the sea
Now no one’s sure where he’ll go
But there’s one thing we all know
Where ever he’s next is rent free. April 11th, 2019 Julian Assange is arrested.
There once was a beaver named Weaver
Who met a young furrier named Cheever
He said your tail’s like a paddle
But it would make a nice saddle
So he chopped off his tail with a cleaver.
The Big Crocodile
There once was a big crocodile
Who lived on the banks of the Nile
He said I love to munch and to crunch
And eat children for lunch
It’s the youth that make living worthwhile.
The Black Hole, Messier 87 There once were supermassive black holes
Whose hearts were darker than coal
Some folk found them odd
And tied them to God
Hoping they’d shine light on the soul. April 10th, 2019 The first image of a black hole is published.
The Boll Weevil
There once was a cotton boll weevil
Whom all the farmers called evil
When it ate all their cotton
They called the bug rotten
And sprayed Aldrin until it weren’t legal.
There once was a place called Bordeaux
With lamplighters who set streets aglow
Every dark night
They’d bring on the light
And in so doing they’d cast a shadow.
Boxing and Dance
There once was a very fine marriage
Made from man’s footwork and carriage
The marriage wed boxing and dance
In a beauty-and-beast type romance
And spanned the two fields with its fair bridge. May 4th, 2019 (Cinco de Mayo weekend) Canelo fights Jacobs
Caster Semenya There once was a woman who ran
Til a board implied she was half a man
They told her to decrease her hormone
By limiting testosterone
Or she would get permanently banned. May 1st, 2019 The IAAF rules that South African runner Caster Semenya must medically decrease her natural levels of testosterone to run the 800 and 1500 meter races. Semenya subsequently refuses.
There once were a sister and brother
Whose antics annoyed their poor mother
She said Now you had better behave
Or I’ll send you both to your grave
A phrase she recalled from her mother.
There once was a Chilean named Bean
Whom a cook tried to force through a screen
She said You’ll make a fine hash
Once you’re smashed and you’re mashed
But her words were drowned out by his scream.
The Covetous Queen
There once was a covetous queen
Who wanted everything that she’d seen
She hounded the court
Until they gave their support
To render her blind as a bean.
The Dead Shot
There once was a corpse on a cot
Whose body did nothing but rot
One day a distiller moved in
He added yeast like for gin
And said I’ll name my new drink the Dead Shot.
A Doctor Named Chris
There once was a doctor named Chris
Whose surgeries went always amiss.
He said with a shake of his head
I’ve left another one dead
The families will have to get used to this.
An Enormous Snake There once was an enormous snake
Who ate children who passed by the lake
He said if they weren’t so good raw
I’d still fill my craw
I’d just have to learn how to bake!
The Fisherman’s Wife
There once was a fisherman’s wife
Who caught a fish in the prime of its life
She said with a grin
I’ll not see you again
And she cut off its head with a knife.
There once was a deadly disease
Who traveled far and wide on a sneeze
It said Don’t wash your hands
For there are many fine lands
That I am still very anxious to see.
A Grim Slaughterhouse
There was once a grim slaughterhouse
That would kill anything from a cow to a mouse
One day a woman went there and said,
I’m very miserably wed,
Do you think you could butcher my spouse?
The Incredible Prude
There once was an incredible prude
Who was too shy to even bathe nude
She’d bathe in her clothes,
And she’d cover her nose,
For she thought that her nostrils were lewd.
The Lumberjack and the Trees
There once was a grove of old trees
Who grew tall living life by the seas
Along came a strong lumberjack
Who took them down with a whack
And left stumps as tall as your knees.
The Mad Man
There once was a mad man named Jim
Who hurt everyone close to him
After he found a wife
He took her life
You can’t trust a mad man my friend.
A Man Named Ajmal There once was a man named Ajmal
Who couldn’t be trusted at all
He said to a girl who was near
Won’t you come here my dear?
Then he bashed in her head with a maul.
A Man With No Legs
There once was a man with no legs
Who dearly loved to eat eggs
He said Give me ten hens
And I’ll never be hungry again
But they gave him no hens now he begs.
The Maniacal Maid
There once was a maniacal maid
Who prepared a cyanide marmalade
She spread it on toast,
On the ham, and the roast,
Then set them on the table she’d laid.
Notre-Dame de Paris
There once was a cathedral in France
Recognized by all at a glance
One day it was consumed by a fire
And down fell its spire
It shall be rebuilt and elegantly enhanced. April 15th, 2019 The Cathedral of Notre Dame Catches Fire
The Orange Cantaloupe
There once was an orange cantaloupe
Who said in a voice full of hope
Oh please do not pare me
Oh please will you spare me?
To which the fine family said Nope.
There once was a planet called Earth
The only on which there’d been birth
Its residents there
Breathed water and air
And never understood what life’s worth.
There once was a king’s wicked son
Who thought cruelty was nothing but fun
One day a thing made him sad,
And he felt so confused and so mad,
That he torched a convent of nuns.
There once was a princess named Mary
Who was frightened of anything scary
One day a lion came by
And he made the girl cry
And then he left nothing to bury.
There once was a cruel queen and king
Who forced a man to dance and to sing
Once the man was too sick to leave bed
So the royalty cut off his head
There’s always a reason to sing.
A Sarcastic Girl
There once was a sarcastic girl
Who refused to give sincerity a whirl
She said, I’m sure sincerity’s great,
Just so clear, open, and straight
For it I’d trade diamonds and pearls.
The Scorpion in the Shower
A scorpion once lived in a shower
Lying still there for many an hour
When along came a bare-ankled girl
Who turned the tap with a twirl
Now she beds in a grave with white flowers.
The Sheep Herder’s Daughter
There once was a sheep herder’s daughter
Who hated to see the sheep slaughtered
She said Oh please spare the ewe
But her father sliced it in two
So she drowned herself deep in dark water.
A Sleepless Night
One night a girl couldn’t sleep
She tossed and she turned in her sheets
She lay awake in her bed
Her hands by her head
And heard her ancient house creak.
There once was a bad educator
Whose style made the students all hate her
She was vulgar and mean
And very often obscene
She thought her harsh words made her greater.
The Termagant Wife
There once was a termagant wife
Who jabbed her husband with a dull knife
She said I must have been crazy
To have married someone so lazy
To which he agreed, You have been all of your life.
Tiger A golfer once won at the Masters
Then met with private disasters
He hurt his wife and his spine
He lost his luster and shine
Then returned to please the forecasters. April 14th, 2019 Tiger Woods wins the Masters after not winning a major for 11 years.
There once was a blonde president
Who always seemed unsoundly bent
His comments on Twitter
Felt sniveling and bitter
And his words too vulgar for print.
An Unusual Fellow
A man with two hearts and two heads
Said to the other If I die are you dead?
The other said Well probably
But maybe just wobbly
Though I’d rather you live longer instead.
There once was a violinist named May
Who practiced her songs night and day
One day a thief stole her violin
And she said, Lord above that’s a sin,
Why is it that You’re hindering my way?
The Voiceless Owl
There once was a voiceless owl
Who thought it made him less of a fowl
He said Oh if I were not mute
Then I would do nothing but hoot
I’d give my wings to utter a vowel.
The Young Mallard
There once was a young mallard duck
Who couldn’t say quack so said cluck
The chickens just loved him
The ducks all just snubbed him
And the woodsman took him home to be plucked.
I just found a live scorpion hiding between the folds of the toilet paper!
Hahaha — For those looking for a decaf way to wake up with energy, this beats coffee by a mile! 😀😀
This is an Arizona bark scorpion that I found on the wall of my bathroom in Mexico on the night of March 14th, 2019. They are the most poisonous scorpions in Mexico.
These are Arizona bark scorpions. The first one was climbing on the wall in my bathroom. It’s the one with the bright yellow background. I killed it with a metal coffee cup.
The other one I found when I took a quick trip to the bathroom. I was unrolling the toilet paper, and it was hiding between the sheets of toilet paper! I thought it was dead, because it was lying there so peacefully, so I finished up my duties, then I got my camera to take a picture. I snapped a few photos of it, then I sent its picture to my friends.
But when I went back into the bathroom, the scorpion was not on the toilet paper where I had left it. “Oh my,” I thought. “It’s alive! Where is it?!” I was in my bare feet, so I moved quickly out of the bathroom. I located the scorpion, took its photo, then killed it with my skateboard.
I have seen two more on the land that I live on. Both were on the underside of a board. One of them was a female, and she had five or six babies that she was carrying on her back.
The Arizona bark scorpion is poisonous. It can kill pets, small children, and frail people, and it can lay a healthy adult human in bed for the day with pain and swelling.
Rode 120km today.
A short story called “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” tells of a man, Walter Mitty, who is the hero of his daydreams. In his dreams, he saves lives, barrels into dangerous situations without the least bit of fear, and demonstrates coolness and bravado in the face of death. The daydreams are all that Walter Mitty has, other than a termagant wife who breaks into his fantasies and reminds Walter of his daily responsibilities and his humdrum existence. After about the 100km mark, my own daydreams were more of the “Secret Lives of Lassitude in the Lower Latitudes” variety, polar opposites to those energetic fictions of Walter Mitty. My first daydream of sloth centered around a scene in which I am wrist deep in a bag of Tostidos, a great cup of salsa nearby, a cold beer at my elbow, football on the TV, surrounded by friends, with a poker game in store for the evening. It is the paradox of the human psyche, however, that whatever we´re doing, no matter how wonderful, we often want to be doing something else. If I were at home, with my grubby paws deep in a bag of chips, very likely I would want to do something other than watch TV.
Kilometers passed. The temperature climbed like a monkey. A second daydream visited my wistful coconut. It was winter, snow fell outside, and I lay cozy under thick quilted blankets in an enormous room. Jeeves — Wodehouse´s Jeeves — had just lit a fire. ¨That´s excellent, Jeeves!” I said.
“I endeavor to please, Sir,” this sterling butler replied.
“That´s all for now, Jeeves,” said I.
“Very good, Sir,” and he shimmered out.
And then I slept for a month.
At last, Merida. The capital city of Yucatan state, Merida boasts museums, good food, cool architecture, and — most exciting of all — close proximity to Campeche, city on the sea. My mother remarked that the ride is a bit ahead of schedule. If Campeche is reached with time to spare, the plan is to bus to Chetumal, capital of Quintana Roo, and then cross the border into Belize.
Below you can find photos of the last days in Valladolid, Coba, and Chichen Itza, when the computers would not allow photo uploads.
There are few actions as satisfactory as singing in the rain. Old songs proved the right medicine for rain riding, and it was with Bob Dylan´s Tangled Up in Blue on my lips and some ad hoc poetry of my own that I pedalled through a thunderstorm. Rain licked off my face, steam rose from the road, and in an Aha-Erlebnis moment, it became quite clear how galley songs developed: toil in miserable conditions conjures songs. Indeed, with cadence and music as my anchor, I felt surprised at how tolerable it is to be soaked, with two hours´ride lying ahead, and thunderclouds extending to the horizon in all directions.
The 1,000 year old Mayan ruins of Coba lie in a sea of green forest, and the tallest temple, Nohoch Mul, rises above the waves of leaves. The climb to the top is not a task to be scoffed at; the stone stairs are steep, with steps of uneven heights and widths and angles, but those are the least of your concerns because vertigo strikes like a snake about three-quarters of the way to the top, and you feel as if you´ll tumble backwards into oblivion. But once at the top, the view is incredible. From the heights where virgins were once sacrificed, you can see birds flitting above the trees and butterflies of such extraordinary proportions and colors that they can be spotted from half a mile away. Far in the distance is a lagoon which alligators inhabit.
Onwards through Coba and storms, one arrives in Valladolid. It is a city which was first inhabited by Mayans; overtaken, razed, and rebuilt by Spaniards; retaken by Mayans; and eventually turned into a conglomerate of the two cultures, with the Spanish colonial style retaining architectural dominance. A little hotel — more like a B&B — run by a lady named Maria, her daughter, Isabelle, and her son, Julio, was the first place that I saw and, at the end of that long ride, the place that I selected. It is painted bright yellow with flowers and greenery in the corridors, and they serve fresh fruit for breakfast. It´s a wonderful place, and Maria, Isabelle, and Julio are what really make it great: in only a night they knew my name, were caring and attentive, and directed me to a cenote of local repute. A cenote is a limestone cavern, often filled with water, and this one — Cenote Samula — was remarkable for a tree which grew at the top of the bedrock, and whose roots had, over time, stretched a hundred feet down to reach the water at the bottom. One can swim in the cool, mineral rich waters of the cenote. There are two kinds of fish there: small black catfish and inch long minnows that nibble at your toes.
Was off early this morning, and now am in Chichen Itza, the best known Mayan ruins. No pictures either today or yesterday because the files are not being accepted — the computers in the interior of the Yucatan (away from the tourist hotspots) are older and slower.
Many thanks to you all for visiting my site! WordPress´ statistical page showed that I had 89 unique visitors on the 9th of July — I am glad that people find this interesting. 🙂 In return for all the interest, I would be delighted to send you a postcard. If you want one, send me an email and include your mailing address. 🙂
Beginning in Tulum, I will use the chronometer on my watch to record the amount of time that I spend on the bicycle, going from city to city, so that there can be, at the end, a way to determine total hours ridden and average speed.
Yesterday, due to the sheer sloth of not wanting to ride the 4 or 5 km back to the motel to put on sunscreen, I was burned by the sun and am now the hue of a lobster — such is the fruit that laziness reaps. The clothes are at the laundromat, and the buttocks are getting a reprieve from the seat of the bicycle. Off day in Tulum. Tomorrow: depart from the coast, to Coba, Chemax, Valladolid, and the center of the Yucatan peninsula.
Never before have I considered using an iguana´s perspective to view life, but today I did. Staring off the top of a rock at the waves crushing in on the shoreline, and at the crystal blue sea beyond, this iguana´s view would be a king´s envy. The ruins of Tulum — an ancient Mayan city on the sea — lay to the east. Below them lay a beach as smooth as confectioner´s sugar, and just as white. The wild palms and crags of cacti grew to the west. The sea lay before him, and the warm morning sun shone down upon him. For a moment, all was right in that iguana´s world.
The ruins of Tulum were on my Must See list because they were on the cover of The Lonely Planet which I´ve been using. Furthermore, they were recommended by that great sum of recommenders, whose names need to be mentioned here. Many thanks go out to Enrique Castillo-Sosa for the long, detailed, and informative emails; to Monica Flores for her recommendations about Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Merida, Campeche, and Cancun; to Parley Valdez and to Brenda Bernaldez for making the connections with Monica and Enrique; to Jose Villafuerte for his comments on places to go, things to see; to Valeria Bove for her sound advice; and to my brother, Paul, for his medical advice about traveling.
Sian Ka´an (pronounced Seen Kahn) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site about 15 kilometers away from the Tulum ruins, and its name in Mayan means, Where the sky was born. It is a biosphere with a great lagoon stretched through its midst, inhabited by all manner of flora and fauna: cormorants, pelicans, roseate spoonbills, ibises, crocodiles, mangroves, great blue herons, egrets, red winged blackbirds, jaguars, needlenose fish, sawgrass, manatees, and many more. For people from Louisiana and Florida, many of these names will register as common to those regions too.
The guide was a Mexican from the city of Puerto Morelos, in the state of Quintana Roo, in his mid-forties, with a salt and pepper goatee, black hair, dancing eyes, and a personality that was quick to laughter. He was also incredibly competent. In addition to knowing every single bird by sight, he also knew their Latin names and classification, “There´s the turkey vulture, family Cathartidae!” Indeed. He guided myself and an English couple, George and Katy, through the mangroves of the place where the sky was born. The water, he explained, is brackish, and the salty water from the Gulf is funneled through undersea channels beneath the peninsula where it mixes with the fresh water of the lagoon.
The mangroves, Luis said, serve as a retaining wall and barrier against the hurricanes. And they serve as the focal point for life in the marsh. Each of the mangrove stands has taken roughly 400 years to develop into its current shape and size. The termite mounds that you see — he pointed out the enormous black mounds amidst the branches of the mangrove — are critical in the cycle of life because they chew up the dead mangrove branches and facilitate decomposition. The black lines that you see, Luis mentioned, on the mangrove branches are in fact tunnels for those termites to move through the branches, like blood running through veins.
Although the final morning on Cozumel, the afternoon in Playa del Carmen, and the bike ride from Playa del Carmen to Tulum were uneventful, two people should go on record: Pedro and Marta.
Pedro and I met on Cozumel, where he was a worker in the tourist industry for 6 years, until 2002. After the 9-11 attack happened, the tourist industry, Pedro said, declined dramatically. He had worked in Cozumel for 6 years until 2002, and 7 July 2012 was his first day back on the island in 10 years. I asked him if it had changed a great deal. “Oh yes,” and he pointed to a grimy, weatherworn, derelict building, 10 stories tall and inhabited by pigeons, seagulls, and crows. “I used to live there.” Pedro had brought his family with him: a wife and three small children, one of whom was Pedro Jr., who was deeply interested in the iguanas — as I also was. Returning to an earlier insight, Pedro spoke excellent English, almost fluently, and — although he had never had formal schooling in English — apologized for his skills. I said his English was excellent, and that there was no need to apologize, and I asked him where he had learned to speak so well. He said he had learned the language through talking with tourists, and that was the extent of his education. Very impressive.
The second person, Marta, is the lady who managed and owned the hotel where I stayed on Playa del Carmen. She is a tiny little lady, about five feet tall, wiry, dark-haired, and about 50. She is one of those ladies who speaks Spanish at you with the rapidity of an auctioneer, who is a barrel of energy, yet who is warm enough to make you smile. She knew exactly what she wanted: practical, level-headed, she instructed me to turn off the lights and ceiling fan when I left the room, “These other people never turn them off! And my bill goes zooop!” and gestured that the bill goes right through the ceiling. A very sweet lady, she was one of those people who had me nodding acquiescence with everything she said, and I was near to taking out the trash and sweeping the floor, if only she had asked.
This morning was the ride to Tulum, a pueblo which boasts one of the most gorgeous beaches in the world and famous Mayan architecture. After the ride, I ate a lunch of pork, beef, rice, beans, guacamole, and tortillas, polishing it off with a diet coke with ice — and followed that with a 3 hour nap.
In Playa del Carmen, there are Leopards, lions, iguanas, flame throwers, aging hipsters flashing the peace sign, Johnny Depp look-alikes throwing the horns, toucans, macaws, street artists, and — of course — la playa. Throw into that a tattoo parlor with a bar (sounds like a good way to wake up with a lifelong regret), live music, and top it with Haagen Dazs ice cream, and you have La Quinta Avenida.
Up early and out the door on Friday, 6 July, with a 70 kilometer bicycle ride to Playa del Carmen awaiting me, and the knowledge that the furthest in my life that I have ever ridden is 40 kilometers. The tunnels are the worst. Trucks roar by like jet planes, and the shoulder of the road disappears. Once free of the two short tunnels, the ride is merely a matter of: pedal, pedal, pedal and don´t stop, never ever stop. There´s quite a bit of traffic, which is to be expected, but I have water enough. I left before breakfast, so about 55 kilometers into the ride, I was starving, and there were no places to eat along the way. And then, just then, there was a Mexican miracle: The Burger Bar.
It just so happens that the manager of the Burger Bar, Isaac, is a bicyclist, and he comes out to speak. He recommends the hearty 150 gram burger with fries, followed by a dessert of banana bread, pan de platana.
La Isla de Cozumel, where I am typing from now, is a beautiful island. Its beaches are of white sand or rock — smooth stone floors — and it is a hub for cruise ships, whose passengers come for the snorkling, diving, and day trips. The cruise ships seem to be a source of consternation to the islanders. A lady named Susan, a Mexican who studied in London and who lived in Copenhagen for eight years, griped that the cruise ships have caused the decline of the island. “The passengers never stay,” she said sourly. “They are gone by 5 o´clock. They take, and then they go.” She was, for the record, equally critical about the local Mexicans — her own people, “Cozumel is the safest place in Mexico. But be careful, or your bike will disappear.”
But the island is awesome. It is beautiful, and most of the people are laid-back, relaxed, and they seem to know that a life is to be enjoyed. They take delight in their days. They are a friendly people, the Mexican people, and they seem full of love and laughter.
Also, the old Volkswagon Bugs are ubiquitous here, which makes sense. Their small size makes them easy to park, and their engines will never be strained on the flat island roads. The VW Bugs come with license plates in the front that depict a sailfish and say the name of the state, Quintana Roo. Most also have a sticker or two — a Superman sticker, perhaps, or Bienviendos — stuck on the inside of the windshield. They are brightly colored, and remind me of pictures that I´ve seen of Havana.
The bike and I arrived, and I put it back together.
All went well during the flight to Cancún. In the airport, a tall lean man with a beard and thick black cotton socks was cursing volubly to himself. Filthy, noisy curses as he scrolled through his iPad. He then sat directly behind me on the flight from Tallahassee to Atlanta. The curser was polite during the flight, on which he ordered two bloody marys that seemed to soothe him.
The hotel in Cancún had separate signs in Spanish and English that advised guests to respect opossums, describing them as “Mexico´s only marsupial” and continuing on to say that a marsupial was “an animal that carried its young in a pouch like a kangaroo.”
No clubbing, a dinner of lime-soaked ceviche and a beer, bed at 9:30 after continued reading of Ty´s book, Aku-Aku: The Mysteries of Easter Island, which is enthralling, and an early start at 6:00.
Many thanks to my mom and dad for their help in making this adventure a reality! Thanks!
Happy 4th of July! It’s America’s independence day today, which commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Today I am in a small town, Bainbridge, in southwestern Georgia celebrating the holiday with my parents and watching the fireworks from a grassy field between a gas station and a grain silo. In 2011, I was in the national capitol, Washington DC, with my fiance. Tomorrow, I will be at the first stage of a jaunt across the Yucatan.
Happy 4th of July to you all, and I hope that you each have a safe, fun, and memorable holiday. Enjoy! 🙂
Bicycling across the Yucatan is not a big expedition, but it seems that way. Keeping in mind such famous explorers as Thor Heyerdahl — who crossed the Pacific to Easter Island in a Greenland trawler with 130 tons of oil, 50 tons of water, and 3 archaeologists on a stretch of ocean more desolate than any other in the world — a jaunt across the Yucatan is an easy feat. And think of Roald Amundsen, the famous Antarctic explorer, who not only wintered through the bitter Antarctic July with 5 other Polar Party members, but also raced (and won) to the South Pole more than a hundred years ago in 1911, passing, as he sledded, chasms so deep and black that they appeared bottomless, and crossing through such areas as the Devil’s Ballroom.
Biking across the Yucatan is a drop in the ocean compared to such magnificent explorations. Still, as the packing list grows longer, and the planning becomes more nuanced, the number of questions tends to mount rather than diminish. Furthermore, these questions seem to become ever more knotty and the answers more difficult to reach. To ship the bike across the Gulf, for instance, you must use a bike box. Well and good. But how to ship the bike home? Where to get a bike box, because if the bike shop in Cancun doesn’t have one, where can one be procured? Can one leave a bike box with the accommodations for a 3 week duration and, if so, what happens if it is accidentally thrown away or destroyed? How will the bike come home again? What if passport theft occurs? What if an injury occurs? Disease?
Preparation, preparation, preparation — toilet paper, tools, and photocopies of the passport go a long ways, but not all the way, and in the end one must wave goodbye with a cheery smile and begin the journey knowing that not all contingencies can ever be fully accounted for. Yet while there are circumstances which are as yet unforeseen, I am excited to move from the tedious planning stage, in which I was impatient, and on to the ride itself.
For two and a half years, I worked in northern Afghanistan. I was in the field of Education, and I was a contractor for The World Bank.
When I had spare time, I liked to take photos of the country. Near to where I lived, there were orchards and rivers. The foothills of the Hindu Kush lay along the southern side of the city. Donkeys and camels were still used.
These photographs were taken between June of 2008 and December of 2010 when the war was on. The photographs show a domestic perspective of Afghan lifestyles, working animals, agricultural scenes, and landscapes.