Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Faded Frescos

It has been a year since we were last here In Playa del Carmen (PDC). Just as the faded frescos display hints of old signs, new construction makes way for new dreams. On side streets rooftops transform to new lodgings. On the Quinta, (main tourists street), a sparkling white nightmare of a shopping mall is bathed in white lights which illuminate and dwarf the remnants of old, long standing shops and the beautiful little Calle Corazon is only a memory.
We have not seen the street cart man that sells the churros near the square. We have not seen the old twin ladies that stand in the doorway at a podium offering massage. We witness Sunday night mass on loud speakers coming from the little chapel with worshipers spilling into the street.

We walk by the fruit ladies (and men) who have been in the same spot for as long as I can remember. We stumble upon transplanted punk rock fire dancers, native drums, annoying pan flutes, dancers and showmen in native dress, falling and spinning from a high tower in the square. They pass a beautiful hat around for those watching to fill with spare coins.
We are more intrigued by the early morning peddle carts transporting loved ones and products for delivery. We search for beautifully embellished delivery trucks with hand painted signs or corrugated shiny metal toppers. From our window we watch the man chopping cabbages every morning for use at a nearby antojitos stand. We watch men sift through the endless collection of metal to take the best pieces to scrap for pesos. We watch a painter precariously perched from some home made wood scaffolding hanging from a 4th floor roof. We visit with our new friends from Canada, Norway and Germany. We wait for the very hungover niñas, who had way too much party for their days here, gather their belongings and make their way to the bus station which will bring them back home to their families in Merida.

We read books, meet friends for dinner, go to the beach, ride bikes, practice yoga, make small paintings, draw pictures, stitch embroidery, sing songs and play guitar. Each and every day is simply perfect. Everyone is happy, full of stories and laughter. Vive feliz.

As always, the playa is forever shimmering in countless shades of turquoise. Unending waves. It is my favorite color, the color of the Caribbean Sea. It is the color I see when I close my eyes. Today, the sun is warm upon our shoulders and the air is humid and sweet.

There is one spectacle grander than the sea, that is the sky; there is one spectacle grander than the sky, that is the interior of the soul.” 
― Victor HugoLes Misérables
Caribbean Sea, Acrylic on Canvas Board, 6" x 6", 2014

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Welcome Back

It's no secret that I am not a fan of cold weather. We have diligently planned our winter get-a-ways to spend just the right amount of time in the cold north to realize how fortunate we are to escape. 
At 3 am, we shut the door behind us, lock it and ride off in the middle of the night, with our Uber driver.  We are just one travel day away from our room #5. We are amazingly calm and more than ready to leave the gray days with no sunshine and the freezing temperatures of Minnesota behind .
We land at our destination, it is warm and there is endless sunshine. We breath in the warm and humid air and I feel my hair start to curl immediately. We make our way past what seems like a million taxi drivers and colectivo hawkers to our busy ADO bus bay #144. It's a 40 minute bus ride to our destination and I want to cheer out loud when I see the bus pull into the parking bay. I watch the already sinking sun from my bus window. The sky turns darker, just as it was so many hours ago, when we caught that early morning ride, from our frozen home in the north.

Our bus exits the 307 highway at Playa del Carmen and begins to wind through the town streets. We step out into the familiar and make our way through the vendors calling out to us to buy from their puestas. We smile respectfully and say "no gracias" repeatedly as we will until the end of our time here. I imagine the vendors are welcoming us back to this place of perfect sunshine, temperature and simplicity. Where days merge one into the next, where we can observe the lives of local workers and international travelers. We have barely a care in the world. Time stands relatively still except for the movement of the sun and moon. We revel in how simple life can be, happy for the choices we have made along the way and gratitude always for all the opportunities that led us to this moment.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Blanca and my Broken Foot

Blanca - photo: Bryce Fairbanks

As dreams go they are often full of little vignettes and I usually don't remember them. I've been trying to write them down sometimes and use them to feed my writing.  

I dreamed I had a broken left foot or ankle. The dream did not divulge how exactly I broke it, but since I am in Mexico my guess it I walked into a hole in the sidewalk or stumbled up or down a curb somewhere. The sidewalks here are very treacherous and much like an obstacle course. Curbs appear in odd places, trees appear in the middle of the path and unexplained holes that will never be repaired, rebar jutting out for a someday light pole and a pathways of varying heights.
The clinic had simply put a lightweight beautifully decorated cast which stopped about mid shin. I was happy there was no pain and running around like nothing was wrong. The cast seemed to weigh no more than my black engineer boot I was wearing on my good foot. My feet looked good together a nice juxtaposition of beauty and toughness.
I'm sitting on top of a picnic table, both feet resting on the bench and some of my friends are there with all their happy dogs and cats. I'm not in Mexico and not sure why. We are getting ready to share food. 

We are all happy and excited because for too may days Blanca, the dog had gone on an adventure in a neighborhood she was not familiar with. She was unable to find her home and unable to cross the big river. She is a little bit shy and difficult to lure.

We are celebrating that Blanca is home safe again. At the gathering we notice that Blanca has again wandered off, but we can still hear the jingle of her tag attached to her collar. We are not concerned because we know she is near her home and can find her way back. After a short time, she runs up to everyone and looks at us as if she is joking about wandering off but she says with her eyes, "I won't do that ever again." She is happy to be home. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Bougainvillea Everywhere

I dreamed about you last night. You were as beautiful as ever, exactly how I remember you with your amazing hair, your smile and your stare. Most always talking hopeful and positive, while your life seemed, from my view to crumble around you. Now forever young and always strikingly gorgeous. You only looked different to me because your usual sun soaked skin was white as milk. You were sitting in a tower of a building that had a thatched roof and looking down from a window.
Someone came to me to tell me that you wanted to see me. I'm not sure who it was. I climbed some stairs to where you were sitting. You wanted to tell me something and just walk with me for a while. You had something important to say. I grabbed your milk white hand and your skin felt cold as ice. We walked quietly along the beach.
I asked you if you were really dead and you simply said yes. I saw your children waving to us. We walked a little more turning onto a beautiful cobble stone path that led us through the shade, away from the blazing sun. We passed old and lovely trees and there was bougainvillea blooming everywhere.
I forgot to tell you that I miss you. I forgot to tell you that I loved you and then you were gone.
Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.  ~Marcel Proust

Photo Credit: (c) Just1backpack Mexico

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tiger Jack, St. Paul, Minnesota

Tiger Jack
For years I drove by this man every day on my way to work in St. Paul, Minnesota. He was just always there. The man hanging at a shack on the corner of Dale Street at the I-94 freeway westbound entrance was always friendly. He sold charcoal and waved hello to drivers stopped at the traffic light. I never gave it a lot of thought. He was just another character in the city. I never really knew how he came to be there. He was a curiosity of sorts but I never bothered to know more. He was just always there until he wasn't.
Everyone has a story and it wasn't until many years later that I even cared to learn a tiny bit more about the man, Tiger Jack. These little bits and pieces painted a beautiful picture of the man, at a shack on the corner.

He came from the east coast and his mother died when he was quite young. He grew up with relatives and eventually hopped a train to Minnesota during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. He talked his way into a 7th Street gym and became a boxer. He boxed at night and shined shoes during the day. In the late 40's he opened a small variety store in a bustling black commercial district in the St. Paul, Rondo neighborhood. The business was successful until the commercial district was destroyed when the Interstate came through in the mid-60's and busted up the neighborhood.
Tiger Jack's Shack
He moved the shack to the corner where Dale Street crossed the freeway and there he was. Day in and day out for over 30 years he shined shoes, sold charcoal, kerosene, candy and occasionally other items. He lived a simple honest life with no debt and worked hard. He spoke his mind. He was diligent. He sent 8 children to school on the profits from his little charcoal and shoeshine shack. Tiger Jack was a survivor.
After his death his family gave the shack to the city and it was moved to the Minnesota History Center. When you visit there, give old Tiger Jack a big wave. He engraved a memory in my mind, a memory that reminds me to persevere and be kind. I don't get over to that corner much anymore but, when I do, I still look for him, even though he is long gone.

(c)Just1backpack, originally published 2013

Mr Respect Documentary:

Film Credit: Mr. Respect is a documentary portrait of the late Tiger Jack Rosenbloom. It was made by a class of sixth grader along with their teachers, Steve Ford and Media Mike Hazard. It is a community lesson for the world.