At this moment, I am sitting on the balcony of my hotel in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It’s midday and we have yet to leave our room. It may be awhile. We love it here, this room, this view. We are in Old Towne, which some might say a decrepit part of the city, but to me it’s beautiful. Regardless, fancy does not live here.
A man, a woman and toddler are riding down the street on their motorbike, and another man is trying with earnest to push his baby across the cobblestone in an umbrella stroller. There is a pile of black bagged garbage awaiting pick up on the sidewalk, and three chihuahuas are circling the roof across the street as they do most every hour.
The trees have grown now and I can’t peek in the glassless window below them anymore, but in past stays here I have been equally saddened and intrigued by a shrine on a table inside that appears to be for a baby lost. Now I don’t know it’s still there, so I wonder.
The Luncharia across the street is open today, Boxing Day, and the woman who runs it has just finished scrubbing the sidewalk with her broom and a bucket of fragrant soapy water. I love that scent, that smell: It is here, the smell of here. She has had no customers yet, but she’ll wait. She will. They always come.
Last night, walking through the neighbourhood after dark, we bought churros from a street vendor who fried and sugared them on the spot. They were a peso a piece, yet the most delectable treat to pass these lips in recent memory–warm, sweet, cinnamon deliciousness. Simple. “Felix Navidad, Gracias.”
I’d love to have more right now, but surely we’ll repeat tonight. My dream, more churros, washed down with coffee still warm in my cup from the morning sun.
Now, in my view, there is a man on a quad, the Lopez bus and a cow in the back of a truck. I think it’s paradise, as I look up the hill at the massive, distant houses, and wonder if Liz Taylor ever wistfully looked down through her gold gilded windows to the scene of this lovely, simple humanity below.
There he is! Down the block, the man who spends his day washing cars on the side of the street! He is friendly. “Hola, Amigos,” he always says when we walk by. “Hola,” we greet him in return.
He’ll make them, the many changing cars of his day, shinier than new with his ancient, wholly rag and a bucket of warm, dirty water. That’s him, the Car Washer, just down from the Luncharia Lady, the Mourning Mother, the Churro Seller, the Wannabe Rockstar walking, a ridiculously large boom box teetering on his shoulder, singing aloud random accented words as The Archies belt out Sugar, Sugar: The colourful people, woven together as a tapestry, the colourful, ever-charming world of this street.
Yesterday, on a walk in the Romantic District, after climbing what felt like 1,000 crumbling stairs from the beach to the street, I saw my car–a white Nissan Micra with Jalisco plates. Same year, same interior, same everything as Noreen’s (my car’s) Mexican cousin, waiting proudly on the edge of the cobblestone, and I wondered if one day, some time ago, on the ship from Japan they had sailed side by side, then parted, and now one is here and the other is there, where I live, chauffeuring my life. And I felt sad. Noreen, perhaps, missed out.
Our year together, Noreen’s and mine, has been a rather shitty, crappy affair, with the blessing of Prince P’s arrival and the innocent joy that he and Wee Man C and their mamas cast on our life, thrown in to sustain it: I will not be sad to see it soon go, 2016.
I lost my dad, and with him and his wisdom and humour and love. I was cast astray, left untether from my childhood. Without him and my long lost mother I am no one’s child: I’ve become an ancestor, a matriarch, an unprepared adult.
Add to that, the challenges of a world gone mad, fear and sadness, and endless worries about losing our grounding, our way of life, jobs, work, money, money, money.
Our visit to this country, my husband’s and mine, at this time, feels profound.
Our room has a bed, a shower, a toilet, an old dresser, a ceiling fan, a TV and this balcony, and aside from my people, Prince P, Wee Man C and their mamas, this is all I need. The contents of my backpack, my husband and his, our little kettle and its stories of our travels. Just this. And the metaphor of simplicity I watch and learn from my view, the moving picture, this art, this promise, off this balcony. Simple, joyful simplicity.
This morning I read a Swedish proverb: He who buys what he doesn’t need, steals from himself. I wonder as I look around at this, how self pillaged I’ve become. As, I also read Plato, who said, “The greatest wealth is to live content with little.”
A paradox: Today, the people of my country, a world away from this, will be frantic in their pursuit of stuff as they line up early to beat the rush of Boxing Day sales, and I, in this moment, can’t wait to get home and purge mine.
Stuff and practices. Routines and cares.
We have this moment, and in mine I am grateful: I am here. Not just here on this balcony, in this neighbourhood, in this country, but here in this world. Alive and grateful.
We return home on New Years Eve–our plane lands at 11 PM and with customs and time to warm the car and make the 15 minute drive, we should arrive at our home, hopefully, shortly after midnight, in 2017. The slate will be fresh and this shitty, crappy year will be gone, finished, terminado.
We’ve designed that 2017 will be different, our focus will be changed, mindset tweaked: Simple, joyful, grateful. Pared down. Light.
And, practicing the wisdom of Plato, with this view etched in our memories, a new lease released, because fancy doesn’t need to live there either.