Doing Bugs Bunny act didn’t find the carrots

The supermarket was daunting for someone with limited Spanish

When we first moved to Puerto Vallarta, I had been afraid to go to the nearby supermarket called Leys because, well, it appeared so Mexican.

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I much preferred to go to the corner stalls that, while still Mexican, usually had just one person in them, and I would not be too embarrassed asking for something with my scant knowledge of Spanish.

Or, of course, I could shop at Walmart, Costco and Home Depot but that did not seem entirely fair because they were not local and were a taxi ride away.

Leys is so big and brash, it terrified me. I had stood outside several times and watched as other expats triumphantly walked into the cool interior, while I quaked listening to the very fast Spanish within. It did not sound at all like the slowly spoken lessons that I had been glued to between massive bouts of drinking.

That is another thing I should speak about, essentially that all gringos are drunks, it is just a matter of degree. People will complain that I cast us in a bad light and that is fine, but the truth is there are the beach drunks from Canada, restaurant drunks from the U.S. and the exclusive enclave Conchas Chinas drunks with real money and enormous martinis who are really drunk.

But on most days we are all inebriated by nightfall if not by lunch. In our set, we always call the last drink of the day The Bed Wetter.

On the plus side so many of us have become better at holding our booze through this kind of practice that most newcomers are not aware that we are not leaning against a wall for shade, as we say, but to steady ourselves.

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Many of us have gone to AA and never got past the first rule: Admit that you are a drunk. Fine, but it reminds us, so we leave to find a drink.

Anyway, back to my early problem with the supermarket down the street. After a few days of looking at the entrance, I went in. This was my first summer and the air conditioning hit me like a snowball between the legs. I was just glad that at my age I would not be called upon to provide children ever again.

I was numb. What also hit me was the noise. It had only been a dull roar from the exterior but now that I was within the body of the beast, it was injurious. The roar was some sort of disco tune with two women employees dancing around the cheese display and sticking their product into passing faces.

“Conga quesa, conga quesa,” they shouted, or something like that. Whatever they said it meant: cheese bargains. A small sign would normally have sufficed in Canada but not here. However, the music began to make me dance along with the employees, who smiled at me as if I had escaped from Bedlam.

Still dancing, I screamed over the din, “Donde esta the carrots?” They appeared confused at that nice try on my part. I was almost sure that I had at least got the first part right, perhaps the stumbling block was the word carrots.

I don’t know if you have tried to act like a carrot but it is not easy. I first went through my catalogue of Bugs Bunny impressions which in fairness to me they seemed to enjoy. I noticed a small crowd had joined us in the cheese section, with many now bellowing above the so-called music with suggestions as to what I must be attempting to get across to the jumping employees, who appeared to be entering some sort of Nirvana state from all the noise and activity.

Let me point out that carrot in Spanish is zanahoria. What chance did I have in those early days? It did not even sound close to carrot. But through the “kindness of others” I managed to buy my carrots and survive the experience.

Today I look forward to shopping at Leys once a week. I now know where everything is and some of the names of the items I want. As an aside I have fallen semi in love with the woman who carves up the cactus, which really tastes good when you sprinkle “tajin classico” on it, a sort of dry chile. There is something about a large, good looking woman with a big knife that makes my blood bubble, at least as best as it can in an old bald man.

There are also two elderly check-out girls who wait for me and pack my bags. In the beginning I did not realize that it is expected that you tip them after they help you as they are not actually employed by the store, being more of a convenience for you and a source of income for them.

So I just smiled, said “Gracias” and went on my way, over and over again with them saying nothing. When it dawned on me that I had blundered badly with two women whom I liked enormously, I shot into Leys, bought nothing but a yogurt and gave them enough to buy a small house to make up for being so stupid.

Now when I appear they cling to me like wallpaper and all is well.

I love Leys. Shop locally, please.

The writer lives under a palapa in Puerto Vallarta.

© Christopher Dalton 2015

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  • Happygirl

    Sorry, but not all of us gringos are drunks…speaking personally I know my limit is two drinks beyond that I hate the feeling alcohol gives me. I know that it is easy for many people who have no hobbies or interests to fall into bad habits and booze is cheap in Mexico…in PV you don’t even have to buy it…walk along the Malacon and you are encouraged to sample the many different flavoured tequilas. It is easy to become an alcoholic in Mexico if you aren’t one already.
    Mexico has a major problem with alcoholism amount it’s citizens. Monday is the worse day for car accidents because many are still hungover from drinking none stop on Sunday, and driving at night the roads are full of drunk drivers. The grocery stores won’t sell you alcohol before noon. But Mexico’s problem isn’t because of boredom.
    Use Google translate if you do not know the word in Spanish… l learned the word for celery (apio) and pronounced it like a pro…impressed myself and the vegetable seller. It can get get it very wrong but you will get lots of laughs.

    • Christopher Dalton

      Please don’t get hung up on the details.. I did not mean to point fingers. I was just trying to be amusing.

      • Happygirl

        Please keep writing I enjoy your posts. I was just trying to point out that not all gringos are drunks and that Mexico has a problem…Mexicans already think we are drunks. Do not be so sensitive…I need a chuckle.

        • Sharon

          Not all of us a drunks, but we do have a 2 drink limit on our daily happy hour. Jokingly the call San Carlos a ‘fishing village with a drinking problem’. Maybe it’s just us, but none of our friends are drunks, we don’t drink too much if we have to drive, cause we don’t like paying ‘la mordida’.
          I do enjoy your posts and they made me realize why we have decided not to buy in Mexico.

      • Ted Schofield

        well, you’re not. You’re disgusting and don’t realize how much you’re saying about yourself when you say something stupid like “essentially that all gringos are drunks”…….

        • athea marcos amir

          Ted, I’m really impressed that you didn’t write “Your disgusting,” which I read constantly on email and the net in general. What saddens me (besides the thought of Chris Dalton not writing anymore) is the low level of writing skills among gringoes. As a former ESL teacher, I remember some of my students writing better English than many of my colleagues, especially the students from Russia and the Middle East.

      • Geoffrey Rogg

        Chris it would be so much better for all if you could relate your hilarious encounters without some of the self-deprecating comments which, for some of us at least, is not a relevant caricature of who we are nor how any self-respecting “Gringo” should want to be. Keep on writing the detail is great.

      • athea marcos amir

        There are a lot of Queen Victorias in the world (“We are not amused.”) Don’t ever say you have “a million things to do” or some literal-minded dolt will ask you to list them.

  • Glen Olives

    I’m embarrassed to admit that although I’m an avid reader and frequent contributor to MND, this is the first time I’ve read Mr. Dalton’s Under the Palapa Column. Utterly delightful.

    • Christopher Dalton

      This is my last for a while….The internet is too harsh for me. You can read my previous sad efforts on this site which has been very kind to me.

      • Glen Olives

        Given a taste, I certainly plan to read your previous posts during my holiday hiatus. Regarding perhaps negative internet comments on your posts, it’s best to ignore them, although it takes some practice. I write mostly about deeply controversial public policy issues, and have been branded a bigot and worse. That’s the deal: opinions are like assholes — everybody has one. In the information age, uninformed semi-literate toothless hillbillies can post any opinion they want. We’re free to respond to them. And we’re free to ignore them when appropriate (which is most of the time). The best will do the best they can and the worst will do the worst they can. Keep writing.

        • athea marcos amir

          Eloquently stated.

      • mikegre

        Actually, Chris, I think this piece was your best effort yet. I laughed out loud picturing you asking for a carrot. I think you’re hitting your stride.

      • Beau

        Mr. Dalton, your column is the highlight of this news paper. I’ll miss your sense of humor and hope you’ll reconsider. The Internet is full of trolls and their opinions don’t count.

      • athea marcos amir

        The internet is too harsh for you? Have you ever read SMA’s Snivel Lisp or their Cruellist? I’m forever expecting a good old-fashioned stoning in the Jardin! I’ve already chosen the outfit I’m going to wear, something that works for me either as a spectator or the victim of sacrifice. Puh-leeze don’t quit! What will you do without all the pesos you’ve been earning? Consider your wife and children!

  • MortimerSnerd

    Hilarious, obviously he hasn’t been in there with the duelling sound systems going both pounding out Mexicana Banda interspaced with advertising messages at near pain threshold levels…If you wanna stay inebriated, at least enough for that final bed wetter me finds Lays liquor prices a tad high. Wallyworld seems better and has a better selection. You got cold feet? Hey.. try going into the Farmacia Similaires and asking for 10 tabs of Maxifort (generic Viagra) with a blood boiling attractive little chica looking after your request …muyhahaha.

  • Mexicanbeachbum Robin

    still fun, keep writing Chris

    • Ted Schofield

      Chris is an idiot. You’re encouraging to continue being an idiot…..therefore, you’re an idiot. Congratulations!

  • Geoffrey Rogg

    Do you think that image of the Gringo as pot-bellied, tattoo’d, botoxed, drunken freak is something to laugh about? Keep on spending your money and you will always feel welcome while the Mexicans among themselves rightly think of you as a bunch of social rejects from north of the border. Your well educated, Spanish speaking, socially superior Gringo peers are embarrassed by your very presence and shun your raucous hangouts which justify the false image you create of the “Ugly American” who would be shunned in Hilton Head but who congregate like flies around the dung heap in what was once the jewel of the Mexican Pacific coast.

    • Let it all hang out, señor Rogg.

      • Geoffrey Rogg

        Siento mucho Don Felipe pero no comparto este sentido de humor porque no es chistoso pero un reflejo de la verdad.

    • mikegre

      Lighten up, dude. He’s taking poetic license with his story.

      • athea marcos amir

        Don’t even try. He’s not gonna get it.

  • I have no facts to back this up, but I’ve long had the impression that drunkenness is primarily a problem for you Gringo/Canucks who settle on the coasts. Here where I live in the middle of the country, it does not seem to be an issue with the foreign population. I think coastal heat causes this. If you pass out on the sidewalk overnight, you don’t freeze to death. Or maybe we just have a better class of Gringos here. Could be that.

    • Ted Schofield

      I live in Playa and we are not Alcoholics. This Dalton idiot needs to be fired and some other, more representative of the Gringo Community, needs to take his job.

      • Christopher Dalton

        Ted, you will delighted to know that I have quit. Perhaps you would be that perfect representative of the Gringo community to take over…..

        • athea marcos amir

          Christopher, I have taken over the noble work you’ve chosen to abandon. As someone who was practically a teetotaler (a friend once said before we went to a party in L.A. “For gawdsake have one drink when we get there! You’re embarrassing to be with”), my friend Sofi is giving me drinking lessons. I can now consume almost an entire bottle of Modelo Especial or a whole margarita and I’m feeling very proud of myself. Was it Robert Benchley or someone else who, when asked why he drinks when it’s slow suicide replied “So, what’s the hurry”?

      • Beau

        Oh please Ted Schofield. Get off your high horse and go back to Green Valley, you’re a boring prude with no sense of humor.

  • Ted Schofield

    “essentially that all gringos are drunks”. Maybe you should start hanging out with a different crowd. Shame on you for putting that insane verbiage on paper; and shame on Mexico News Daily for employing you as a representative for the many Xpatriots that contribute to Mexican society and charities. I have a LOT of gringo friends and they all drink and NONE of them are alcoholics. It’s like saying all Mexicans are lazy. Really, Mexico Daily News, get some other writer to represent the gringos.

    • Glen Olives

      Expatriates, not Xpatriots. The latter is not even a word. Unless of course you meant ex-patriot, meaning someone who was once a patriot and no longer is. Respectfully. As to the substance of your comment, no newspaper, including MND, endorses the opinions of their op-ed writers, and I doubt the editors at MND “employ” Mr. Dalton to “represent” Gringos.

  • R Damon Combs

    Dalton writings are entertaining. I look forward to reading more of his work.

  • Playapapa

    Chris, you mentioned the drunken Canadians, but you forgot to include how vulgar they are. Many of
    them like to precede nouns and verbs with the F word and they don’t care who is around them.

    I do not know if they act and talk this way at home, but as guests in a foreign country, you think that they
    would show more respect to their hosts and themselves.

  • Glen Olives

    Alas, I think some commenters should to try to cultivate a sense of humor and a thicker skin against perceived slights. An appreciation of irony, generalization, and rhetorical flourish for dramatic effect of course would be asking too much. (Big Pharma is apparently working on a pill for this.) Keep writing Chris, and ignore the hypersensitive haters who can find offense in a glass of water.

  • douglas ledbury

    Hey Chris Same age, same province. I am sure most of us, your readers, would urge you to laugh at the sad gabachos like Schofield . Motor on, dude.

    Schofield Name Meaning from Middle English sc(h)ole ‘hut’ + feld ‘pasture’, ‘open country’.
    Some people will never get over themselves

  • Jeremy Hill

    I love your column, Chris. With my very limited spanish my miming skills have reached charade god status. The locals have adoped me and I am their huero Carpentaro from Ayutla, in Guerrero. They love to practice their english with me. I swear half the males in town have been in the states working at one time or another. I try to guess where by their accent. We always end up laughing.

    • athea marcos amir

      Don’t Mexicans have a great sense of humor! When I told my neighbor that I hate her dogs, she said, “Yo tambien” (me too).

  • Glen Olives

    So Chris, I think from the comment section below you might be surprised to know you have a loyal cadre of defenders. I am one of them. When someone you respect and admire tells you you’re a piece of shit, you take pause. When someone who doesn’t know you and probably hasn’t even read the entirety of your piece, you can safely ignore them. Get on with writing.

    • athea marcos amir

      Nietzsche wrote that we should “Wear the insults of fools as crowns.”

  • athea marcos amir

    Chris, have I told you how much I LOVE your writing? I’m sure you’ve noticed in your life, as I have in mine, that there are a whole lot of people out there who have either had their sense of humor surgically removed, or, through some genetic mishap, were born without one. It’s so sad, but I understand they can’t help it. They’re sort of like me when someone sends a forward with a photo of a dog or cat. Over the years so many animal lovers have said “I pity you that you don’t know the joy of having an animal in your life,” never acknowledging that I’ve had two husbands and three sons. I’ve gotten the same line from a bevy of believers regarding Jesus. I love it so much when they say they’ll pray for me that I’ve decided on my next trip to Seattle to get a tattoo with my favorite quote from the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair: Nothing Fails Like Prayer.

    So what do YOU do when you tell someone a joke and s/he says, “Is that supposed to be funny?” And have you ever seen the film “The Aristocrats,” in which all the top comics tell their version of the world’s filthiest joke? It’s so disgusting, but it’s also hysterically funny. I think I need to watch it again, despite my belief that the pen is mightier than the sordid.

  • Wayne Stumpf

    Love Mexico Chris, also love reading your columns, just breaks up the cold winter day here in Winnipeg. What would you say you spend per week on grocery items? [at Leys]

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