PV friends are nothing like old ones at home

New ones can be way outside one's normal realm

Among the many things you find in Puerto Vallarta is that you are capable of making new friends who are way outside your normal realm. By that I mean friends who do not remotely resemble the old ones at home.

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For instance, I have got into a habit of sitting with two fellows at the distant beach restaurant of Fidencio’s whenever I am down that way.

To my way of thinking it is a miracle considering my past lifestyle that I am good friends with Don, an early acquaintance from my street who had explained that Mexico would kill me if I did not learn to relax, along with his friend Al.

In a column last year, I recounted my initial impression of Don. When I first saw him lumbering towards me, I started yelling a prayer in fear. Well, Al looks like Don’s big brother.

When Don introduced me, Al took my hand into what I thought was a vise for crushing old cars and said, “Hello.” He was only shaking hands and was trying to be careful with my little limb, but even a kiss from a water buffalo hurts.

Al has the same shaved bald head as Don with the mandatory little white beard. Add arm and chest tattoos with wife-beater T-shirts and we have the great PV “retired biker” cliche. But they are not, and I like them.

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So here we sit, not every day, as I cannot sit on the canvas seats for too long — it hurts and I am sure it is terrible for my back. But twice a week or so, you will see the three of us chatting away about subjects that waft around us at the beach in PV: politics, second marriages, crazy family members, unions, grandchildren, cup size or the many personalities we find sitting near us.

Today, there is a man off to my right who openly defrauded many people in real estate deals and somehow is able to sit there with a smug look on his face. He sold condos and property that were not his to sell. How is that? Why is he not incarcerated?

Further to my right is another guy who started a children’s charity. He held huge parties at restaurants that gave their food and space on behalf of these children and raised an enormous amount of money.

He sits here today chatting pleasantly even after there proved to be no charity – he had pocketed the funds. Wow. Neither of them even tried to run. I still don’t understand it.

But I wanted to talk about what one can hear just by sitting on the beach listening. Granted, the surf makes a great deal of noise, but in between the waves snatches of conversation can be heard because they are still semi-shouting over the surf. It sort of goes like this.

The sound of surf and then, “I told her not to sleep with the parasail guy.”

Surf . . . .

“. . . Now he won’t leave, and she has become his sex slave.”

Surf . . . .

“. . . My husband is the only person in the world who does not know he is gay.”

Surf . . . .

“. . . Hey, I am from Quebec. What do you mean I have to pay to sit here? Mon dieu!”

All very entertaining and real. The people-watching on the beach is a never-ending march past, like a vast casting session for every type of earthling. And they all appear to be here.

Last week we said goodbye to Jeff and his wife Gail. Both of them had earned their spot on the beach and were a familiar sight for many years as solid “six-monthers.”

Gail was in the business of bathing suits back in Vancouver but was semi-retired. She was a regal presence at Fidencio’s, always attired in the latest beachwear. I referred to her as the duchess for she was a delicious early 70-something.

And then there was Jeff. We had known for some time that something was wrong with the dear man, but he was still fun to be around. However, this year it could no longer be ignored: Jeff was losing his mind.

Here was a man with one of the greatest smiles I had ever witnessed. When he smiled it was as if the sun had just peeked over the nearby mountains. What had been darkness before was now light.

But now he would stand in front of us, a very fit man holding his inevitable beer, about to tell us something that he was dying to share.

“Hey, you know . . . but, but, but, you know what I mean, eh?” he would blurt out. We would hurriedly answer, “You bet, Jeff. Good point, pal.”

We knew our friend was facing the end of what had been a sharp and efficient brain. He looked at us in confusion. The sun was beginning to flicker. Gail appeared beside him and touched his elbow with love. Once again he smiled.

They left last week because Gail is frightened she can’t look after him anymore, so she is taking him home to be cared for, probably in an institution of some kind. We shook his strong hand and only ours trembled.

My last sight of Jeff and his wife was that of them arm in arm, walking into the shadows of that late-afternoon beach, smiling at each other as always. Happy together one final time, in a place they so loved.

The writer lives under a palapa in Puerto Vallarta.

© Christopher Dalton 2016

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  • RobertSDF

    I have lived in Mexico many years, and once again find the stories of Chris resemble nothing I have encountered in Mexico. All of my Mexican friends are part of families which have welcomed me into their families. All are dressed normally and honest people who have not defrauded anyone. But suppose that doesn’t make for a good story line.

    • Christopher Dalton

      I was talking about gringoes defrauding other gringoes….

      • Jason Habacht

        Kinda like your Condo story? Which could only have happened to someone with ZERO knowledge of another country….as Dorothy said “You are not in Canada anymore!”

        I read books, visited and asked people before I came and I didn’t blindly buy an unfinished condo…that in Mexico might never have been finished.

        I am happy that you have found a place to get your writing published but you should add the label “some fiction, some truth and maybe things are different for everyone else.”

      • Happygirl

        I was once told that the gringos that live in Mexico full time were the wanted (for a crime) and the unwanted…Mexico is great place if you are a crook with a little money. It is also a great place for people that don’t fit into a neat little box…as long as you have money.

  • Devschool

    I live in Puerto Vallarta full time and I love it here. Make sure you mix with real Vallartans – they are a friendly, magical people and you are only robbing yourself by not making friends with the locals!

  • Michael C

    I presently live in Cholula, Puebla….a beautfiul, tranquil pueblo, very short on Gringo residents…….and I like it that way! I have always preferred mixing with the locals, and avoiding Gringos, for the very behaviors listed in this story! Viva Mexico!

  • Jason Habacht

    I have lived in Mexico for 12 years and although I read this man’s blog….it is, I believe, mostly made up and adjusted to what he feels is more entertaining. Realism in my experience in Mexico is very different.

    • Christopher Dalton

      Ha…I have left most of the good parts out. It is very real my friend.

  • Sharon

    Everyone’s experience is different. We have Mexican friends and friends from other parts of the world too. We also know of some Mexicans that did some dirty deals and some gringos that sold condos that have never been built. I have a suggestion to those who think these stories are made up or are unrealistic – don’t read them. I for one find them amusing and can sometimes relate to what the missive is about. Mother always said – if you can’t say anything nice…………

  • Dan Tucker

    Another great story, Chris! Sharon is right, also. We all have various experiences. I have been visiting Mexico since 1992 and have been living here for 8 years and 8 days. I have wonderful friends here from 20 years ago and I also regularly make new friends. Whenever I have an appointment and walk somewhere, I always leave in plenty of time, because inevitably someone will stop me and we will talk a while. That may be one reason Mexicans are always late – it would be culturally unacceptable NOT to stop and talk to people you know. . . . .

  • Cool Hand Luke

    Since, like many, we are victims of a major fraud in PV why not divulge their names.
    Some are wanted by authorities but are blending in and being “helped” by people like you, knowingly or unknowingly.
    Or do you just add to the culture of letting it continue because it doesn’t effect you?
    Well it does, just like cancer directly or indirectly, it costs us all.

  • James Smith

    The difference? In the US and Canada the criminals try to avoid the limelight as they have no wish to draw attention to their nefarious activities. In Mexico, such “accomplishments” are a badge of honor.

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