Monday, July 20, 2015

Salt Life

I tried yesterday to upload a number of photos that I had taken, photos that illustrated the story, but the internet connection at the beach was faulty and though I tried and tried, I couldn't get them to "take."  I almost didn't get the post to upload at all.  Beats me why. 

But onward. 

We drove around an old downtown piece of the beach town that Ili had never seen.  The houses are old and sometimes ramshackle and all have that attractive quality that the life of another time and place always seem to present no matter if the porches slant or the eaves are uneven and the paint peeling.  Hammocks and potted plants and vines speak to some inner spring of decadence that manicured lawns and new stucco seek to strangle.  One smells a Tennessee Williams play in the making.  Down along the salty river, the old mansions really rise up, revitalized and gentrified and pronouncing an expensive grandeur that is beyond the reach of most of us which makes them all the more alluring. 

And then, after my fragmented but enthusiastic history narrative, we crossed the bridge that led to the beach. 

Beach towns have become the worst kinds of tourist traps.  Not traps, really, for there is nothing there to keep anyone with half a modicum of sense.  They are simply what is offered as a distraction from the sand and salt and sun, building after building of grimy rum runner bars and trinket shops full of seashell things and small shacks selling ice cream and surf shops that are no longer differentiated in any way. 

We landed at a counter overlooking the beach through sliding windows in one of the crowded fried fish bars that is popularly located at the end of the road leading to the ocean.  And then it began to rain. 

Ili is quite good at starting up conversations, and when a mother/daughter pair came to take the seats beside us, she complimented the daughter on her hat, a straw fedora sort of thing.  Turned out that this would not be the mother and daughter's first drink, the daughter being, however, far ahead of the mother it seemed, though mom may simply have been more practiced at holding her liquor.  They were from Wisconsin though the mother had a condo at the beach now.  The daughter taught art in a private school in Mexico City and was taken with the Leica.  She was a blonde as many Wisconsins are, fair skinned and sunburned red all over her abundant bosoms that were enhanced by the low cut terry cloth cover up she had on.  Mom and lass were sitting on my left and Ili on my right, so in order to converse with Wisconsin, I had to turn my back on my friend.  And thus it was for quite some time.  I could tell by their gazes that Ili had checked out after awhile, and occasionally I would glance back to see her looking around the bar. 

Half my drink was gone before I said, "Well, now I must take your picture with this fine Leica, you know.  I must document this part of my life." 

The mother leaned back saying oh, no, while the blonde in the hat leaned her cheek to her closed hand and stared into the camera.  The cloud diffused light barely fell through the window.  The room was dim.  I could hardly see the image in the finder.  I was hoping that this would be some soulful masterpiece, of course, but in my heart I knew it would be just another picture. 

I learned much about Wisconsin and the suburbs of Mexico City, but I was not up for a second drink, and though Ili would have been content to have another, I said we really must be going. 

The rain was coming down. 

"They seemed quite charmed by you," she said.  "They'll wet themselves thinking of you tonight." 

There was no denying that, of course.  It was true.  The daughter had even sent herself an email from my phone.  Selfies, I thought.  There is nothing more fun than that. 

As we walked back to the car, tourists in bathing suits still walked the streets.  There were beautiful teenaged girls wearing the tiniest of bathing suits skateboarding toward us like visions from a very good movie.  My Leica was in its bag, of course, because of the rain. 

"Jesus, I want a picture of that." 

Ili said I should go after them.  They would skateboard for me, she said.  Nope, I told her, that is not how it works, though I was lying in part.  It is how it works sometimes, but there is no way I can do that with company.  There is just something ingratiating and maybe even humiliating to taking pictures of strangers at all let alone asking nearly naked girls to do tricks for your camera with your own girl beside you.  There are things that just aren't allowable. 

I am certain, though, that I will go back alone. 

The day done, we found the car and then the grocery store and then the house.  Showers and drinks and a barbecue grill and a big couch and a handful of movies.  Salt Life, as the decals say.  It is so much better than working. 

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