Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Playa Mafia, Part 2

The Playa Mafia, Part 1 was posted on Saturday, June 30, 2007.

If this story had a soundtrack, it would feature the Godfather theme music – done on marimba.

It takes me a few days (fast study that I am) to figure out that several of La Iguanita’s regulars are Playa’s movers and shakers. The people that make things happen. The people G-man and I affectionately call (behind their backs, of course) The Playa Mafia. Incidentally, this is risky behavior, this writing. I could get Sopranoed! So if my posts stop out of the blue, you’ll know the Witness Protection people have relocated me to some depressing little suburb. When I weigh the pros and cons, I think I’d rather be taken out.

It also takes me a few days to catch on that Hurricane Hellga is a nightly performance, likely to occur anytime after 9 pm. The day after Hellga tears poor Mike a new one, G-man and I wake up to face the Angry Hangover Gods. I (sort of) open my eyes and utter the words “Please kill me now.” But Ibuprofen soon works its magic, we shower and hit Java Jack’s for coffee, y todo está bien. We spend the day chillin’ at the beach and make arrangements for an early dive the following day. I’m not going to tell you about the beach – Yucatan Peninsula beaches are postcard material. You can Google about a million pictures if you like.

Oh, and somewhere in there, I have ceviché for lunch. I love ceviché. Kind of like the Mexican version of sushi, isn’t it? I love sushi too. Was I perhaps a seagull in some past incarnation? Okay, stay on topic now, Papillon.

We walk into La Iguanita for a couple of early evening cervezas. The place is busy, but we manage to find a spot over in the corner where Marta had lost her fight with verticality the night before. There’s a canvas beach bag, momentarily abandoned, sitting on the coffee table in front of us.

Sitting at the bar are a cute Mexican guy, 30-ish, and a very striking dark-haired woman, whose voice carries and drifts our way. Apparently, she’s an actress, visiting from LA. She’s frustrated about the competition for TV show guest roles, the kind of roles that were her bread and butter until people like Brad Pitt started appearing in shows like Will & Grace. G-man and I comment that she seems interesting, and then get into our own conversation. Being Scuba Whores, we’re stoked about the dive tomorrow. We’ve been assured we’ll see lots of giant turtles and maybe even a manta ray or two. Me, I’m just jonesing for that floaty, weightless feeling, the sensation of flying – Waterworld's answer to crack.

“Hey, I couldn’t help but overhear you guys talking about diving. Are you going with Paulo?” Suddenly the dark-haired woman is standing next to our table.

Yup, we are, we confirm. Two-tank dive with Paulo tomorrow.

“I’m Megan,” the woman says. “Paulo is a good friend of mine and an excellent dive master. I’m sure you guys will have a great time. By the way, sorry about leaving my beach bag on your table. And thank you for not stealing it, although there's only some sunscreen and a paperback in there.”

Yeah, stealing. Not so much our thing, really. Karma and all that.

We introduce ourselves and invite Megan to sit down. She turns back to the cute Mexican guy at the bar and says, “See, honey – I told you they wouldn’t mind.” The guy rolls his eyes and sighs indulgently.

“That’s my fiancé, Diego.” Megan explains. “He keeps telling me not to bug people. He figures you guys are honeymooning and want to be left alone.”

I’m kind of tickled that G-man and I still give off that new couple vibe, but I laugh and assure Megan that we’ve been married “for about 200 years” and we actually enjoy meeting new people. This is a fact. Others may climb pyramids when they travel, take shitloads of pictures and gather memorabilia. We’ve done those things too, but me, I’m primarily about collecting people. And I can tell already I’ll want to add Megan and Diego to my collection.

Megan’s is an exotic sort of beauty, at least to my esthetic. She’s got long, dark wavy hair pulled away from her face, and cheekbones that deserve to be sculpted in alabaster. She’s wearing the funkiest cat-eyed glasses. And she’s not a stick insect.

When she finds out we’re from Vancouver, she calls to Diego again. “Hon, they’re from Vancouver. I love them!”

Diego smiles and nods at us. We smile and nod back.

“Oh for God’s sake,” Megan continues. “Why don’t you just come over here already?”

It turns out that Megan grew up in Vancouver and began her acting career there. She moved to LA a couple of years ago and has had a fairly successful TV show guest role kind of career in both cities. These days, she spends her time mostly between LA and Playa. LA is all about acting, of course, and Playa is about Diego and learning Spanish. (Her Spanish puts mine to shame. But then, so does the average fajita’s.)

Diego runs an internet café. He used to act as well, and his English is flawless. He’s charming and killingly funny. He misuses the word “literally” almost literally in every second sentence, but I don’t correct him – no one likes a Language Nazi.

We don’t know it just yet, but the four of us will end up spending many hours here over the next 10 days, getting to know each other, getting our drink on, and gossiping about the locals.

Eventually we go our separate ways to grab some dinner. Megan and Diego go home to cook; G-man and I hunt down some fajitas. We come back to La Iguanita for a nightcap (honestly, just one tonight); it’s early and Hellga is still pleasant. (Read: sober.) After wetting our whistles, we head back to our room to get some decent sleep before the dive. Sleep proves to be a bit of a challenge, however, as there’s a big group of English guys loudly singing Oasis songs in the bar. What is it with traveling English guys and Oasis songs, anyway? Thank God for ear plugs.

The next day we do indeed dive the perfect dives. We see giant lobsters, giant-er turtles and a truly big-ass manta ray – wingspan on it like a parking lot. Our dive master, Paulo, is enthusiastic and attentive, which we appreciate a great deal, since, with only 30 dives each “under our belts”, we’re not very experienced. There’s only one other person diving with us, and that’s Alex from Colombia, who’s only been under five times before. Small groups and patient dive masters really make all the difference in the world. There’s nothing more frustrating than ten people in diving gear, bumping into each other as they float around some paranoid sea creature, trying to get a closer look.

After the second dive, we’re sitting on the boat, free of soggy wetsuits, all of us drinking water out of these little plastic glasses. Tank oxygen makes me pretty thirsty, so my glass is empty in no time. And then it’s not empty. “Oh, good,” I think, “there is another sip left after all.” Can you guess where this is going?

Ptuuii! (*Spits overboard*) It turns out, of course, sea water had splashed into my glass and I hadn’t noticed. Everyone offers me sips of their own water to rinse out the salt taste, but we’re close to shore and cold cervezas. Sharing post-dive cervezas with your group is de rigeur.

* * * *

Back at La Iguanita, we’re so buoyed (sorry, I couldn’t resist) by our diving experience that we’re definitely in the mood to celebrate. We get some take-out to bring back to the bar, because it's cheap, everyone does it, and we’ve pretty much determined that for now, this place is home.

Jack and Stella (the coffee shop owners) are sitting with us, as are Hellga and Sven. Hellga delights us with her good mood and unexpected charm. She overhears me telling Sven that I’m a huge Tom Waits fan and chimes in with “Oooh, I love Tom Waits too!” Well, now – this is more like it! Ever ready to give people a second chance, I decide that although our hostess had made a grown man cry the other night, well, maybe the guy had it coming. And if Hellga’s a Tom Waits fan, she can’t be all bad, can she?

Also around this time, as the beer and margaritas flow freely, Keith (the hotel manager) and I establish our own little Mutual Admiration Society. The conversation goes something like this:

Darling, you look just fabulous in that little black dress!” (Are you imagining a 44-year old English guy in a little black dress? I know I am.)

“Why, thank you Keith. And you look so cute in your little ball cap. Hey, were you by any chance a Clash fan in your younger days?”

“Fuck yeah, I loved the Clash!”

“Yessh, me too!”

“You’re awesome, mate!”

“No, you’re awesome!”

“No, you’re–"

Well, I think I've painted a broad-brushstroke picture here.

We segue to some impromptu Monty Python banter. My demand for a shrubbery is met with the response “And I guess you want a nice one? And not too expensive?” Hugs ensue.

The evening rolls along very pleasantly in this fashion, until Oscar, the bartender/waiter approaches Sven and whispers something in his ear.

Sven looks out at the street where his vehicle is parked, and suddenly he’s up and out there like a shot.

All of us at the table (which is right alongside the street) look out to see what’s going on. Sven opens his car door and drags out a very drunk and terrified Mexican guy who’d either been trying to steal the vehicle or was merely looking for a place to pass out.

The next thing we know, Sven’s got el hombre pinned to the ground, and though he doesn’t actually hit him, he’s shouting and he’s very, very angry. The poor Mexican is scared shitless and whimpering “Lo siento! Lo siento!" Finally, Sven lets him go, and the guy goes stumbling down the street. The car hasn’t been damaged, and I don’t think anyone even called the cops. Sven just wanted to give the troublemaker a good scare, and he succeeded.

The excitement dies down eventually, and we’re all kind of sitting around with these stunned “Good thing that’s over” looks on our faces. We’re relaxed again. Or at least I am. I’m relaxed enough to say to Hellga, in the way that one does to demonstrate empathy, “You know, car vandalism is a big problem in Vancouver.”

That's all I say. And that's all it takes. Cue The Hurricane.

“I don’t give a flying fuck about Vancouver! I live here, not fucking Vancouver!”

“Um, I’m sorry, I –“

“Why don’t you just shut the fuck up?!!

I make a zipping motion across my mouth. “Shutting up now…”

“Fuck you!”


G-man comes to my rescue. “Oh, look, honey – there’s Mike at the bar. He seems like he could use some company. Wanna go over there with me?”

“Um, yeah.

En route to the bar, I intercept Oscar who’s just bringing drinks to our table. Deftly I take my margarita from his tray, whispering. “I’ll take that off your hands. She’s in a really bad mood.” Oscar rolls his eyes and nods understandingly.

G-man insists that I shouldn’t take The Hurricane personally, and I assure him that I don’t. Soon enough, we’re engaged in conversation with other, less volatile people and I feel fine.

And what of Hellga? Does she storm off in a fury or pass out in her chair? God, no!

Not 15 minutes after G-man and I relocate, I look across the circular bar, and there’s Hellga, holding court and smiling her blinding white smile, waving at me like I’m a long-lost friend.

CAVEAT: I know that what I’m about to say exemplifies weak and lazy writing, but damn, I’m truly at a loss for other words, so for now, at least, the moral of this story is:

Unbefuckinglievable! Sometimes you just gotta shake your head.

Playa 3: Hellga's Finest Hour


funkygrl1974 said...

Okay that fucking rocked!!! Um, this is the best thing I've EVER read. I say you relocate part of the year in Playa and blog every day about "the hurricane".
And promise me you'll let me visit?

Papillon said...

I will not only let you visit, I will insist that you do! I know a great place to go for drinks... ;-)