Set your time machine for 1970.5, (±1 year) I was dating the daughter of a quack doctor. This guy was making a killing selling diet pills and behavior counseling to housewives from all over our county back in NJ. They had built a great big fancy house with his office attached, along the main drag a few towns over from us. I had met this girl, in summer school and we really hit it off in a free-spirited, Summer of Love, kind of way. It might have been the summer of Bordentown Military Academy or the hippie dippie, Moorestown Friends School or maybe it was Doane Academy Preparatory School. I am not sure. Anyway, she was a furry, freaky, funny, happy, blue eye blonde, rich, hippy chick who never wore underwear and really didn't give a $hit in a very sweet, casual kind of way. My parents had no clue about raising a kid and her parents believed in freedom, or some sixties notion like that. We were a hit! I was totally infatuated with this girl because she was so fresh and so different from the girls in my home town.
Her family was very progressive. Except the doctor dad, he stayed in the clinic for what seemed to me 24 hours a day so he was absent. They had a big pool out back in which the entire family frequently jumped into and out of without a stitch, Mom included! Similarly they roamed freely about the house, sometimes dripping wet in an exposed state seemingly without notice. All this much to the dismay of the older brother who repeated reminded the mother, "Mom! We have company."
There were times when the mom asked if I was "staying over" and she never had a problem sending me upstairs to wake her or to help get her ready when picking her up for a date.
This one night she was very excited. "Let's go!"
"Hurry we'll be too late." She rushed to my '61 chevy wagon, jumped in the drivers side and slid half way across the bench seat.
"What, where huh?!" She never did anything in a hurry. I got in the car and took off. Turns out she had tickets for a concert.
"There's this new band called Jethro Tull."
"The front man plays a FLUTE!"
She assured me it was going to be very cool and I would like it and please drive fast to Philly. A big green cloud filled the car as we drove toward the new Spectrum. We arrived just as JT was taking the stage. I was amazed at the smell in that place and how long everybody's hair was.
The music started just as we emerged from the ramp to the second floor. The crowd let out a roar and music filled the hall. I was stopped in my tracks by the volume and the vivid scene that had suddenly unfolded directly in front of us.
"Quick" she says, grabbing my hand and giving a little squeal of delight, "Let's sit here."
We slid our feet under the bar at the top of the ramp, sitting on concrete, our earth shoes and ragged bell bottoms dangling 30 feet in the air and our heads and arms protruding through the space between the second and top bars. These were great seats, forget those numbers on our tickets, stay right here. The stage was just below us and slightly to the right. The sound was amazing! The colors smoke and flashing lights were out of this world. The acrid smell of sweat and weed was just overpowering. I was stupefied with happiness. Who could imagine such a scene existed on earth. Joy.
The music finished and Ian Anderson announced the name of the song and plugged the new album, Aqualung. I swear he looked right at us! The piano player, dressed in an all white suit, was rapidly and deliberately pacing around the stage as Anderson began to introduce the next song. The Piano dude looked like a cross between an ice cream man and an over amped Colonel Sanders with hair down to the middle of his back and cascading over both shoulders. This guy was so wound up that he would frantically wave one hand or the other as fast as possible if he had an idle second without assigned notes to play. The urgent, rapid strides around the stage continued between songs. It's a wonder his heart didn't explode right then.
Mr Anderson had an unusual appearance also. He was wearing a bright green, soiled, swallow tail coat with one tail raggedly removed. He had sort of white tight pants and brown, fringed, over the calf, lace up fringed boots. He put the sole of one boot on his opposite knee as he played the flute. Long, wild, frizzy hair and a full untrimmed beard completed his stage presence. Freaky. The third (or tenth) song was Cross-eyed Mary. An excerpt of the lyrics is:
Laughing in the playground -- gets no kicks from little boys:
would rather make it with a letching grey.
Or maybe her attention is drawn by Aqualung,
who watches through the railings as they play.
Just as Anderson sang "maybe her attention is drawn by Aqualung" he cocked his head toward us. He was looking right at me! He stretched out a bony hand with the longest fingers I had ever seen in my life, pointed right at us and sang, "watches through the railings..."
So here I was barely 17, first real concert, tweaked out of my head, in a perch suspended high above the crowd and this guy saw us! I was part of the show. Everybody looked. She rushed, shook her hair and threw her arms over her head and kicked her feet. It seemed the singer appreciated the exuberant little show she put on. Thumbs up! We were quickly joined on the ledge by others seeking to share our advantage in access to the band. The sudden movement caused the guards to descend in a large group. Now we were caught in an unsafe and popular position. We had to take our real seats for the rest of the concert.
After that night, every time I returned to the The Spectrum and saw the solid steel panel welded to the bottom of all the railings at the top of each ramp reminded me that Rita, me and Ian Andersen were the reason they modified that opening. The little hippie chick succumbed to cancer and The Spectrum has been demolished and replaced by a bigger, better, more modern facility. Ian Andersen is still making music and me... well you know what I do.
We were once delayed at the Cancun airport by a full figured lady whose under-wire supporting garment had activated the warning buzzer on the metal detector portal. Our line at CUN paused to observe the 3 minute spectacle.
The Mexican TSA agent repeatedly waved the wand back and forth across her chest, beep, beeeeep, beeeeeeeeeeep, alternating over her boobs, in turn.
"Its my bra." she whispered to the agent.
"It's an underwire."
"My BBBRRRRAAAH." She was pronouncing the word very carefully as to make herself better understood.
Beep, Beep. The screener looked slightly puzzled.
"Want me to take off my shirt?" Her frustration grew as did the volume of her speech.
Beeep, beeep, chirp, beep.
A little louder now, "I'll do it, swear to god!"
Suddenly she crossed her arms low and grabbed the bottom of her Senor Frog Bar tee. She thought better of it and changed her tactics midstream. We stood transfixed behind the line ropes while the traveler did the bra off thing under her shirt. She quickly flipped the hooks in the back, drove her hand under each sleeve and reached up under the front of her tee shirt for a grand finale. Swoosh.
"See?" She said, raising her arms aloft displaying the expensive, white, industrial strength, metal filled, Cross Your Heart, 4 hook, padded strap, Maidenform bra high above her head and rotated 360° to give us all a full frontal view of both the doomed garment and her double D bosoms straining against the cotton tee shirt.
And to the Mexican TSA lady who by now was standing by sheepishly, "Now are you happy?"
Yup, everybody was smiling and we all seemed very happy. The offending metal brassiere was unceremoniously deposited in the waste receptacle, the black electronic wand passed silently over her boobs, she passed through the metal detector without an audible incident and we all walked off merrily toward our respective gates.
Remember when you got a favorite toy as a kid? Or when you became a little older and had ample funds at your disposal, you could go to the candy store and get all the candy you wanted. Or better yet, how about that time when the drinks were so delicious and the effect so pleasant that you figured that more would be better? Fairly soon that toy lost its charm, candy became tasteless and repulsive as your taste buds fatigued and quit under the onslaught of sugary treats. And sometimes the booze wins the battle.
Once at a party in the 70's, I had a little segmented worm from a bottle of cheap Mezcal. It was fun running around with it on my tongue, showing all the girls who screamed and turned away. It was a different matter when, for some unknown reason, half the bottle gone, I decided to bite the damn thing. It had been soaking in the mescal for quite a while and it had a super concentrated flavor of tequila/mescal/insect guts. It was an immediate emetic. As soon as the worm guts entered my mouth my insides did the same. I barely made it to the commode as my lower intestine tried to help my stomach better evacuate its contents. It wasn't a total loss because back then projectile vomiting was usually a big hit and the indicator of any real party.
I still don't like the flavor of tequila. Some stuff you just can't get over.
We have been here, in Playa del Carmen Mexico for 122 days. We have had three mini vacations to different parts of Mexico, two snorkel trips and 3 all-inclusive days with one more on the books. We have fixed the lights in the ceiling, shopped and found a sofa, love seat, Tommy Bahama beach chairs with coolers built into the back and a matching umbrella. We had the washer fixed once, the fridge took a shit and spoiled much of our food, twice. We have eaten food at carts on the street and carts in the dirt, at Italian, Chinese, Indian, American and of course Mexican restaurants. We have found and installed pieces of obscure hardware.
We toured ancient ruins with a guide who gladly shared the fact he was in the throes of a crisis of faith. We found broken hunks of Mayan pottery used to extract salt from the Caribbean hundreds of years ago. We have been hounded by timeshare salesman, red cross volunteers, Mayan ladies selling shawls on the street, plaintively rolling their eyes and begging us to buy. We've been tattooed, injected, inspected and Brazilian waxed smooth. We have been in pools, oceans, tidal pools and hot tubs. We have had guests come and go.
We have driven in cities, country, jungle and some horrible, smarmy dirt roads near the beach riddled with chuck holes and sour rain filled craters big enough to swallow the little red car.
We have stood in lines at immigration, customs, the DMV, Telmex, CFE, restaurants and supermarkets. The weather has been hot, cold, wet, dry and everything in between. We drank at bars, in pools, right on the street, at the beach, in cars and palapas and drank from buckets, green bottles, clear bottles, brown bottles, cans, paper cups, hand blown glasses, plastic cups, jello shots and Bubba Kegs. We have spoken English, Spanish, French, German, a little Mayan and even some Yiddish. We spent dollars, Pesos, Euros and charged stuff to get the air miles.
Last week a belligerent, middle aged Mexican man with gray roots, stood in our way, directly in front of the path of our car in Sam's parking lot. He was texting or something. He knew we were there but he didn't care. He was on vacation and he had a few bucks. We are foreigners after all. We can wait. As we entered the store he was directly in the isle. Again blocking my path, elbows extended, still fascinated with his phone like a teenage girl. I gave him a little bump with my shoulder and pinched his ass, hard. This cocky, little chubby, bastard was a foot and a half shorter and a hundred pounds lighter. Pat was following behind because this guy had obstructed the foot traffic down a single lane at the entrance to Sam's Club. She witness his reaction from only two feet away. She said he jumped a mile, sized me up and sheepishly moved to the side. Enough of the macho, bullfighter mentality for him.
Our downstairs neighbors are obnoxious boors. She woke us almost every day screeching Phylis Diller like nonsense syllables. Her normal voice is so backwoods Midwest that it is difficult for me to understand her on a good day. Everything is I, me or my with her. She was telling a story about her grandson getting stung by a bee at her house. It included a description of her wooden table and some history of the table, what she was wearing, which flowers she had planted and what she had for lunch.
Her husband is a total pussy. He is one of those guys who delights in telling you how it should have been done if you knew what you were doing, the best way to get somewhere after you get back or the proper way to repair an item soon after you fix it. These obnoxious people are almost directly beneath us. We shared a diagonally adjacent balcony corner. They, singlehandedly, almost prevented us from enjoying our winter. If not for the sunny dispositions of the base crew of owners here we would have withdrawn from condo society completely. The other "Nor tays" seemed to all agree about the monopolizing attitude of our private Phyllis Diller. They tolerated it publicly much better than we did.
But now, with a week to go. I have had enough. The town is beginning to separate itself into two sections. One a gleaming, modern resort, sparkling with all the amenities. The other has started to look like a medieval torture chamber. I miss cheesesteaks and the familiar taste of a Union Barrel Works carver sandwich paired with micro brew porter. I know that it will take some time for real, east coast English to return and this other language, rattling around in my brain like an insufficient, little donut spare tire loose in the trunk, to leave my conscious thought patterns. I am just beginning to understand some of the high speed stuff they speak only among the Spanish speakers and TV commercials. But the time for that has passed for this season. It's getting tiresome. I welcome the acrid smell of urine from the Philadelphia Airport Jetway.
Pat shut down three weeks ago, she has retreated from the chaos of Mexico and the invasive rantings of our neighbor to the comfort of CSI reruns and the American satellite TV coming from a homemade, Frankenstein looking dish mounted on the roof of Condo Tower C and her Kindle.
All indications are, it is time to go, to flee, to abandon this country for now. But unlike that mescal in the 70's the worm has decided to stay in the bottle. Those people downstairs will be in Florida next winter and not return in the foreseeable future. Mr and Ms obnoxious plan to lease out their condo to more normal people. We have a beautiful piece of art our friend created which we will treasure forever. So next year promises to hold new journeys, fresh adventures and more culinary delights and best of all, we look forward to the very pleasant, easy company of our friends here in Playa del Carmen. We are excited to get home to Pennsylvania and can't wait to return.