Señor Lagler in Mexico (Day 3)

For every day of the trip Heather and I sat down and took notes on what had happened during the day. I had originally intended to type it all up right when I got home; however, we all know how those kinds of plans usually work out. So here I am a month later writing things up. The days go backwards so you’ll need to read the posts from the bottom to the top if you want to read it chronologically. I have 3 of the 7 days written and more coming.

Day3

Heather and I woke up at 4am to drive to Coba. When we left, the bellhop asked where we were going. When we told him he got our room number. It seemed ominous at the time but it all ended up okay. For the first hour on the road I was incredibly paranoid about getting pulled over. We were the only tourists that appeared to be out and about and I felt very out-of-place. I followed the speed limit to the number. I was actually the only person in Mexico that obeyed the speed limit from what I could tell. We drove about 40 minutes on the highway before we encountered the first of what would be many jarring obstacles.

In Mexico they like to take standard things that we have in America and use them slightly differently. One of the most jarring items used is the speed bump. Mexicans put them everywhere, regardless of traffic speed or road application. Some have a sign, some don’t. Some are painted, some blend in with the road. It keeps you on your toes. The first time you hit one going 70km/h though you don’t forget it. We hit the first one we came in contact with so hard it hurt my back. It was insane. I started following other cars so I could see when it was going to happen. Heather and I later developed a theory that explained the old roads and random speed bumps. I will go into that later.

We arrived in Coba at about 8am. We were the third car in the lot. We rented bikes and rode halfway to Nohoch Mul before I had to turn around and get a bike that didn’t have two flat tires. My leg muscles were burning and Heather was just coasting along. Once I got a bike that didn’t suck we were able to ride back to Nohock Mul and climb it. There was a Guatamalan family there just before us and they were as tired as we were. Being on a ruin that sticks out above the jungle is difficult to describe. I took a lot of pictures which you can check out here. Coba is fairly remote and is a relatively new find as far as Mexian ruins go. Most of it is un-excavated and there are parts of it that you really could get into trouble in the jungle if you wandered too far. You can still feel ghosts in Coba. If you get there at 8am or so and get a bike you can get through it in about 2 hours and be leaving when all the tour groups show up. We didn’t hire a guide although in hindsight I wish we had. Either do your homework before you go or hire a guide, otherwise you’ll have no idea what you’re looking at. The animals are noisier in the morning and the place has a mood to it earlier in the morning. Once all the tour groups show up though it’s not as fun. When they show up you can head to a cenote or go find some food or something.

Heather and I saw a sign for a Cenote. We drove all the way out to it but we didn’t go swim because Heather didn’t want to. Later I found out she didn’t want to go because she didn’t know what one was. We spent many hours later on trying to find a good one to swim in. Afterwards we headed back towards Coba and found a little place that served lunch and had fresh homemade corn torillas.

The food here was the first really good food that we had on the trip. After we ate we continued driving and saw a group of people starting to roast a freshly killed pig that I assume they killed in the jungle. I kind of wish we could have tried it because it likely would have been the most healthy pork I would have ever had.

After Coba we drove to Tulum. There are two different Tulums. One is a modern village, one is an ancient one. We were in the actual town. There were stray dogs everywhere and there were no streets that went directly to the ocean. This was a problem for us because we wanted to stay in Cabanas on the ocean. We were able to get some help from some guys at a hostel which we seriously considered staying at because the people were so cool; however, I can stay at a hostel anywhere. I can’t sleep in a Cabana next to the ocean anywhere. The guy who gave us directions had a big tattoo of Ganesha on his arm. Ganesha has a special meaning to me as I have a tendency to see him at the end of personally troubling times and the beginning of new better ones. It’s irrational, but when I see him it usually means things are about to get better for me so it makes me feel good. We made it down to a road that ran along the ocean and quickly found a place to stay.

It cost us $80 a night for a Cabana on the beach with running water and no electricity. It was sublime. It was far and away my favorite part of the trip. We just sat around and did nothing for the rest of the day. They had a restaurant nearby that had internet access, chill downtempo music, and good food. There was no one trying to sell anything there either. We set with the sun and slept to the sounds of the ocean. I really can’t imagine anything better.

Señor Lagler in Mexico (Day 2)

At eight a.m. on the dot we both woke up naturally. We both felt great and both thought it was odd that we felt so well rested after sleeping only 6 hours after being up for over 24. We had not really planned on doing anything that day other than laying around so it provided ample opportunity to get going on that. It turns out that it is impossible for Heather to do nothing though. We took showers and at 8:30 a.m. we got a call on the phone from someone trying to sell us a timeshare. I just imagined a collie proudly looking into an office in the basement and barking a few times and a sales guy knowing immediately that the collie could sense that we were awake and the time to call was upon him. He reached for the phone quickly and with purpose in his eyes nimbly dialed our room number and prepared the speech in his mind that he would deliver to me to seal the deal and guarantee my annual return which he would utilize to sell me more crap until the end of time. Unfortunately for him I was prepared to say no to anything after an hour in the Cancun airport and shut him and his super-sales collie down before the process could even really begin.I went to the door of the hotel room and there was a piece of paper under it. It was an invitation from the Hotel to go talk about a timeshare! The collie must have put it there and that is how he knew I was awake. Anyway, according the header on said document, my Spanish name is Señor Lagler instead of Jason Legler. The emphasis is on the LAG, as in LAGler. My new Spanish name is the name Heather uses to address me to this day. We left the Zona Hotelera to find lunch. We found Spanish food at a roadside vendor for 35 pesos for the both of us. If you plan to go to Mexico, leave where all the white people are to get good food for cheap. Heather and I speak no Spanish and the vendors spoke no English and it worked out fine.

Once you’re out of Zona Hotelera the traffic becomes much more interesting. In Mexico and Puerto Rico, speed limits and lines on the roads are suggestions. Large busses using two lanes as one and changing lanes without using blinkers are bigger suggestions. I leave it to you to choose which to pay attention to. It is purely logical driving which was a nice change from Oregon. If you make moves with authority and avoid the people who aren’t watching or who clearly have more will than you then things work out fine. I loved driving in Mexico and as long as you are not too timid and don’t get angered or scared easily it isn’t very hard to catch on. After a little driving around and eating we went and took a 4 hour nap. It was glorious.

Later on around dinner time we decided to drive someplace to find dinner. We found a place after some navigational issues. We had bought some GPS software from BiciMapas before we went to Mexico. The maps were useful in showing the approximate location of many things but otherwise they were terrible. If you had the GPS coordinates of what you wanted to go see off of wikipedia or something, you were set as far as knowing where you were in relation to whatever you had the coordinates to; however, the GPS had no idea of the streets or where they were. In fact, many of the streets have no names. The GPS had streets that didn’t exist and couldn’t have ever existed in many cases. We spent a solid hour letting it route us to futility before we started using it as a suggestion rather than a rule. The GPS would tell us that where we needed to go was roughly northwest of where we were. We would then go north on a road until we were East of it and then turn and go towards it and deal with whatever Mexican magical street madness happened. Once we started doing that we were fine. If you buy the software, be prepared for it to be wrong most of the time; however, the signage in Mexico for places of interest and cities is very good so if you know what towns you need to drive through to get somewhere you will be fine.

Anyway, we found a street with a bunch of restaurants full of brown people. We figured that was a good sign and we were correct. The food was good and inexpensive. I did find out the hard way though that being in Mexico and not speaking Spanish is really tough if you’re a person who has social anxiety issues based entirely on feeling unwelcome and intrusive. The trip as a whole was very stressful for me. That being said, almost all of the people we encountered were overly nice to us and accommodated our ignorance. Maybe they could sense my discomfort. Anyway, out of curiosity we went to a Wal-Muerte and went inside to buy raw materials for breakfast and lunch for when we left to more remote places.. Wal-Muerte is insane in Mexico. It is similar in name and color coding only to its American counterparts. It’s much louder, with much fresher produce and much less order. No one there spoke any English. We got cereal and bread and sandwich fixings and then left for the hotel to sleep and get ready for the real fun to come… and by fun I mean driving.

Señor Lagler in Mexico (Day 1)

Heather and I stayed up all night the night before we left. Neither of us really prepared for the trip. We had made grand plans of learning some passable Spanish and learning a little about the culture so that we wouldn’t go in deaf and dumb but it didn’t happen. Truthfully, the months before our trip were horrible as far as having free time went. I spent all my time at work or working on Randy’s record and had no time for thinking about Mexico and Heather was buried in clients and dog-sitting. We spent the night packing, putting together music for the trip, and loosely putting together a list of things we wanted to do while we were there. We emailed the rough itinerary to family members with copies of our passports just in case. Needless to say, by the time we got to the airport we were already exhausted and irritable. Both of us had the expectation that the sun and the warmth would make everything better.The entire day was pretty uneventful. I’ve traveled a lot for work over the last decade and it was the same generic fare with the notable exception that my hot wife was with me to suffer this time. I really dislike airports. I’ve been in too many of them and their associated generic American cities too be able to explain the sites and smells to someone who hasn’t I guess. I dislike them too much to relive it long enough to explain it. Our layover was in Dallas. The only thing noteworthy was that the men were more overweight and more clean cut than most Portland men. They all had on the same generic khaki or jean/dark brown leather jacket and/or goatee combo going on. It’s a style for people that don’t have time to have style or who have jobs who don’t allow anything more flashy. The women were also freakishly tall and similarly generically well put together. They all looked better than me; but I didn’t want to look like any of them, if that makes sense.

We eventually left the Dallas airport and flew to Cancun. Across the aisle from me was some dude who was packed for a week in the sun to partake in booze and boobs. The guy was dumber than a bag of hammers. He wore one of the smallpox airline blankets as a veil for the bulk of the flight. Occasionally I could hear short one-syllable-word explanations of what he planned to do in Mexico all of which involved tequila and women… the only multiple-syllable words he knew. He was basically bragging about going to Cancun to a plane full of people flying to Cancun. Ol Bag-O-Hammers yammered for the entire flight, veiled and challenged. I’m not a violent person but to see him suffer would have made me happy. I think I was pretty tired but I know he was pretty dumb.

We landed in Cancun and I got my first stamp ever on my passport. The guy didn’t stamp it on the first page which irritated the part of me that appreciates order; however, the weather was perfect… perfect for selling shit apparently. If the only part of Mexico you ever saw was the airport, you would think that everyone there was there to sell you something you didn’t want. I stepped off the flight, got my passport stamped and then made a run for the bathroom. There was a bathroom attendant there that wanted money. I never carry cash so I stiffed him and felt bad until I noticed, while on my way home a week later, that there were no bathroom attendants in the airport once you passed security. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Cancun. The poverty is like nothing I’ve ever had to experience in my life and I am incredibly thankful for that; however, the sales environment sucks balls and never really goes away unless you can get away from the other tourists.

We had some problems with Budget not having any cars available despite the fact that we had reserved one. They moved us to Executive though and Executive gave us better rates and full insurance coverage for cheaper. We got a good deal on the car ($350USD for the entire week with full coverage) and gas is cheap in Mexico. I highly recommend renting a car there. It was fun and we could get to a lot of places that no one else even tried to.

We drove from the airport to our hotel in Cancun. Cancun kind of sucks. It has a mini Vegas feel too it and just feels kind of generic, lame, and artificial. We were really tired and hungry though so we drove to the hotel and parked and then walked to a place to get food. It was $30 for two of us for seafood that was entirely accurate in its description. It came from the sea and it was food. It was incredibly banal. The beer in the Caribbean saved it though.

It was the same way in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans and Mexicans in the Caribbean know how to use a fridge to make beer as cold as it can be without freezing. I don’t even like beer and I drank it with every meal in Mexico. We then went to bed on the hardest wettest beds we’d ever slept in at about 2am. We placed bets on what time we would wake up the next day. Heather bet one p.m., I said noon.

Up

Okay, I finally got the pictures from our trip up.  I wrote up some general commentary so you’ll have a vague idea of what you’re looking at for everything but Uxmal.  I will try to get to Uxmal tomorrow.  Once I get the pictures for Uxmal commented I will be writing a summary of our trip based on notes Heather and I took at the end of each day of the trip.  I will also be posting some really lame video if I can.  From there I just have to get some more of the music I want to get up on here and then I think this blog will be off to a pretty good start.   I feel bad for not posting more right now so I will leave you with an article that I read today and found interesting. You can read it here.

Also, I was discussing the microphone that Thom Yorke used on Radiohead’s New Years Eve show and found out that it is a electrovoice RE20.  They are broadcast mics for radio that are famous for allowing odd address angles, limiting the proximity effect, limiting off mic sounds, and having a fantastic pop filter.  In other words, it is the perfect mic for recording in a basement.  Apparently it has a radio voice flavor though so it isn’t great for everything; however, if you like the flavor it is a great mic.  I was surprised to find out that it is a dynamic mic and that Thom uses it pretty regularly while recording and not just for online shows.  It makes sense because he moves a lot when he sings and he mouths the mic.  It’s just cool to me because it is a relatively cheap mic.    Anyway…

bang!

Well, I missed my opportunity to post on the first of the year.  Heather and I made it back from Mexico.  I hate US Airways; however, I imagine everyone hates the airline they flew on this Christmas.  No one has the right to wonder why airlines and American car companies keep filing bankruptcy though.  As a company, you can’t make dramatic cuts to budgets to appease the fickle whims of shareholders for a quarter and not ultimately cripple your company.  Anyway, I need to go to bed but expect some posts and pictures about Mexico in the coming days and then with whatever little bit of creative energy I have left I’ll fill you in on some fantastic drama in the extended family here.  Fun times for all!  In the meantime, please enjoy this performance from one of my favorite bands on the planet: