Tuesday, February 28, 2017

That man had no legs

That was a weekend.

Friday night found Alex and me at Coco's school auction/casino night fundraiser. Alex and I have attended perhaps five billion auctions in our parental careers but it seemed many of the parents at Coco's school did not have the same level of experience. We guessed this by how many were overheard saying things like, "Well someone's already bid on that so I hate to take it away from them."

Silent auctions are cutthroat, people. No prisoners. Maybe it was rude of us but Alex and I used our hefty auction expertise to flatten our competition. I outbid when many were reluctant to outbid, I made shady deals with PTA members in dark corners. I walked out with stuff under my arm before the auction was even officially ended.

I apologize for nothing. It's all for the children, man. Plus I really wanted that hand-carved jewelry box from Oaxaca.

Alex lost all of his fake money at the blackjack table. 
You can't win them all.

Unless you're me. And shady as hell. 

Alex and I made a handful of new friends at the auction despite our aggressive ways, including one funny British couple who got a little tipsy at the open bar and bid on, quite literally, everything. They began at one end of the auction table and walked its entirety signing their names to every scrap of paper they encountered, assuming they would be outbid on most. But this being the most polite auction in the history of auctions with no one willing to "offend" them, they were in a precarious spot indeed as the evening wore on.

At the time of our departure, they were winning well over a dozen items, including a half dozen individual lots of wine totaling 72 bottles. We left them laughing hysterically in the corner after they'd begged anyone and everyone to outbid them on anything at all. I wonder how they got all that wine home.

Mr. W., a British man and the founder of Coco's school, is a character I enjoy very much but I rarely know what's going on when I'm with him. He's intensely cerebral with the most impressive breadth of life experience. He has a personal connection to everything, everywhere, for all of time and can connect all of it in a single thought. He starts a story but shares many details about other stories in the middle of that story. The person who can follow him all the way through a thought is a rare one indeed.

At the auction, he was talking about -- something, I honestly don't remember where we started -- but then interjected himself with something along the lines of, "Well, my eldest son -- oh, my son, well, you know my son grew up with Julian Lennon, very good friends really, and he's even seen the drawing that inspired "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" well isn't that something and so yes they were pals but the man's aunt is also distantly related to the Queen of Belgium of centuries ago so gave me the most handsome wood carvings of the king and queen but then his parents moved to Amsterdam and the brother there -- well goodness now I believe he's figuring the cure for cancer in Norway and is damn near to it, too -- and anyway, what was I saying...."

And I look at him with my hands outstretched like, "Sooo....I'm still back at 'Julian Lennon.' Can you slow down?" And then he laughs this hearty laugh and nope, he doesn't slow down. He keeps on going and now you're really super lost. It's fascinating to see how someone's mind works and makes connections in real time but I'll be damned if I can follow.

(I outbid all of the world to win the auction item "Mr. W writes a personalized story about your student." Mr. W is an accomplished writer in addition to being an educator and with his mind working the way it does, I cannot wait to see what he comes up with for the Coco girl. Those poor inexperienced auction-goers didn't stand a chance against me ha ha ha.)

Saturday morning found us bound for Las Estacas, a natural water park two hours outside Mexico City. We were meeting two other ex-pat families there and had all rented a big house nearby for the night to maximize our fun. The house we rented came with a pool and a cook. I hear this is fairly common. This may be why the two ex-pat families we were with claim they never want to leave Mexico.

Mario, our driver, drove us to Las Estacas. On the way there, he mentioned we might like to stop for lunch at a long stretch of food stands right off the highway at an area called Las Tres Marias. We take the recommendations of locals very seriously, especially his, so absolutely, Mario, lead the way to the food.

Mario was not wrong
Thank you, Mario's arm

We pulled off the highway and selected one of the myriad of food options. We ordered chilaquiles and enchiladas and quesadillas then shamelessly gorged ourselves sitting amongst local families whose kids were mesmerized by our English speaking. I love seeing little dark eyes peeking over a parent's shoulder. As soon as I look back, they duck behind mothers or fathers or grandparents but soon again peek out with a shy smile. It's pretty much the best, especially if I have a bunch of enchiladas in my mouth at the same time.

Alex and I ordered micheladas at Las Tres Marias. Micheladas are usually just beers with lime juice and salt but these arrived looking like someone had to die for them to be made. I have no idea what the stuff dripped around the outside was. It was sweet and chili peppery at the same time.

Anyone? Anyone?

Alex drinks the blood of children for breakfast  
(with a side of churros, of course)

Driving away from Las Tres Marias back onto the highway.
If you didn't know it was something, 
you would probably think it was nothing.

Las Estacas, our destination that day, is great if you like chaos and water. We were thankfully in the perfect mood for both so settled in for a long day of screaming and sunburns. We spent much of our time at the river where two of the dads rented a boat and loaded it up with most of our kids. Better them than me.

Alex was supposed to be in the boat with the other dads but he had, only mere moments before, backed up suddenly at an inopportune moment along a walking path and fallen about six feet into a narrow channel of water. It could have been bad but thankfully he was fished out by the other dads with only a few scratches.

So while the other two dads were brave/crazy enough to do this --


Alex was laying in the shade a bit shaken, bleeding, and drinking a beer.  As he should have been.

Don't worry, he recovered fully

The dads had a difficult time between the screeching children inside the boat and the many swimmers outside the boat.  It didn't look promising as they tried to get the hang of the paddling and the river current. At one point, Seattle Mom said, "They are seriously just turning in circles." And that they were. Wheeee.

They finally got the boat going in one constant direction -- yay -- and promptly ran over an elderly man swimming in the river who had no legs. We had all seen the man earlier in his wheelchair and were impressed when he dove into the water and began swimming against the current with powerful strokes. That man is tough.

Which is good, because as I mentioned, our crew ran right over him. He was OK, came out the other side of the boat fine and accepted the dads' profuse apologies graciously but yep, that was horrifying. We adults continued to re-live the moment and cringe the rest of the day; we couldn't shake the image of that poor man disappearing under our dudes' boat.

Later that day, one son revisited the story with the other kids like, "You guys, we ran over that old man like BAM!!" Seattle Mom, believing the kids were being too callous and taking the situation too lightly, pointed right in all of their faces and yelled, "THAT MAN HAD NO LEGS!"

It should have been a profound teaching moment and the rest of us should have nodded solemnly in solidarity with the message but no, it struck us all suddenly as very funny. We lost our collective sh*t, rolled around on our beach towels and laughed so hard we were just silent, shaky, and snorty. You can't be good parents forever, I guess. Or at least we can't.

We got lost trying to find our rental house after the water park because you tend to get lost anytime you leave a main road in Mexico. Nothing's labeled, GPS is imperfect and directions are vague. It was worth the up-and-down, back-and-forth, forward-and-backward shimmy our caravan experienced, though, because the house was big with a cold pool and a cook in the kitchen already preparing our dinner.

Our house
and our children being thrown mighty distances

Sure, there were some kid injuries and some blood and some tears but that's all par for the course when families get together. What isn't par for the course, and what will spoil us forevermore thanks to Mexico, is a cook made us delicious chiles rellenos for dinner while we sat around on the back patio talking about stupid things.

It's like we were making armpit fart sounds while she was in there creating a masterpiece.

He's still throwing them

The next morning for breakfast the cook made the kids pancakes and the adults chilaquiles and huevos with whatever the words for "red peppers" and "spicy stuff" are. I'm just bragging now, if not exactly showing off my Spanish skills.

Why did we leave?

Two of our families decided to stop at Xochicalco, an Aztec ruins site, on the way home, which was both a fantastic idea and a terrible idea. It was a fantastic idea because the site is gorgeous and I enjoyed every minute we spent poking around the area despite the fact it was very hot up there.

Hard to regret walking along the upper edge of an Aztec pyramid with your crew

Their new album drops next month.
Their band name is "Blood and Churros." 

It was a terrible idea to visit Xochicalco, however, because while we were up there, a semi truck overturned on the highway, which backed up traffic for bazillions of kilometers. The trip home should have taken an hour and a half but wound up taking over five hours.

Our food supply had run out and we all had to go to the bathroom quite badly by the time we finally passed the overturned semi truck and the neighboring upright watermelon truck that must have also been involved based on the number of watermelons still in the street. The watermelons had been mostly cleaned up (there were still people dodging between cars to grab some here and there to throw them back into the truck) when we drove past but that semi on its side was going nowhere fast.

We heard from Seattle Dad he knew a couple people who were stuck in that mess
 for nine hours. 
I guess we should consider ourselves lucky. 

Mario was regretting agreeing to work on the weekend right now,
trust it.

I thought I was going to live the rest of my life in that car.  Alex and I are the geniuses who decided the weekend was going to be "screen-free" so had permitted neither iPad nor Kindle to join us. That was a stupid idea. If anyone ever asks me to play "I spy" again, I'm going to punch them in the face. I don't give a sh*t what you're spying that's blue -- plus nothing has changed in this car for hours so I know you're still talking about Mario's jeans.

I just asked Paulina to make chicken enchiladas with salsa roja and broccoli for dinner. I said several complete sentences in Spanish without even consulting my notes.
Fluency here I come.


  1. I want to move to Mexico now!

  2. Ok, MJ, Please don't hate me for this but it's time for some tough love. As a writer, you need to shape up. Please don't fall into the nouveau trend where people are afraid to use the pronoun "me". Some people act as if it is uneducated to say "me".
    Friday night found "ME" sitting home watching junk tv and eating a gallon of ice cream. Friday night did NOT find "I" at Coco's auction!!!
    I noticed this another time, so stay awake. ;-)
    P.S. I'm loving the tales of Mexico city. You are the world's best traveller, appreciating and sharing the little things in other cultures.
    P.P.S. I am late posting this because I never saw the post when it first came out. I just found it in my spam folder. Nothing personal -- just stupid old Comcast.

    1. True enough, L Morris! So noted. I'm dashing off these blog entries faster than I used to -- I'm focused on the book for the most part and am def a bit bleary-eyed. Will sharpen up the grammar best I can but please don't hold me to perfection, I will fail you!!! Best to you, Laura, thanks for sticking with me as always.

    2. Thanks for letting me get that pet peave off my chest! I was afraid you would tell me that it is being taught as acceptable in writing classes now. I hear it even from top national new commentators, but I can't rap their knuckles as I'd like to do.
      You're a class act. Hasta luego.