The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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Posts from — November 2010

Radio On

Dann sind wir Helden nur diesen Tag (the line from the David Bowie song) just about sums it up: heroes for just one day. The end of a decade. The dream dead and long forgotten. Especially in England where Margaret Thatcher had recently taken office and begun systematically gutting British society. Gorgeously shot in black and white by Wim Wender’s cameraman in a slow dreamy mood reminiscent of the 40’s, but, ultimately, signifying nothing, Radio On captures the first wave of digital tyranny that would rob us of our lives. It is an important film because it helps us remember (those born before the 70’s) what it was like to have minds not solely formed by the media. Think I’m kidding? Look around you. See the mechanical droids incessantly checking their cell phones. Observe college students with attention spans of less than a minute trying to listen to a lecture. Watch the brain-dead trolls slumped in their chairs gaping at television sets from morning to night. Yeah, the film is boring, but then so is much of life. OMG, I’m having a panic attack. OMG. Maybe it’s a litmus test to separate the zombie wankers from the rest of us. OMG! OMG!

November 30, 2010   Comments Off on Radio On


Cold November rain
Washing away the packed snow
Like an old man’s dreams.

November 29, 2010   Comments Off on 301


Mexico’s current hero thanking God for a goal.

November 28, 2010   Comments Off on Chicharito

Pepino de Mar

We hired a cab to transport us to a special beach south of town called La Lancia. The waves are supposed to be better there. Our cabbie said he would take us, go home (which was only a couple of kilometers away), have lunch with his family, and then come back to pick us up. It was a gorgeous spot. About a mile of pure sand beach across the bay from the gigantic Four Seasons Resort. Unfortunately, we were a bit too early for the good waves but, as a consequence, had the place mostly to ourselves.

There were two men with large plastic buckets sitting near the end of the trail in the shade. A few surfers waited on their boards for waves. Pelicans flew in formation over the water and dove now and then for fish which they ate in large gulps. Two sailboats floated in the distance and directly in front of us the Marietas sat in the middle of the sea.

Then I noticed something in the water I couldn’t quite make out. It looked like a swimmer but that didn’t make much sense. Who would swim 100 yards from shore parallel to the beach? Whoever it was had fins and something trailing behind him tethered to a float. The mystery resolved itself half an hour later. A man in a short wetsuit, mask, and very long snorkle emerged from the sea with a net filled with something. The men we had seen earlier quickly approached and held out their buckets while the swimmer placed small objects inside.

Of course, I had to know what it was, so I went over and asked if they were fish. They all shook their heads no. Then what is it? I asked, and the snorkler dug into one of the buckets and pulled out an oblong spiny thing about the size of a sweet potato. “Pepino de mar,” he said, “brown sea cucumber.”

November 26, 2010   Comments Off on Pepino de Mar


I ran into a Canadian from Edmonton with a broken arm who runs the local bookstore. He asked if I wanted something. I stared into the basement space with cases of used books lining the walls and decided I didn’t. His hair had once been blond, I thought, and his face ruddy but it was pale now which is unusual for Mexico. He said he had a computer working if I wanted to access the Internet. The conversation seemed absurd—maybe it was my mood or the idea of making a living by selling used book in Sayulita—so I asked if “Crash and Burn” Airlines was still running between Calgary and Edmonton. What? he asked, and then said he spent six months here and six months in Canada. Business had been off sharply since the reports of the drug killings in Mexico. Last summer he had his housekeeper stay in his flat gratis because she took care of the place. The book shop only made $200 the whole summer. Life is hard in Mexico, I decided, even for some expatriates. Like our landlord, the owner of the book shop is barely getting by.

November 26, 2010   Comments Off on Librería

Pisos y Azulejos

November 26, 2010   Comments Off on Pisos y Azulejos

A Steve’s Adventure

Yesterday, for an adventure, we tried to get lost south of Sayulita on unknown roads but after a couple of miles found ourselves at a private beach, where no one spotted us because I was still holding my cup of coffee and we seemed like American tourists who belonged there, and then we clambered over rocks along the beach through another resort until we got to one of the seldom used beaches south of town, where we took a path between two barbed wire fences which climbed to the tops of the hills and then sharply downhill toward the ourskirts of Sayulita. In places it was like walking through jungle on dirt paths. Unfortunately, it didn’t qualify as a “Steve’s Adventure,” because we didn’t get lost, run out of water, or were forced to eat one another for food.

The truth is the coast of the Mexican Riviera is rather tame. For the most part, it is now one long stretch of expensive homes and resorts nestled in the hills or on the beaches overlooking the ocean. It’s a pity in a way, but not for the locals who depend on the jobs and incomes created by the need for builders, handymen, electricians, plumbers, gardeners, caretakers, maids, and cooks.

November 26, 2010   Comments Off on A Steve’s Adventure

The Beach

I had no idea this woman knew I was taking her picture—I didn’t even see her—but she certainly did, didn’t she? The main part of the beach—opposite downtown Sayulita where the waves are the best—gets congested in the afternoon. Because I imported some beer from a convenience store, we got kicked out of our spot by the waiter from the cafe and surf shop opposite. It was either pay 100 pesos or get out, so, of course, we moved on. No big deal.

November 25, 2010   Comments Off on The Beach

Breeching the Gap

Some Mexicans have wonderfully soft laughs. Sadly, my Spanish normally makes it difficult to elicit laughter, except at my mistakes. Yesterday, while getting tamales for our trip to the Marietas from two young women on the street, I decided to go for it after we made our order, and started the names of Mexican films: “Y tu mamá también; Amores perros,” etc. I had them laughing out loud, partially out of amazement and partially out of embarrassment. It just goes to show that intention is the essence of communication.

November 25, 2010   Comments Off on Breeching the Gap

Yet Another Celebration

Today is the third day after the anniversary of the Revolution, and the Mexicans are celebrating again. In Sayulita, the locals sit on plastic chairs on the ragged football pitch in front of an elevated stage where a mariachi band is playing salsa. At intervals, fireworks detonate in the sky. Our neighbor, Ottemar, whom I accosted (in an indirect way) for disturbing me has decided to play nice (or perhaps I have). Turns out he’s a retired professor from Reed College—thus the loud voice. In point of fact, I had no choice but to get along with him. The wireless router for our casa is located in his casa, and often needs to be reset. It’s a case of su casa es mi casa, though he probably doesn’t see it that way.

November 24, 2010   Comments Off on Yet Another Celebration