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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sic Transit Gloria's Bar & A tale of two Jeffs

Sic Transit Gloria's

You’ve heard of the elephants graveyard - the mythical place where elephants are thought to head to when there time on earth is over.  Well it’s a myth.  One thing that isn’t a myth is that Yelapa is the Hippie Graveyard - the place where old hippies go to fade away.  When your in Yelapa there is a sizable population in their sixties who still wear headbands and “some flowers in their hair.”  Except in the case of the guys there isn’t much hair, and the women's’ hair are steel gray and bound in a long single braid.  A bra-less woman is her sixties is nothing to stare lustily at any more.  More like looking directly into the sun then screaming  “I”m blind!”

I met one of these at dinner the other night at Ray’s.  She noticed that I “was of an age” and wanted to know if she had slept with me at Woodstock.  I cagily answered I didn’t remember.
“Whether you slept with me or were at Woodstock?” she asked.
“Both,” I replied.

There is a pecking order for these aging hippies: those who first visited Yelapa B.E. or after B.E.  (Before Electricity).  You don’t even rate if you first visited after electricity came to Yelapa about ten years ago.  The lady beside us bragged that she had first visited Yelapa 35 years ago.
“I came down from the states in an old school bus,” she reminisced.  “Had to leave it at Chacala then take a burro into Yelapa.”
“What did you do with Owsley and the rest of the Merry Pranksters? Leave them on the bus?”  I asked.
“Who?” she asked.

Their discussions of the “Grateful Dead,” are no longer about Jerry Garcia (no relation to the Garcia’s in Yelapa) and the Grateful Dead, but more about their departed friends.  With their disintegrating hips and knees a major trek is now  the few hundred yards to Gloria’s or Mimi’s to  listen to bad Mexican bands attempting to belt out CCR and other sixties hits they think the gringo’s want to listen to.

You have to remember when it comes to the entertainment bandwagon - Yelapa is at the end of the dirt trail.  There is no place further down on the list. A band has to literally be on a police watch list to want to play here.  There are a lot of atrocious bands playing the sleazy bars in Puerto Vallarta that wouldn’t lower themselves to play here.  Hence we have people who wouldn’t even make a high school garage band playing in the few restaurants and bars here.  Last year there was a guy playing the accordion and singing working the bars here.  Not only couldn’t he sing, he couldn’t play the accordion.  I mean he couldn’t literally play three chords on it.  It sounded like a three year old playing a mouth organ.  Still he managed a run of several weeks here.

One of the reasons that musicians manage to last more than three minutes here, besides the fact that pot is  legal here, is the fact that Yelapa’s massive entertainment district is approximately 100 meters in diameter.  In that minuscule area you have Gloria's, The Yacht Club (which has nothing to do with boats or is a club), the Casino (which has no gambling or slot machines of any description) banging out music at full volume from eight in the evening till 3:00am in the morning.  On the weekends you can add the open mike at Mimi’s into the mix.  It's literally impossible to tell one band from the other.  It’s a take no prisoner battle of the bands with no winners.

Friday night is a combination open mike jam session  at Mimi’s.  I was there a few years ago  and it was a mind altering  experience.  When I arrived the “band” consisted of three guitars, a keyboard player, and five, count ‘em, five - guys playing various forms of percussion - from bongos to spoons.

Several of the old hippy types had left their walkers and walking sticks at the table and were up singing - I swear one of them was Janis Joplin.  The music was bad, but seemed to get better with the more beer you drank.  By the end of the evening I was playing along on my beer bottle xylophone.


The funny thing is that in the nine years I’ve been coming here  (I just missed the B.E. badge)I never saw a live band playing local music.   Maybe the guys who run the bars think that all the gringos want to hear is old sixties songs - and judging by the crowd last night at Glorias they might be right.  Sic Transit Gloria’s Monday (and Tuesday and Wednesday…..)


In case you've been following I've been including some "Flash back" entries from a time before my blog.   This week's continues my "learning" expedition to Costa Rica.....


Costa Rica May 23, 2009

Three weeks have gone by quickly. School at times was difficult.  I had two teachers: Daisy was quite easy to get along with. Her teaching style was more laid back and often non structured - like attending a college tutorial.  My other teacher, Ilse  (who I dubbed the  she wolf of the SS [Spanish Senioritas])was the complete opposite:  she treated our sessions  more like a trip to the dentist.   It was drill, drill, and more drill.  

During my first week of lessons with Ilse, I attempted to maintain a positive mature attitude – after all I was actually paying for this.   But as the weeks progressed my “inner child” finally won out and I entered into a guerilla war with her.

“Buenos Dias, Jeffrey.” She’d proclaim as she marched into the room.
“No entiendo (I don’t understand)” was my standard reply.
¿Qué no entiendes? “(what don’t you understand?) She’d demand.
“Nada!”  (Nothing)  was my response.
I’d see her eyes dart around the room as she hopefully looked for a pointer or meter stick to whack me with.  Luckily for me all weapons had been removed from the room.

My denial of understanding anything Spanish didn’t deter Ilse as she launch into the days lesson of reflexive verbs, pronouns and vocabulary.

The problem for me when it came to learning Spanish, my brain is divided into two completely separate rooms: 

The first room consisted of “Orderly Jeffrey” who neatly processes all Spanish vocabulary and stores it in clearly labelled easily accessible drawers.  If I need to say anything in Spanish, the Orderly Jeffrey quickly opens the drawers and strings the words together for me to say.  Talking, and  reading aren’t really a problem. [As I read this years later and countless hours of Spanish lessons I realize NOTHING has changed!!]

The problem was in the other part of my brain – the other room- the listening, understanding and translating room.  The Other Jeffrey is not so organized.  Words and bits of phrases are strewn all over the place in no particular order.  When someone speaks to me, it is this “Jeffrey’s” job to try and make sense of it and the only two words this Jeffrey knows for sure is : “No entiendo”

When someone speaks to me in Spanish the spray of words pour into this room and the Other Jeffrey looks on in hopeless confusion.   He might understand the first few words, but then he falls behind.   Much like the famous I love Lucy scene where Lucy tries to keep up with the chocolates on the conveyor belt.

At times, Isle  would get desperate and haul out books of Children’s Nursery Rhymes and hand them to me to read and translate.  One of these was the “Three Little Pigs.” in Spanish.  To avoid translating I would fire back deep philosophical questions to Ilse:

“Why did the Pigs mothers throw them out?  Was she arrested for child abandonment?”
“Why didn’t the pigs just go down the street to the lady who lived in a shoe?   There were only three of them.  Surely she would take them in.”
“Were there no building codes where the pigs lived?”
“The pigs are forever getting building materials from a guy on the road?   Is there no Home Depot?  How did they pay for it?”

When all else failed, I pulled out the religion card: “As a Jew I find this story of eating pigs deeply offensive. If I were a Muslim would you try and make me read this?  I bet not!”

This would be met with a lot of eye rolling and huffing, and stony silence as we entered a waiting contest.  I wouldn’t proceed until my questions were answered, and she waited for me to give up and keep reading in Spanish.  Luckily it was just about recess and I could take the Jeffreys out for donuts.

The following day the nursery rhymes disappeared and a series of children’s games arrives: a version of battleship.  There are two identical units of people’s faces.   Each person picks a card from a deck and asks questions to see who can be the first discover who the character on the opponents card is.   It only took me a few moments to figure out how to cheat and win in only a few questions. I quickly win three games in rapid succession which doesn’t improve Isle’s mood..

The next game she hauls out is a tattered old Scrabble board.  At the end of each game she marks down all the words I created: words like “si” , “no ” “chilli”, “con,” and  “carne”.  These scrabble words were  then coupled with the vocabulary I had learned that week and I was challenged to concoct some long story.   To show me how it was done, Ilse went first and created  a long boring story about her friend who went to a house and borrowed a red dress,  (at that point the “other jeffrey” fell asleep from imbibing too many cervezas the night before).  Finally it is my turn.   This is roughly what I come up with.

(Roughly Translated).  “One day I went to visit my friend Willy, but he wasn’t home.The door was open so I went inside.   I couldn’t find her in the living room.  He wasn’t in the bedroom, or the bathroom.  Finally I looked in the kitchen.  He wasn’t there,  I decided to wait for him and have a beer and chilli con carne.  When I opened the fridge I found a body cut in four pieces……”

(Who would have  thought that the vocabulary from the “Three Little Pigs” would come in handy so quickly…

Isle stopped me there.

Meanwhile in my class with Daisy, she moved our conversations into controversial areas.  What did I think of abortion?   What about gay rights?

I had to stop her and tell her I didn’t think these were subjects I’d be discussing  very often in Spanish.   I was more interested in useful topics like  “Can I get fries with that Hamburger?  and “Excuse me, there is a rat in my room.”

On  Thursday they took me and one other student into San Jose to visit the National Museum, which on the surface,  seemed like a good idea.  After all, they wouldn’t  have to teach me that day.

After being dragged around the museum we finally arrive at  “the ritual area” which has a large display of penises of all shapes, sizes.  Both women seemed a bit uncomfortable around this display  and want to move on to the pottery display.  Sensing their discomfort  I decide to show some interest. 

“¿Qué son estos? “ (What are these?) I ask in a loud voice.

In hushed terms they try to explain (The “other Jeffrey “ missed the bus to the museum, so I don’t have a clue what they’re saying.)

“No entiendo” I reply loudly.

They try again.

“Hablar más alto. No puedo escuchar.” ( speak louder I can’t hear you.)  I respond.
“¿Qué más se les llama?”  (what else are they called?)
and finally, the piece d’resistance (not spanish)
“"¿Dónde van las pilas?" (Where do the batteries go?)

I am quickly ushered from the museum by the two beet red faced teachers and put on a bus home.  Luckily for me there is only one more day of school left.

So did I learn anything useful?  Well when my wife Michele now asks me to do something I  smile and reply:
“No entiendo.”
I just better make sure there are no pointers or rulers nearby


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