I made myself a lesson plan on the back of a wet napkin, or receipt or something.  That in itself is all you need to know.  What teacher does that?  What the hell is my problem?  I could be doing so much more, but I guess it’s not in my makeup.  Nor are wearing shoes or a shirt to class.  Right here dude!  Although I shed them before class as a courtesy to my students, I routinely show up wearing dark backups for the backups to my backup Kaenon Polarized sunglasses.  Yes, the Ipod is typically on shuffle, though today I had Michael Franti going extra loud.  I had my ratty pocket dictionary.  Earplugs of course.  I brought money for a Collectivo in case the run back was going to fall under the hot sun.  Today I also brought the only pen I own.  I was hoping new ideas would pop into my mind during my decompression session. I had decided the emphasis today should be centered on the vowels, and that all five of them, and sometimes six, can be pronounced four or five different ways.  Maybe even more.  Ten ways, I don’t know.  Where’s a video camera when you need one?  What a total fucking nightmare!

Who made me the teach?  I learned English on ESPN and Seinfeld.  How do you say ‘lacking a syllabus’ in Spanish?   My Spanish is only So So, and English has a million freakin’ rules and exceptions.  English is beginning to make less and less sense even to me.  English is all about memorizing the weerd weard weird spellings of complicated wurdz that lack simple guts and semi-genuine latin derivatives.  En Espanol,  A is Ah.  E is Eh.  I is Ee.  O is Oh.  U is Ooh.  Clockwork.  Perhaps there are exceptions, I just don’t know them.  In English, the pronunciation of just the vowels are littered with confusion.  It almost takes two E’s(EE) these days in English to get the E sound?  Hug a Tree and See.   Much easier if it were Tre, but then it would probably be breaking some kind of English rule where an E that follows an R is pronounced Eh.  It should be spelled Trie or Trea, or better yet, Chre.  And what about The Big A?  How do you explain the different pronunciations of the letter A in words like Name, Car, Apple, and Uh Merrick Uh.  Oh, and what about all these English words that end in E?  Silent but Deadlee.

Once again, for the third Sunday in a row, I had my back against a wall.

Street Cred

I gave tossing and turning and new meaning.  At 6am I put on boardshorts and walked up the hill, crossed the highway en route to OXXO.  It was still dark, but I needed coffee.  OXXO is 24/7.  AC tambien.  It would be the equivalent of getting coffee at 7-11.  You would never do that right?  I would never do that.  But it’s opposite here.

Four teenagers were behind the counter.  They were all about 16.  Buenos Dias out of all of them.  I doctored up the cafe nice and fancy and walked back to the hotel.  I grabbed a sheet from my room to wrap around me, and walked up to the fourth floor open ramada.  Hight atop the roof, the morning offshores can be chilly to the bare skin.

When day broke, it appeared that the surf had increased a bit.  I had other things to do on this particular Sunday.  Sundays are special here.  At 8am I ran the shoreline to La Punta.  I carried a pocket dictionary with me.  When I got to the point, Big Jim and his two sons were about to paddle out.  I put in plugs and had an ocean swim.

I arrived at Israels at around 9:30am.  I was early.  I was also hungry and thirsty.  Amidst all the nerves and brain play, I had forgotten to bring money.  He offered up a big bowl of granola cereal.  Wolf.  I noticed he had purchased one of those magic marker erase type chalk boards.  The gnats were bugging me.  I could have used a shirt.

What I could have used most though was a lesson plan.  I would have, had I known which grade I was teaching and/or how many students were going to show. Gilbron showed a half hour early.  I couldn’t understand one single word he said.  It was a modified Spanish.  He just spoke in one long word.  He brought pencil and paper.

The gnats turned to flies.  The flies got all buttery.  By the time Jehu and Orielle arrived, I was a wreck.  They all had pencils.  They all had paper.  They ranged from 5-12 years of age.  Some knew the alphabet in Spanish and some didn’t.  I had no idea what I was going to do.  The 5 year old came with his mom named Kitty.  Hola Gata.

I see you Karen

As per our arrangement, I was going to vacate the premises at Casa Agua Azul during the Quicksilver Pro.  Was glad to.  It’s a scene man.  The contest director, Gary Linden, stayed in my room.  I bought a few extra nights in town so that I could watch the first couple two three rounds, but then had plans to leave town and head South to Santa Elena.  That could only mean one thing.  I needed shoes.

One guy I know laughed at the thought of finding my size here in Puerto Escondido.  Another dude I know said, “Make sure you don’t get shoes with too much glue, AND always carry glue.”  Anonymous said he always buys his shoes in Oaxaca. Somebody else suggested I ask Confucius because he goes through his share of tennis shoes.  I knew it was going to be like this, but was in it to win it.

I hopped a Collectivo.  The prices had gone up 1 peso since I was here this past winter.  It’s now 5 pesos to get collected.  I took it all the way to The Mercado.  I had heard that there are a lot of Zapaterias up by The Mercado.  There were.  There are.  Tons of em’.  Every four or five shops sells shoes.  I was barefoot and without a shirt.  I had 400P in my pocket.  It was on.  I polished off a 32oz Jamaica.  10P.

So here’s how it goes down in the shops.  What you see on the wall is what they have.  There ain’t nothin’ in back.  So I would go to the section of shoes that resembled some sort of athletic shoe, and then look for the biggest pair.  Typically they were 9’s.  A couple places had 10’s.  During the squeeze in process, little plastic bags are used in place of socks.  I just kept saying Necesito Mas Grande.

Here’s what else goes down in the shops.  When they hand you the shoes, after getting them off the wall with one of those hook-poles, you have to do the rest.  You have to remove the shoe stuffing.  You have to refigure the lace set up.  They just stand there and watch.  I could typically size it up before having to put my foot in to determine whether or not it was going to fit.  I went to a dozen or so shops.

And then it happened.  The guy with the computer, tracking his inventory  The guy that took Visa.  The guy that had socks instead of bags.  The guy with the 15 day guarantee.  The guy that had shoes in the back.  The same exact guy that sold me a pair of size 11US no-name skateboard shoes for 350P.  Very little, if any glue.  Stylish, Sturdy and Heavy Duty.  Thick rubber soul.  I did this.  All by my lonesome.

Charles in Charge

There was a knock at door #1 at 7:15am. I was sure who it was. He gave me a lift back to the treehouse and he headed back to his hotel so he could prepare room #1 for the younger brother of the nice Norwegian lad in #2. I set up that deal before leaving. It was Tuesday, January 25, 2011. I was tired. Iggy and I stuck close by the tree all day. Drank beet juice, ate bananas & oranges, napped, and read.


The past four mornings had been surf mornings for me at main beach. Sounds routine enough I know, but that is right about where the plot thickened. So The Big Man showed up unannounced to the tree house this past Saturday morning around 7:30am. Chango was there. Hugs all around. I offered Dude some black coffee. He only wanted half a cup.

While Chango worked around the tree and went ape(pun) over the new 2011 Zeitgeist release, I went surfing with The Big Man. I asked if I could borrow a 1mil of any sort. I didn’t need it, but I sort of wanted it. Actually, I wanted it for every intent and purpose one might put on a 1mil Springsuit in powerful, unfamiliar surf. What a Puss! Yeah OK Guy!!

The Dude put on zinc, and we walked across the warm sand together to have a surf. He rode a big yellow 10 footer. I stayed close to him in the lineup because it’s the right play. It was a small enough day by Zicatela standards. I picked off three waves in about one hour. As I’m not writing home about any of it, I’m just all smiles that I can live to write about it. I was bought a filling $2 breakfast, handed 15 keys on a big round ring, and was given a quick overview as to how the hotel operates.

There was a Canadian woman in #3 and some other fella on the third floor Penthouse. The rest was wide open. Dude Man was off to Barra de la Cruz with the fam to get some of the big swell on the horizon.

“And Aaron, see what you can do to get the nice young lady in #3 to stick around for awhile.”

“What’s her name and what’s her story?” I asked.

“Figure it out Chachi.” The Big Dude Man vanished and there I was. This all felt a bit make believe. The fried banana man blew the piercing steam whistle. Con todo I said.

Tender Foot

From up in the treehouse, the sound was unmistakable. Whatever was making this pack of dogs carry on the way they were, just didn’t sound right. I had heard it a few days back, but didn’t think too much of it. Then I heard it again on Saturday, off and on for about an hour. When I heard it a third time, I was glad PC was around to “four-leg” this pressing matter.

It didn’t sound like barks from physical abuse. It didn’t sound like dogs guarding anything. It didn’t sound like fighting dogs either. It sounded like dogs that were crying out for a better life. It sounded bad, and it began to chisel away at both our hearts. Something had to give!

It was Sunday late afternoon, and Sundays are an entirely different day all together. Sundays around here you can feel in the air. Sundays you can smell. Sundays are for family. Sundays are special.

Papa Chango had been drinking, so he knew from the onset that he(we) weren’t going to do anything that even remotely resembled confrontation. He asked if I’d come with him to have a look. Gulp! I got wide eyed and I wished I could say no, but I couldn’t. The sounds were consuming my thought, and PC had a certain venomous look in his eye as well. It was on!

PC had a can of beer in his hand. Both of us put on flip flops. Both of us had on colorful board shorts. No shirts. It was hot. We walked 60 ft down our dirt road. We turned left and walked 100 feet up another dirt road. We then turned right and walked onto a third dirt road, and then right again ont0 a fourth. Although we were really only 100 meters from the treehouse,(as the crow flies) we might as well have been in Timbuktu.

I stayed five feet behind PC as we approached two Mexican women and a few of their offspring. He asked real politely if they knew where those dog sounds were coming from. They said they hadn’t heard a thing, and they didn’t appear to be in any hurry to help either. There was some tension in the air. At least in my air. The dogs had now gone silent and we were deep in the Oaxacan thicket.

As we slowly proceeded past the ladies, the dog cries came again, and PC became more poised and possessed to get to the bottom of it. Not the very bottom. He said the very bottom would come at another time on another day. Right now though, he needed to see with his own eyes what exactly was making the noise, where it was being made, and why. Me? I was ready to head back to the tree after the second dirt road. This was a creepy ass mission from the start, and my feet were feeling tender.

The fourth road just kind of ended into a pile of river rock gravel. At this point, you could feel there were eyeballs on us coming from all angles. Giant vultures paroling overhead too. The heart-wrenching dog sounds continued, and we were honing in on the exact area. We then stumbled on a woman in her mid-60’s, perhaps older, using a machete down in a ravine area of sorts. PC said something polite. She smiled. She might have even blushed. Using her blade, she turned and pointed. I said Gracias and Adios about a hundred times.

The sounds were now only 10 feet away, yet that’s all they were, just sounds. Bad sounds. Cries for help. Real stuff. Still though, we couldn’t see exactly what was making them. Then came the moment. How can I forget? Like the beast he is, PC stood on the dangling, low lying ,barbed wire. He grabbed a nearby tree, and swung himself onto some rubble on the other side. He then ducked under some kind of giant tangled bush, and walked directly to the source. He was out of my sight.

He made direct eye contact with all three dogs that were short tied up, and whose living conditions were considerably less than ideal. Immediately I heard the canine pitch change. The change in pitch served me well. The dogs were now barking at PC. As he told me after we got back, his goal from the onset was to show that he wasn’t intimidated to go where no Gringo man had gone before. Noted.

No more than one minute later, he hopped back over the barbed wire. I noticed he was bleeding pretty good from his shin. Blood doesn’t affect Papa Chango like it does you and me. The three dogs continued to bark at us as we left the crime scene and headed back to the treehouse. After about 10 minutes, it went quiet for good. To be continued..