The morning of January 16, 2023 began like every other morning in recent memory. Black coffee, dog walk, tropical sunrise, the list doesn’t go on. Though it started off like all the others, this particular Martin Luther King morning had been scripted differently, I will leave it at that.
After allowing Quinn adequate time to position herself as to not get left behind, she finally caved and assumed a spot. That revolving spot in the room, pick a room, where I know that she knows that I know that she’s bummed, but that joining me is off the table. I told her that I would be back much sooner than she has programmed herself to expect. I turned off the lights and the AC. I left the fan on low and the wooden door unlocked.
Just before shutting the door, I checked the iPhone 8 Plus. The iPhone being left behind, imagine that. It read 7:42am. I wanted to know the exact time so that I could guess the amount of time it would take me to run from my door to Tennis Court Rick’s door. Door to door as might get said.
25 minutes was the hunch, 8:07am the ETA. I knew that TCR had an antique clock on his wall that I was told on numerous occasions kept exact time. Exact I would ask? Yes, exact he would say!
I’ve become the guy that knew for certain that it takes 25 minutes to drive my van from my unfinished luxury beach hotel in Agua Blanca to Tennis Court Rick’s compound in El Tule. And that’s not actually door to door. More like dirt street to detached carport. Needless to say, it involves a 7-minute drive on a mellow dirt road followed by a 4-minute drive up the Hwy. Then comes an annoying 12-minute shake fest on a washboard of a dirt road, capped off with a 2-minute crawl up a rocky dirt path of sorts. When it dawned on me that it could roughly take the same amount of time to run there as it would to drive there, I had to test the hunch.
I wore board shorts that were beginning to wear a little too big around the waist. I grabbed a relatively clean tee that was showing all the signs of wearing a little too thin. I slipped on my all black New Balance running shoes, no socks. Shoes that I couldn’t stand when first purchased six months prior, but shoes I now loved more than any other pair ever. To finish off the look I put on cheap woman’s sunglasses and a beige bucket hat. Ear plugs too. No sunscreen.
I walked downstairs and mentioned to Rosario what I was doing and where I was going. I told her I would be back by 9:15 at the latest so that she could clean my room. A room that didn’t necessarily need cleaning, but the weekly makeover for long term guests is hotel policy and I can dig it.
Town was dead empty, sparse at best. Agua Blanca is a tiny fishing village with very few permanent inhabitants. If I had to guess how many humans kept a year round bed in Agua Blanca, I would say under 50. It’s a popular day time spot for Mexicans. Out-of-towners and area locals pack this place full during weekends and holidays. Sometimes even mid-week. Regardless of the day, between 8pm and 8am, there isn’t much going on, if anything.
There are a slew of palapa-roofed restaurants and coco palms that line this stretch of beach. Each restaurant is equipped with plenty of plastic table & chairs. Plenty of hammocks too. Fresh caught oysters are the signature dish. By noon each day like clockwork, the entire area smells of fried fish. All the laminated menus are more or less identical. Ice cold beers are cheap and always served with a lime. Chili flavored peanuts are typically a free appetizer. It’s a neat spot. Nowhere like it actually.
After maybe 200 warmup strides down Calle Uno, I made my way to the sand between two of the palapa joints that I frequent the most. I removed my shoes and put them on my hands. The always mighty Pacific Ocean was sounding off. Birds of all shapes and sizes seemed to be everywhere. As per usual, there were some clouds in the sky, and the wind was blowing lightly offshore. A perfect 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Three whole minutes had probably gone by since last check.
Here’s where the fun began. Ten or so minutes into the shoreline section of this run, that’s when I noticed a human being up ahead in the distance. I saw a shimmering light. My head grew heavy and my eyes grew dim. This person was standing on a big cluster of jagged rocks that were partially submerged in the ocean. It wasn’t a fisherman because a net wasn’t being tossed.
From say 200 meters away I could now determine that this person, regardless of pronoun, was of female origin. Pressure was instantly on. I needed to make a plan and it had to be made quickly. The plan was to run right past her without even a look or a peep. Yep, old faithful. Play impossible to fill in blank.
When I was within half a futbol field’s distance, and for what seemed like no apparent reason, this lady decided to turn around and look my direction. Immediately, the new plan of attack became to run right past her and gesture something vague like “Yeah Lady!” That’s the improbable to fill in blank tactic.
Good Grief! This frickin’ lady just stood there looking right at me as I approached. Right the fuck at me. Not kidding. Nothing else she could have been looking at. The sunrise was already an hour in arrears and there was nobody else around. Frickin’ nobody. At this point, it not only seemed like she was going to engage with me, it felt that way too.
I instantly changed the plan for the third time. Now the projection was to stop for a quick second, try and act interesting, sound funny, and exude know how. Much like a middle-aged gringo wearing shoes on their hands might.
Fact is, I have a shit ton of practice under my belt doing stuff down here that nobody can even imagine anybody doing. This was one of those moments, and if she continued to play out her cards the way she had begun playing out her cards, she was a moment or two away from being dealt one heck of a hand.
Me: Nice morning eh?
Her: It’s lovely. Where on earth could you possibly be running to?
Me: Well it’s a long story and I don’t have a lot of time to explain it, but I am running up to a house owned by a guy named Tennis Court Rick, and the reason I am going there is the long part of this story so I won’t bore you with that, but the secret reason I am going there is because I have four Bob Dylan songs lodged in my head and Rick has an upright piano.
Her: That sounds exciting.
Me: It beats working.
Her: Which songs are they?
Me: You won’t know them.
Her: Try me
Me: Do I have to?
Her: play along.
Me: Buckets of Rain, Valley Below, When I Paint My Masterpiece, and Ballad of a Thin Man.
Her: You’re right, I haven’t heard of them. Are you some kind of musician?
Me: Not especially, no. I just have this way of making people think that I am, especially those that don’t play an instrument.
Her: Like me.
Me: like you.
Her: Where on earth is this guy’s house?
me: about 20 klicks up the beach.
Her: holy moly! you’re on a 20k run?
me: just kidding. it’s pretty closeby. it’s just off the beach.
her: can I come listen to you play those songs?
Me: Did somebody send you here to spy on me?
Her: Do you have people in your life that would hire someone to spy on you?
Me: Probably, I mean not really. Um, sure you can come up but I don’t have a lot of time.
Her: That’s the second maybe third time you have said that. Why don’t you have time?
Me: Another long story, but it involves a dog with no eyes.
Her: Where is he?
Me: You mean she?
Her: sorry, Where is she?
Me: She is Quinn, and she’s in my room back in Agua Blanca. This too may sound wack but I told her I was only going to be 90 minutes. Normally in the mornings I am gone for 180 minutes. This morning was to be different. So yeah, I told her only 90 minutes and she’s the type that will hold me to it.
Her: Strangest thing I ever heard.
Me: Tell me something I don’t know. What’s your name?
Her: I’m Lex, short for Alexa, what’s yours?
Me: I’m Aron, short of Aaron, nice to meet you. Look lady I tell you what, if you really want to play along to whatever we’re playing here, I think you should walk up to Tennis Court Rick’s. It’ll probably take you 20 minutes from here. I should be there in 10 minutes which will give me plenty of time to take care of all my chores.
Her: Chores? What kind of chores? Wait let me guess, long story and not a lot of time.
Me: smartest lady I ever knew.
Her: OK, how do I get there?
Me: OK you see that big house?
Me: OK, that big house is farther away than it looks. The reason it looks so close is because it’s big. Here, I have an idea, let me see your phone for a sec.
She handed me her iPhone. It needed unlocking so I handed it back. She unlocked it. I went to camera. I went to video. I wandered a bit away so I could concentrate on not showing off or flubbing up. I pointed the camera at the ocean, hit record, and left her with about a minutes worth of instructions:
Hi Lex, it’s me. You and I met on the deserted beach that one time not long ago. OK, here’s what you need to do. When you are standing right in front of that big house, maybe go another 100 meters up the beach and walk away from the shore. The sand will get sort of grassy and then you will be amongst a bunch of cactus patches. Magically you will find yourself on a not very well defined path, but a path nonetheless. Take that path and start walking uphill. You will come to a sign that says Cuida tu Playa which is posted on a barbed wire fence. There is only one wire about shoulder high, so watch your head. Duck under that one piece of barbed wire and continue following the path. You will notice cow dung, horse dung, goat dung and maybe the odd footprint. When you get to the two blue plastic chairs, steer right. The path gets a little wider, and then it turns more into a rocky dirt road so watch your barefoot step. Anyway, there will be a small concrete bridge that crosses a dirt arroyo of sorts. The bridge is shrouded in Bougainvillea so you know. Right after the bridge, turn left and then walk along the super rocky dirt double lane path until you spot a Tennis Court. Keep walking another 50 meters or so and you will have arrived. The property is for sale, so if you see for sale signs you know you are in the right place. Again be careful walking without shoes.
I handed back the phone and told her to follow the instructions and that I would see her soon. I ran another five minutes up the beach, put my favorite shoes back on, and polished off the remaining uphill five minutes. Immediately upon arrival I checked the wall clock. It was 8:13am. It would have been 8:07 if I hadn’t stopped to chat with sweet Alexa.
Lex was and is a white lady with a funny accent. France or Egypt or New Zealand or South Africa or Israel would’ve been my first guesses, but I would come to find out England. I am awful at pin-pointing accents. Her parents are originally from Morocco. She’s dark skinned with a warm smile. Not the straightest teeth in the world, but white. Early to mid 40’s or so. Lean but not athletic. Divorced mother of Zero. Long black hair that seems to always be in a bun. She was barefoot at the time. Just loves that lime green sundress of hers. She wore designer sunglasses and a fair amount of fabric jewelry. Carries an iPhone, not sure which model.
I got right to work. I immediately swept all the fallen leaves and palapa debris off the front tiled porch. I sprayed Raid Ant Killer and killed a million ants or so. I went out back, took off all my clothing and accessories and jumped in the pool. I got out of the pool after a few minutes, added two cups of chlorine and one cup of clarifier. I turned on the jets to make sure that mixed up well. I dried myself off and put my trunks back on. When I was good and dry, I went straight to the piano.
These four songs were almost harmfully stuck in my head. All I cared about was unsticking them.. That’s it. A simple little test to see if I could understand the gist. I was very familiar with these tunes. I knew the key, had a basic understanding of the chords, knew the lyrics inside and out, and had watched them played as originals and as covers a hundred times over on Youtube.
It was now 8:26 according to the wall clock. I figured Lex would be arriving any second now. I began feeling nervous. Almost like I wished I hadn’t invited this lady up here. The whole thing started to feel lame. I wasn’t going to have a lot of time to spend with her because of my promise to Quinn. I barely figured out Ballad of a Thin Man before having to switch gears.
I spotted her at the bottom of the long driveway. I knew I had about 90 seconds to get my stupid act together. Actually I had about 180 seconds because she was barefoot. I took a bunch of deep breaths and made myself yet another decision.
I decided that when she was within hearing range, I would begin playing this kooky little song I wrote called Broken Down Concrete Arroyo. It’s a song I knew well because I had played it a thousand times. On the surface, I knew it was bizarre. Scratch away at the surface and it can sound profound. It’s damn catchy if you ask me. The lyrics go like this:
- Listen up..(C)
- Because I have a little secret(C/A)
- Come get close and you might find(C/B)
- I’ve got stuff that sure to blow your mind.(C)
- I don’t want to go on living like that
- Said the tied up dog to the foot loose cat
- Can you take me to that place you know
- Where all God’s creatures come and go?
- Sure thing but first thing’s first
- Let me give you all the lowdowns
- Don’t bring your money and watch your back
- There’s something moving in the cracks
- At the Broken Down Concrete Arroyo
- (instrumental in D minor)
- It’s down from the highway, it’s up from the beach
- There’s lots of broken glass, better watch your feet
- Stay the course don’t walk to slow
- Hang on tight and enjoy the show.
- It’s likely to divide you
- Between two sides that will decide for you
- Trust the feeling before it’s gone
- You can be my rook and baby I’ll be your pawn.
- And when the tide is high and the full moon is contagious
- And the smell of rotten carcass is outrageous
- Those are mother natures warning sign
- Best come back another time
- To the Broken Down Concrete Arroyo
- (instrumental in D minor)
She was all smiles. She was sharp enough to realize that was NOT Bob Dylan. I looked at the wall clock and it was just before 8:40. 8:38 to be exact. I knew I had another 8 minutes of so. I took her up the indoor spiral staircase that led to a wood door which led to an outdoor staircase of sorts which ultimately sets you up with panoramic views of ocean and mountain. It’s a neat little perch overlooking what is still a very remote coastline. I have spent a lot of time up here over the years. Especially at night. The Mexican Skies will take your breath away. She seemed to really enjoy the moment.
I told her that I had to go and suggested we walk back down to the beach together. She said yes. I recall offering her a hard boiled egg and she politely declined.
Me: Are you sure, they’re ranch eggs?
Her: I’m good, but thanks
Me: What about a cold glass of water.
Her: I would love that.
She downed her water while I turned the jets off, locked the doors, and stashed the key. I had left behind one small pot and a medium sized pan from when I was living at the house. I figured that now was as good a time as any to grab those. It was a weird look I admit.
We then walked slowly back down to the beach. I wore my favorite shoes. Conversation flowed quite easily. I found out that she was in the area for only three more nights. She was with her mom and her aunt and on the final few legs of their month long holiday.
Her mom and her mom’s sister had just lost their oldest brother to cancer. Lex had temporarily broken free from them and solo ventured to Zipolite for a night, Mazunte for a night, and a final night in Agua Blanca. She was planning on heading back to Puerto after some breakfast.
I will try to wrap this long winded story up, sorry. For starter’s, I was delighted she didn’t piggyback her breakfast plan in Agua Blanca by asking me if I wanted to have breakfast with her. Too much too soon I would have thought yet I would have had to have said yes. Whew! As I saw it, we had already been granted that zero times in a lifetime moment in space, and maybe, just maybe, she too was sharp enough to process moments in a similar manner as yours truly. Instead…
Her: Would you consider coming to Puerto over the next couple days and hanging out with us?
Me: I could probably do that. Where are you guys staying?
Her: Hotel Ines, do you know it?
Me: Practically my home away from home.
When we got near the shoreline I remember thanking her for living and thinking outside the box. I then spelled my phone number with a thin piece of driftwood in the smooth wet sand and suggested she hit me up on WhatsApp. We kissed right cheek to right cheek and this kid was ghandi.
After taking about 50 steps or so, pot and pan still in hand, I turned back around to maybe make a final gesture, something Edward Scissorhands like. When I turned around, I saw that she was looking down at the wet sand with her iPhone in her right hand as she pushed the buttons with her left index finger. Alexa is a lefty? Good Gawd.
The hot sun was already beginning to take control of the day. I remember being in a very good mood. Like always, I couldn’t wait to get back to be with my Quinnie. I did begin wondering whether or not Lex was going to immediately leave me a message or whether she was going to make me wait. Was the message going to be cute, funny, creative, or dull? Was it going to be well written or full of spelling errors? A novel or a brief note? Time tells.