Tuesday. September 14, 2010
CABO SAN LUCAS
The Glamorous Life
I woke up too full from the previous night’s dinner for breakfast.
Since the boyfriend likes to sleep-in until it’s time to go to bed for the night, I gathered up a few essentials: my book, spectacles, a Sharpie® brand felt tip marker, and my iPod; with these I made my escape from our darkened cabin and braved the outside world of the ship.
My goal was to find some nook, some cranny of the ship that wasn’t imbued with jolly, sunshine-soaked “good times” – a place where a second-generation Swede with deeply-rooted angst and a taste for Michael Gira side-projects could curl up and relax.
First and foremost, I was gonna need coffee, so I headed straight for the belly of the beast: the ship’s main mall.
It really was a mall – a mall with upper stories that revealed people’s bedrooms; an odd combination of your local “galleria”, topped with layers of motel. You could sit outside the mock British pub next to the Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop and watch sun-burned, middle-aged people change into their fluorescent, flower-print swimwear. …If you’re into that sort of thing.
Coffee was to be found at the 24-hour bakery. While modeled to look like a French pâtisserie, it offered desserts which any Parisian would heartily désapprouver. Peanut butter & chocolate brownies with espresso bean frosting, half-dipped in marshmallow goo and dusted with multi-colored sugar crystals – it was as if the bakery were run by a really stoned 3rd grader. (I’m pretty sure that when Marie-Antoine Carême invented the Charlotte russe he did not intend for it to come with a Splenda-sweetened, mint-fudge-chunk glaze.)
What the bakery lacked in subtly it more than made up for in its limitless supply of Seattle’s Best Coffee, which is my favorite of the major brands of brew. I grabbed a cup of Breakfast Blend and began my search for a secret spot of sheltered solitude of ship.
"Hanky on a stick! Get yer hanky on a stick, fresh, here!"
The journey was long and not without folly -- it's easy to get lost when your main starting point is a casino. I finally discovered an utterly vacant piece of property outside, at the ship’s prow, where I happily sat and read Marianne Faithfull’s pithy account of her drug-induced coma in Australia.
(Someone told her the fur was laced with cocaine.)
We had, by this time, docked at Cabo San Lucas. The dry heat was consuming – the kind of heat that only allows you to think in simple terms, and makes your own exhales cool by comparison. The quality of light was astonishing, brutally crisp and golden, making depth perception difficult. Everything seemed like a mirage – a landscape Salvador Dalí might have painted before he discovered surrealism.
"What's missing? Hmm... oh, I know! How about a bunch of clocks melting all over everything!"
The city had been built up a lot since my last visit there, when I spent a memorable week and a half with the rest of my class on our 8th grade trip. What kind of school did I go to that sent our entire class to Cabo San Lucas? A school that forced us to sell a lot of effing nachos for fundraising. For years. Seriously – the result is I’ve never enjoyed nachos since puberty.
+ never getting laid = my adolescence
The boyfriend, his father Fred and I eventually decided to disembark, leaving mother Chris behind to enjoy Diet Coke and the movie The Proposal in one of any five languages it was available in on our ship’s TV. (Side note: it’s not funny in any language.)
"우리는 재미 없어!"
I was skeptical of actually enjoying myself in Cabo San Lucas; cruise ships intentionally shuttle you to the most commercial, controlled environments they can. It’s no way to experience a foreign culture, unless all you care to experience is a Starbucks other than the one closest to your work. Key-chains, shot-glasses, baseball caps – judging from cruise ship ports you’d think these were the global unifiers of folk arts and crafts. The main reason I left the ship was to see something other than the complimentary frozen yogurt stand and the always-vacant reading lounge (which should be re-named the Judith Krantz paperback donation den.)
The boyfriend and his Dad had big ideas of balmy beaches and bodacious babes, and while I supported them in theory, I gave myself, in that heat, a shelf-life of about twenty minutes.
It took about twenty minutes to walk from the ship, down the labyrinthine walkway, to the port’s main gate, which opened to more of the U.S. tourist's vision of Mexican culture (hello, Senor Frogs – hello, karaoke machine blasting Journey). About every five yards during this walk we were aggressively pitched offers for a water taxi by any one of the eighteen billion water taxi professionals that saturated the port. It bordered on psychological torture; it was so relentless that, by the end of the walk, you started to doubt that the world had anything to offer other than riding water taxis, and how were you going to make it in this world without one?
The boyfriend and his Dad decided to hire a taxi (the old fashioned kind that sinks to its death in water) and try to find a beach. I was out. I had, by this point, reached an understanding of what it feels like to be a pat of butter on a skillet, and I wanted to return to my air-conditioned room and remember how happy I was when I was merely an eighth of a cube, safely tucked in my refrigerator’s crisper.
This meant running the gauntlet of water-taxi purveyors again. I hoped that since I was obviously retuning to the ship, they would assume I had no need of them, which they did. No one offered me water taxis – now they switched to trinkets and cervezas, the latter of which almost sounded reasonable until I remembered that I could just as easily drink onboard the ship and enjoy the luxury of not catching a bowel disease. My favorite pitch came from a tour guide who, upon noting my disinterest in “fly fishing and deep sea diving” switched his offer to “finger fishing and muff diving.”
Diversión para la familia, indeed.
Sponsored by the Cabo San Lucas Tourist Bureau
I returned to the cabin, blasted some of this…
…and delved into a copy of Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, because I hate myself. The boyfriend returned about two hours later with stories of gas-scented beaches and getting molested by necklace merchants.
That night, after dinner, I watched the boyfriend lose twenty dollars on a particularly complicated nickel slot machine. Apparently, getting three cherries in a row isn’t enough these days – cartoon donkeys must also align with only the silver luxury sedans while the rainbow sparkle-pattern runs counter clockwise.