Saturday, January 30, 2010

Punching Cardboard

Trying to feel more at ease
In this wet and cold climate,
And not give in
To the twinges of pain in my lower back,
I decide to invest Saturday’s chores with
More than my usual panache.

Read the rest of this poem at That Oughta See Us Out blog.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Get NYT Behind Me

I've removed NY Times, Huffington Post and the BBC from my Foxfire toolbar. Since we got back from our downstream bohemia, I've laid off the news a bit, but now I gotta kick this media addiction completely. It's bad, leads to worse. We don't need to discuss my reasons; they're plentiful.

I'm spending more time reading blogs, practicing my Spanish on Livemocha and writing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Downstream Bohemia Found

As a schoolteacher, I get a two-week vacation every December. In lieu of a raise in these hard financial times, BFF was given extra time off. That allowed us to spend over a week in a tropical paradise—a small fishing village in Mexico to which the only reasonable access is a 45 minute boat ride. Heaven.

As a consequence of its isolation, there are no roads, and hence no cars in the village. Virtually all the heavy lifting is done by human, and occasionally mule, power. We were fortunate enough to have rented a casita overlooking the town pier, where most of the people and goods are offloaded from the small boats, called pangas, that arrive two or three each hour.

Upon arrival, crates of beer, produce, dry goods, plastic pipe, you name it, are unloaded and moved by a small team of men with wheelbarrows. They work industriously for 15, 20 minutes, or so after every boatload, fanning out through the labyrinth of uphill alleys and paths to the ferreteria, the several tiendas, or wherever anyone has a delivery. Then they come back with their wheelbarrows to the benches near the pier to sit, talk, laugh and rest until it’s time to do it all over again.

As a person who has spent most of his working life in manual labor, I appreciate both the effort and the satisfaction these laborers must feel with the rhythm of their day. But, I have to admit, more than that I appreciate simply being able to watch their muscular and good-natured ebb and flow.
One fellow in particular attracted my attention. He was older, and he worked more often than the others. Roundly built and dressed a little more shabbily, he wore a sweat-stained baseball cap over his thatch of black hair. He was good-natured, and greeted me with a friendly, “Hola, amigo,” whenever we passed. He was also tireless, humping load after over-loaded load up the winding cobblestones, back and forth, until all the goods had been moved. My name for him was “El hombre mas fuerte del pueblo.”

Over the course of several days, looking out over the pier from our balcony, I produced a not-very accomplished sketch of this gentleman. I then got it into my head to give him the sketch, as a sign of friendship and appreciation for his labor. Our last hours in Yelapa, I hunted “El Hombre” down. He seemed a little taken aback, but smiled and shook my hand. Leaving him, looking back, I saw that he had carefully folded the picture and put it into his pocket.

About half an hour later, as BFF and I sat nervously with our bags waiting for the possibility of a panga back home, “El Hombre Mas Fuerte” reappeared. The two of us endured smiles, awkward attempts to converse, and even more awkward moments of silence as we tried to think of how to converse, until it became clear that he had assumed the role of our protector and handler, assuring that we would make our boat safely without having to worry or lift a finger. On parting, we shook hands--the solidarity shake. “Gracias amigo, hasta el ano proximo.”

I look forward to seeing "El Hombre" again next year. I flatter myself to think he might still have, somewhere, that poor sketch I gave to him. What he gave to me is an enduring memory of friendliness that transcends borders.