Our shuttle is late. The schedule was posted on the office door; I’d been back at Casa Luna for an hour trying to capture some details of the week so I can write from my blog later before it all fades. Every time the buzzer rings the staff has to walk through two gates and gaze through the little window. The guy selling dirt, the woman selling nopalitos dragging two toddlers door to door, young men looking for work. It’s the Wednesday after Palm Sunday and I am headed home to San Diego from San Miguel de Allende via Houston.
The owner calls the shuttle company and only gets cell phones. He is very responsible, they probably got stuck on the way, and maybe another procession around holy week, I’m sure he’ll be here. Somehow, even though we are on the list on the office door, clearly marked for a 2:45 pick up, out pick up got cancelled. The owner calls another company, and we are escorted into the little gated room by the front door with our luggage. It’s now almost an hour later, and we are ready to dash the hour and a half or so to the airport at Leon. The buzzer rings, and it’s another street vendor. Finally the shuttle arrives. We find out it will be $90 US dollars to the airport, plus a tip. We don’t care. Our plane takes off at 5:50 and we have close to an hour and a half drive. The shuttle arrives; we hop in the car and are on our way.
It takes forever to get out of town with all the normal mid day traffic. They are putting up decorations for more holy week processions, all over town on all the buildings. The driver almost hits two young women attempting to cross the street, and then veers left down what appears to be an alley. The three of us all get a little nervous, but one of us speaks Spanish, and in a second I recognize the railroad tracks and the area we went through on our way into town a week ago.
Out in the countryside now, the other ladies ask me about the shrine we can see on top of the mountains, and I tell them I can’t really remember except that it is a catholic church. We ask the driver if people make pilgrimages to it, and he reminds me that it is supposed to mark the geographic center of Mexico. I knew it was something more than a church, but it went in and directly out of my head on the way into town because I was so excited to be here.
We pass by horses and burros and cactus, and look down into beautiful valleys, we are passing cars and trucks and I closed my eyes a couple of times. One of the ladies, one of two from Arizona, told us a story about when she worked for the Make a Wish Foundation, and she knew a woman with a really big heart, a soft touch. They picked up a Native American on the road who asked for a ride home, across the desert in a landscape very much like the one we were passing through. She pointed out the mountains in the distance, way in the distance, and said they kept driving and driving and he said, we’re almost there and hours later they dropped him off amidst some shacks and abandoned cars. When they picked the guy up, he told them he had found the tools he was carrying laying on the ground near a fossilized dinosaur egg. He told them he wasn’t digging it out, but it was really cool and he knew it was worth money. His take on the place they picked him up was that he was shocked that someone was digging the egg out, since there was some sort of prohibition against it. He wasn’t the one doing it; he just happened upon the tools and then discovered the egg.
There was no mention of gas money, even after over an hour on the road. We’re almost there, just a little bit further. He said he would sing them a song if they liked, he was from a long line of singers in his family, and could he sing them a song? They agreed to let him sing and after a short pause, he screamed out an Indian chant that went on and on, ricocheting off the walls of the SUV, and almost breaking their eardrums. They both tried hard not to laugh, but it was so bizarre, they had tears running down their cheeks by the time they dropped him off near the abandoned looking shacks on the distant hills.
About this time of our journey we turned onto a highway that headed to Guanajuato (sp) and passed a very spacey, modern looking building and wondered aloud what it was. The driver didn’t know, we guessed it was a church, and the ladies guessed a Mormon church. I mentioned the cool looking druid church in University City that looked like something out of a Star Wars movie at night. We all pounding down water, and one lady finished off almost a gallon of bottled water, since we knew we couldn’t take it on the plane. I thought to myself, I hope she doesn’t pee in her pants before we get to the airport (ha).
We jumped out at the Leon airport and gave the driver a $100 US bill, and dashed into the building. The Mexican customs officers, two young women with latex gloves, asked us to put our big checked bags on the table, and proceeded to do an inspection. They were very thorough, but at least re=zipped and re-latched everything the way they found it, unlike my experience at the US border in Arizona and in Tijuana, where they rip apart the car and your luggage, and then leave you to put it all back together. We got to the gate at Continental, and I handed the agent my passport and he printed out my boarding pass, and then asked for the little tiny piece of paper that the Mexican customs guys had torn off the form when we arrived a week ago. I had that paper, but where it was at this moment, minutes before our plane takes off, I had no idea. He hoisted my bag back onto the scale; I found the keys again and did a quick check, coming up empty. It was either hiding somewhere I missed, or was in one of two carryons. I checked the carryons and no luck. It was hot and humid and I began to panic a bit. The agent said he would hold my bag while I filled out another form to be obtained from the Immigration office. I took off across the terminal like a bat out of hell, still holding my passport and an empty bottle in one hand, and my two carryon’s in the other. I sat down on the first row of benches to find a pen to fill out the form, trying not to panic. I’m sure my face was beet red, and I was dripping sweat. Where the hell are my pens, I knew there were several somewhere in my luggage, but who knows where. I had one $200 peso note so I ran into the gift shop and bought a pen, then ran around another corner after being directed by a very nice guy in a customs uniform to the next building. I ran up to the woman at a podium outside the Immigration office and she waved me to a counter and told me to push the buzzer (in Spanish). She didn’t speak English. I crinkled my eyes and looked through the slit on the metal windows and saw two guys look in my direction out of an office about 200 ft away, then go back in the office, so I rang the buzzer again, and finally one of the men sauntered over (I guess it was break time), I was working myself up even more now, since my Spanish is limited and I couldn’t answer/guess at all the questions on the form that I knew must be completed before I slid it under the gap in the metal window. I went for it, signed the bottom, left some spaces blank, and although he didn’t speak any more English than I did Spanish fortunately he saw the stamp in the passport at entry, waved it toward me and said tourista? And I said yes, so he stamped the passport and the form a couple of times, brummmp, bruumpt and slid it back under the door. I ran running past the woman sitting in security and she smiled as I scooted by, and finally made it back to the check in counter. The agent was waiting on someone else, but saw me coming and passed me the boarding pass with my luggage receipt with his left hand! I yelled thanks as I dashed back to the woman in security and they just waved me through without even putting my bags thru the x-ray machine. On the other side, I rounded a corner and when I focused saw the two ladies sitting sorting through their bags and I collapsed into the seat next to them, asked them to watch my carryon’s and made a dash for the ladies as my bottled water was close to creating a puddle in my seat.
I washed my hands returned to the seat, and they told me they thought I got on the original plane, and wasn’t sure where I went. We all laughed, a shared adventure, but we made it, and now we were waiting for the plane. I saw an interesting looking guy with a very small carry on holding a tweed jacket, and a bag that held something wrapped in bubble wrap. The plane arrived and we got up and passed into the hallway that led us outside to the plane. They bubble wrap guy had a straw hat on and sunglasses, and we passed him as the crew checked out his carryon. We walked across the blacktop to the stairs and boarded the place. This was a small one, two seats on one side, an aisle and one seat across the aisle. A young woman sat next to me, and was texting away, when the bubble guy finally made it in, and sat in the seat opposite me on the aisle. I wanted to get a closer look at him, but he was less than 2 ft away and I was trying not to be obvious. He was cute, and by now there was something bugging me, something familiar about him.
I was exhausted after the stress of the last few hours, and the humidity, and closed my eyes to try to relax a bit. As always, my knees were jammed into the seat in front of me, and as I sat there I drew upon my feldenkrais lesson sat up straight, and tried to release all tension in my body and it actually worked. The flight attendant gave us all snacks and they weren’t bad, some sort of crackers, a spreadable cheese, and some kind of fruit/granola bar and a Twix. I decided to save the Twix to accompany a cup of coffee, since I still had Houston and the 3 hour flight to San Diego to go. The cart rolled just past me and the bubble man, and I heard him order a coffee with one artificial sweetener, and when she then asked me what I wanted I said “I’ll have what he’s having nut with two sweeteners” and got my coffee, happily downing the Twix. I don’t know if bubble man overheard my conversation with the attendant, but I thought it was very smooth. He had taken off his hat and sunglasses when we boarded the plane, and I managed to sneak a look at him when he was glancing out the window.
One of the ladies headed for the restroom and startled me awake by touching my arm as she headed back for her seat. Do you know if your bags are checked through to San Diego or not? I think mine are checked through to Phoenix, Do we have to go through customs in Houston? I saw bubble man glance at us when she mentioned San Diego, then the lady and I talked about maybe eating something in Houston before we headed off to our domestic gates for the last legs of our journey. As she walked away, I stole another glance at the guy across the aisle. He seemed so familiar. Hmmmm, I know him, I know I do, but who is he? I feel like I had spent time with him, but a long time ago. Is it that friend of Terry’s shown in a photo from the 70s with me in a booth at Alfredo’s? Is it the ex-roadie for Frank Zappa I dated for a short time in late 1979, or who? I dozed on and off, in my dazed state almost felt arms hugging me, and came to abruptly when the plane landed. I still hadn’t spoken to him, or looked him directly in the eyes. The minute the plane stopped he got up, got his bag, and perched on the seat across from my diagonally, even closer to me for the 10 minutes or so we had to wait. I didn’t look up, just sat and watched while everyone pulled up the sliding hatch and got their bags, and headed towards the front to disembark the plane at Houston. He had a good look at me then, and I just have the feeling that he too, was trying to place me.
The ramp to the terminal wasn’t level and I headed up unevenly. The ladies were long gone, but I caught up with them at the bottom of the escalator, and we found carts to haul our luggage when it made it onto the automated whatever you call it. A goofy sort of guy that was directing people towards our last security checkpoint helped me hoist my bag onto the cart, and another man watched with a smile in his eyes. I had a dress on that wasn’t meant for bending, either from the front or the back.
We handed in our customs form and headed for the area to recheck our bags for our respective flights. We handed them off to a young man and flew through the narrow aisles with our hand luggage just to stand in line for another security screening of our carryons. Made it through this one without incident, although I did forget to take my liquids out, at least I remembered the laptop this time. One of the ladies got diverted to secondary inspection, and since I was still a little dazed, I followed her over to that area until a customs officer (female) yelled, no talking no touching. I was carrying my shoes, my net book and my carryon’s, so I went over to a bank of seats about 20 ft away and saw the other lady running off towards the gate. When I headed out, lady #2 was still being checked. They only had 30 minutes till their plane took off, and I thought oh boy, I don’t think either one of them is going to make it. I got to the gate and sat down, still trying to organize myself. I didn’t have time to eat anywhere, and my last meal was probably 8 hours ago. I wanted to make sure to have my debit card handy since they don’t take cash on planes anymore. As I was sitting there, with probably two hundred others, I saw Mr. Bubble wrap arrive at the gate, waiting for the same plane I was on. He was across the room and I don’t know if he had spotted me. I tucked my debit card into my bra, and scrambled for my boarding pass and passport, but they didn’t need the passport anymore I guess. Where am I?
I found my seat next to two guys (I’m on the aisle) and chatted with the cute young gay man next to me who had just done a turnaround to McAllen Texas from PB overnight, paying over !000 for the RT fare. We discussed the “upgrade for more room” offer the airline advertized, and he said he thought he should get the more room for the fare he paid. He asked me about my trip and I bored him for the first hour. Bubble man was sitting directly behind me about 8 rows towards the back of the plane also on the aisle. We finally got in the air, and the captain announced the food service would begin, but all they had on offer was “snack packs” (full of pre-packaged salty stuff) and the a la carte items. In other words, I was not going to be able to order the Asian noodle salad, or anything remotely healthy. I got the healthiest snack pack, the classic, and wolfed down everything but the goldfish, the Oreos, and something else that I can’t even remember. We hit turbulence so they disrupted the drink cart for about 20 minutes two rows in front of me. The flight attendant was a guy who appeared to be Hispanic, reminded me of Ruben Galvan from CH6 the CW in San Diego. I asked for a vodka tonic and water since I still had one drink coupon left for this return trip. He served the water, then handed me my tiny little vodka bottle, and a cute little plastic glass with a slice of lime. The tonic was a full soda sized can of Mexican tonic, - don’t know the ounces, but with the water, that’s a lot of liquid for a 3 hour flight. When he handed me the tonic I didn’t really have a good hold of it and he joked, we’re going to have to cut you off! I laughed and said, but it’s my first drink. It is now about 8:30pm San Diego time. I got up to go to the ladies room and took another look at bubble wrap man, who was dozing. At the back of the plane was a very tall, very, very attractive guy, probably in his 40s, flirting with the flight attendants. His legs were even longer than mine. An old man came out of the toilet, and as his daughter helped him back to his seat he said to me, I’m not sure that door locks right, or maybe I’m just too weak and old to close it. We laughed, but he wasn’t incapable, it was broken. Back to my seat, and did some more dozing and feldenkrais chilling until the guy with the window seat had to pee. This guy maybe had a prosthetic leg, glasses and needed a shave. He told my center seatmate he was from OB but now lived in Pennsylvania, working for an aerospace company part time. He nattered on about the Belmont park roller coaster when he was a kid. I had successfully avoided much conversation with him, since when I told my center seatmate about my cool new rattlesnake earrings, the window guy said you know the rattlesnake dust can kill you in a second, if you inhale it, I had a lot of experience with rattlesnakes as a kid . I thought to myself, I have never heard that OB is a rattlesnake nest, but who knows. I stood up and moved forward a couple of rows to allow center seat friend also to get out, so we could let window guy pee. As we headed back to our seats, I made direct eye contact with bubble wrap man, and we both smiled involuntarily, a warm lovely smile that was confirmation it wasn’t just me. I lowered my eyes and sat down. I knew who it was now, I was almost positive, but it had been 30 years. I had dated a very darling guy back in the 70s who surfed, did some modeling for OP’s Jim Jenks in Surfer Magazine, and worked as a bartender at the “new” La Costa Resort in the main bar. He was originally from Minnesota and his sister had been a contestant or the winner of Ms. Minnesota a few years before. I think she was also tall (he had mentioned). I had two pictures my head of our time together, one at Fidel’s in Carlsbad drinking black Russians, and the other on a Wednesday night up at La Costa when he was working. It was a quiet night in the little dimly lit main bar, and I was watching him work adoringly I recall. I was so distracted by him, I didn’t even notice the couple sitting directly across the bar from me- who turned out to be David Janssen from “The Fugitive” and some blonde. My guy made me aware of DJ’s presence and when he got up and headed for the door I got up to go to the ladies, and we were walking alongside each other for a few feet. David Janssen looked up at me and said My God you’re still growing” and I said “My God I can tell everyone I met David Janssen. We both smiled, he said good evening and we parted. I have told that story a thousand times over the last 35 or so years (how boring am I).
So here I am decades later on a plane from the middle of Mexico to Houston, and from Houston to San Diego with who I am pretty sure, now, is a guy I was wild about in my mid 20s in Encinitas in the 70s. We never spoke, we only had that one moment, and he was gone. It was very special and the perfect end to a perfect trip. Is this the beginning of a story, or just a trip down memory lane. Who knows? I got home, got the shuttle to my car, and made it home by midnight. The dogs were wild, so happy to welcome me home.
I went straight to bed, and got up and walked them in the morning and caught the 9:00am train. I was still too spacey to be driving. I made it through the day at work, and my little presentation in the supervisors meeting, and back on the train home. The next day I had taken off, and I spent a good 3 hours on the internet trying to remember how to spell his last name. I knew how to say it, but wasn’t sure of the spelling. I found a woman with that name, or a mother and daughter in Vista nearby with what I thought was the correct spelling, but who knows. Perhaps he lives in Mexico and was coming up for Easter or his daughter’s birthday. I don’t know that this story will ever have an end, but it left me smiling and feeling loved, so that’s OK. (But it would be nice if this was a beginning wouldn’t it). Time to walk the dogs again, and sign off. I’m going to call it Déjà vu, the Return from San Miguel, at least for now.
Let’s hope “to be contined”
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