When I was little, I had a Rubik's Cube. After fruitless hours of trying to solve it the correct way, I peeled off all the little colored stickers and placed them so the cube appeared solved. When I showed it to my mother, she got so excited that I had to tell her the truth before she took me down to NASA or something. After I told her, we all felt a little let down. The moral is that Rubik's Cubes are stupid and unsolvable but other kinds of puzzles are cool, and sometimes traveling is like a puzzle and that's cool too.
I was so happy to leave Mazatlan that it hardly mattered where I was headed. But the fact that it was a puzzle destination was still pretty exciting, at least for me. The goal was the island of Mexcaltitan. The fact that the trip involved more than three types of transportation and more than four stops qualifies it for puzzle status in my mind. First I had to get from my hotel to the bus station. This was easily accomplished, but left me unnaturally sweaty. I could wipe my forehead and the sweat collected in my hand would run down my arm. It was gross. I hate sweating - unless I am naked and in bed with someone.
From Mazatlan, I got a bus ticket to Penas. Luckily I asked the driver how long it would take to get there (four hours) because it turned out later that he had no intention of helping me out by announcing the stop - Ralph Cramden he was not. The bus was hot. It was a large first-class bus and the air conditioner was on, but at such a low level that my sweat never completely dried. It had only a few people on it - all quiet except for three loud American tourists in the middle. This was my first bus trip that involved vendors getting on the bus at every stop and trying to sell things. (Tamales, camarones, tamales, camarones...)
After approximately four hours had gone by and we made another stop, I went to the driver - I was very polite - and said, "Disculpe, donde estomos? Penas?" He replied simply, "Si, Penas", but he gave me such a look of annoyance and incredulity that I was surprised. (Ah yes, of course & this small collection of buildings in the middle of nowhere is so different from the last four. This latest tamale vendor has clearly wrapped his tamales in the distinctive Penan manner. How could I have been so blind?) I was glad to leave that driver behind as the last vestige of Mazatlan. From Penas I was to to take a local bus to Santiago Ixcuintla. The first person I asked about the bus told me there was none and that I should take a taxi. The second told me that I could take a combi. I still wasn't sure what a combi was, although I knew I would have to take one from Santiago. At least people were talking to me.
In Mazatlan, possibly because they were convinced I wouldn't understand anyway, people didn't bother to say too much to me. In Penas, people responded to my questions with rivers of Spanish. I didn't understand all of it, but with so many words to choose from, there was a much greater chance that I'd be able to recognize one here and there. I loved them for giving me the respect of words... it's not their fault I could only understand one in ten of them.
I ended up taking a taxi to Santiago Ixcuintla, and upon arrival discovered that it was too late to move on to the next step, so I'd have to spend the night here. Santiago is interesting - It's small and dusty, but has a feeling of niceness about it - like something out of a dream. There is a square full of hot young guys, as in most Mexican towns, and a market vending great vegetables and fruits, and quite a few stores devoted to selling hip sneakers, but not terribly many hotels or restaurants since it's not particularly a tourist destination. Despite the dusty, backwaterness of the town, the young guys all look like they are on their way to the club. I might have to investigate the homosexual undercurrent while I am here.
The cheap hotel was unspeakable and the nice hotel was expensive. The lady at compromise hotel gave me a deal on her crummiest room. I don't say that in anger, it's just fact. I saw the other rooms and mine was the crummiest - windowless baby blue cubicle with small mildewed bathroom, but hey - I got a deal. Maybe she felt sorry for me because I was so incredibly, disturbingly sweaty. She spent quite a lot of time explaining that I couldn't use the air conditioner unless I paid an additional 30 pesos - now don't that take the rag offen the bush? I figured I'd be fine with the fan. I actually prefer the fan, since it's easier to acclimate to the hot weather outside if I haven't been refrigerated all night. But I didn't count on the micro climate of that windowless room. When I came back from dinner - delicious enchiladas de pollo, quite toothsome - and walked from the cool, comfortable outside air and into that hot, soupy room with cockroaches scattering, there was no choice but to go back downstairs and hand over the 30 pesos. I wanted to fling my forehead sweat onto that woman.
In this room, I found something that I thought was just chance may actually be a trend: chewed wads of gum on the wall above the bed. This is the third time I've encountered it. I can't help but wonder a) why someone staying in a hotel would stick gum on the wall next to their bed and b) why someone owning a hotel would offer the room again without first scraping the gum off. It's something to be documented, I think.
But to be fair, since I didn't make notes on the first two sightings, I will make Santiago Ixcuintla the first official occurrence. Maybe it will be the last. Maybe it really was just chance.