November 30, 2009

For Those About to Read...

...I salute you. (My homage to AC/DC; I'm still looking for a rock band that will riff on things biblioholic.) Now for the Mexican trip log:

Day 1 - Sunday

It was utterly predictable I’d be bowled over by this place. After all Aaron has great taste and he recommended it. It’s physically beautiful here, the art and architecture exactly what I would have chosen had I done the choosing. I feel a stab of guilt at such luxury, wondering if I deserve it. Do I contribute enough at work do warrant this sort of reward? Tom Wolfe’s description in “The Bonfire of Vanities” of the arbitrageurs haunts even though I make a tiny fraction of their money. I’ve always found there’s nothing like a vacation to make me want to work harder, or work to make me want to vacation harder.

We arrived before check-in and they told us our ocean-front wasn’t yet available but we could go for another room on a higher floor that overlooked both pool and ocean. I asked to see the room, perhaps pushing my luck, and it was a good view but not goose-bump inducing. We waited for the original room by eating dinner, which is where I got the first inclination that the downside of an “all-inclusive” resort is that the food is unlimited. Every day is a buffet. Bring out the Alka Seltzer! So I had ribs and a salad and washed it down with a liter of Negro Modelo. And cheesecake for dessert. Oh my was it good.

Hunger slaked, we headed back to our real room and it was suitably magical. “I feel a Spanish crest upon my chest….” I have the urge to read Reid Buckley’s “Servants and Masters” a novel thick with Spanish atmosphere and intrigue.

The balcony hung suspended over azure/green waters crashing the shore. It was the closest to the ocean I can recall to being while in a hotel room; the only thing closer was when we sat out on a balcony above the ocean, on a cruise. It’s a fine specimen of a room with beautiful furnishings. I put my Sarah Palin book on the bedside reading table and the combo looked splashing. Yet how can I read amid such splendor? Instead I hit the balcony for a vacation cigar as the sun sets and the blue waters fade to black.

The sports bar we ate at had about a dozen screens in every direction and the Bengals played on one of them, which made me happy. The main screen was inexplicably devoted to the Chargers-Broncos game and unaccountably there were a ton of Charger fans in the place. Every time San Diego did something good there rose raucous cheers from the jersey-clad visitors. Go figure, as Cancun is a long way from San Diego. But travel always offers surprises, even amid mundane things like that.

I explore the hotel and it’s pleasingly labyrinthal quality and it brings to mind how man was meant to explore, and not just the physical but the intellectual and spiritual. There’s a Proverb that talks about it being the glory of man to seek out what the Master has hidden, quoted by John Paul II in “Fides et Ratio”.

Day 2 Monday

The sun starts early down here -- just after 6am there’s an orange circle on the sea’s horizon. I think about the Sarah Palin book I was reading last night, how in 2004 she started ftraining for a marathon and went on long runs feeling not a restlessness or ambition so much as a calling, that she would be called to do more and that she could do more. (I felt like that about my Bingo career only it turned out to be not a calling, haha.)

“What gets you excited to wake up in the morning,” she quotes herself in her speeches at graduations. “What is the desire of your heart? God put those in you not to tease or frustrate you - He created them in you to give you direction! To put you on the right path - He bridles your passion!” Palin writes that she told herself “You’ve got to go out there and fly! Go and do more!” This was in the lead-up to run for governor.

* * *

About 75% of the earth is covered with water, but since we experience only a tiny portion of it our perception can skew. Because we live on land, we may act as though 95% of the planet is land. Similarly how easy it is, if we don’t pray enough, to think that God is a small part of the overall picture when He is the picture itself. From the Word Among Us meditation today on the passage from Daniel: “This has great practical application for us, as we must choose each day the proper balance of how much time we spend consuming the world’s philosophies, attitudes, and values, versus how much time we spend consuming God’s word in Scripture.”

The pool area is flanked by ornate 3-foot cement pillars and fronded with red Spanish-style slats that lend a dappled shade effect. The music, though mostly innocuous, is loud enough to be distracting. Beethoven’s 2nd plays in my ear, incongruous with the Tijuana music over the loudspeakers. The pool has the advantage of bar proximity and is a scene undulating with bottoms of curvy females on their stomach or flipped with their obelisks aspiring skyward. Gresham’s Law as it applies to pool-side thoughts: the flesh drives out musings about the effectiveness of Keynesian economics. Overall, perhaps by design, it feels very cruise-shippy. Pretty waters / a tranquiscient/ neologism / full of fresca.

The surf is white as Sparky Anderson’s hair, which I mention only in a bid to go down in history as the only person ever to compare Anderson’s hair with the surf. (Note to self: google 'Sparky Anderson's hair' + surf.)

Plan to read and exercise on this trip though drinks not likely to be under severed either, given the all-inclusive (a term forever stained by Michael Scott of The Office fame). Last night the Negra Modello’s hit the spot - two “freebies” brought up to the room. Paid forward. It felt too easy, like bank robbery in the 1800s.

* * *

Looking at the great ocean reminds me of how capricious life seems to be, as if a mere accident of geography (put anyone without a boat anywhere in the vast expanse of ocean and they’d be shark food). I think of how many have people through the centuries have had short lives and how length of life is meaningless compared to how one lives. In the ancient world, the fragility of life was so apparent that “life was less something to be made as something to be endured” per D. McMahon. McMahon also quotes a Greek history in which Croseus is “only saved after he renounced the belief that he was, or ever can be, happy while still alive.”

I’m also reading “The Machine” about the ‘75 Reds. Excellent stuff, like crack-cocaine for the baseball fan. I take note what others are reading, including two Kindles seen down here “in the wild”, one a DX and the other a Kindle 2. Book sightings:
- Dan Brown’s latest
- “Soul Made Flesh”
- “Glimmer Train”
- A Tom Clancy novel
- “Caravans” by James Michener
- “The Day Heaven and Earth Changed Places”
- “A Long, Long Way”
- Another “Going Rogue” reader
- a Ken Follet novel
- a Grisham novel

Day 3 - Tuesday

The look and feel of the balcony is very similar, almost identical, to that of the balcony on a cruise ship. There’s the same strong wind, the same loud noise of surf. Because the surf is marked with red flags (heavy surf) it’s likely louder than is typical. “He collects the waves of the ocean; he stores up the depths of the sea.” - from today’s Shorter Christian Prayer book (Ps 33).

* * *

The customer service here at the Casa Magna is at times otherworldly. Got back from a run and I’m offered a wet towel at the door, a small cold towel held with silver calipers. Simply amazing if overkill. Later the wait staff brings Pacifico beer or a Negra Modella or a strawberry daquiri precisely at beer o’clock. After a workout one needs plenty of fluids, so set me up with a beer iv.

Today we set up off-off-pool, which is like off-off-Broadway only sunnier and quieter. All-inclusive means never having to look at prices, which is something I haven’t done since my parents were young.

An itinerant beach cigar salesman beckons and I’m a sucker. “You are good people,” he says after I give him a twenty dollar bill for a five pack of Cohiba Cuban cigars. I just hope they’re not exploding cigars. How do I get them home? Has Obama lifted the sanctions against Cuba yet? The next day I meet another itinerant cigar salesman. “Almost free,” he says. I think this is capitalism at its finest - breaking the near monopoly on cigars the hotels have by dramatically undercutting their prices.

* * *

Reading Lewis Buzbee’s book on biblioholism & McMahon’s on happiness now after having finished “The Machine”. Buzbee says “we fear for ourselves what we’d never imagine for others.” In the background ’70s tune “Shake Your Booty” plays and I still hear it in context of “fast dances” of my formative years. The song seems fraught with danger despite the silly lyrics - perhaps the most dramatic difference between lyrics and tune in history? Or maybe not, come to think of it. Next up is “Get Down Tonight” and it’s hard to read about bibliophilism to the old beat.

Or German historian/philosopher Max Weber. I love this - he took a trip for which the prospect was to raise his spirits and provide the mojo in order to write the first half of the book he would be known for. Get this: he traveled intensely for 3 ½ months in the U.S. And I feel guilty for a week vacation. I think the Europeans have it right.

* * *

Dinner at the Argentinian Steak House was ridiculously good. Over-the-top good. The servers came out with the entrees and it feels like a choreographed - everybody in sync, in rhythm, with steak knives appearing before our very eyes along with filet mignon and creamed spinach. The bĂ©arnaise sauce was other-worldly. Then dessert; a layered dark chocolate cake for me. The dinner was the best I’ve had in a year or so. Then out to the lobby, as ornate as the promenade deck of a new cruise ship and with live music playing again. The cruise-ification of Cancun resorts? If so I can’t complain. On the balcony I feel like Di Caprio in Titanic, wind in my face, sea at my feet. Uh-oh, not a good analogy…

DAY 4 - Wed

Into every life and vacation a little rain must fall and it did today. I was surprised there are “only” 200 sunny days here a year; I would’ve guessed closer to 300. So today was one of the 165 from the get-go and so I traveled by tour bus, by which I man regular bus, to and around downtown Cancun. Not a whole lot to see, truth be told, or at least so it seemed. I always think that a completely resort-style vacation is lazy - don’t want to be provincial and not explore other cultures but I’m not sure Senor Frog’s is culture. To be fair, that was just the downtown core and there were other streets that might be of more interest but for the language barrier.

Clouds obscure the sunrise. Mornings here are like the Discovery Channel’s “Sunrise Earth” come to life. I love the cut of the hotel’s jib, everything ovaled and arched instead of the hard angles and rectangles of doors and passageways up Norte.

One person may see, in the sea, only randomness and chaos, while another sees regularity, consistency, dependability. It depends on attitude and faith.

Dinner at night at the Japanese Steak House. I don’t get out much, so this was like going to old Japan. The hostess was in a kimono, chopsticks were available and the music was the kind they play at massage centers - very Eastern. This was the first time I can recall being at a Japanese steak house. We got a “regular” table instead of one where they cook right in front of you. Got Sumashi soup, shrimp tappan keg, (or something like that). It was all good. Steph had seaweed soup, the seaweed tasting just as you’d think seaweed would taste like. Sorta like spinach. There was this very fine rice noodle in the soup and I asked what it was and Steph humorously said “squid hair”.

DAY 5 - Thurs

Cumulous clouds, or Columbus clouds as I call them, ‘cumulate against the horizon while the sun subtly rises behind them. A signature of orange is writ in the sky…

* * *

After a desultory morning reading mix of Ray Bradbury and Walker Percy, headed out for play time in the world’s biggest swimming pool. You always know the surf is solid when there are mostly adults out there as in this case. The waves were so big that you’d want to just stand there and admire them, as if they were mammoth home runs, but mostly you’d want to get out their way. Riding the crest, I tried to enjoy the split-second view atop , as if from a 2nd story condo forty yards into the ocean. The surf threw me like I was a feather paperweight in a gale storm (okay, slight exaggeration) and I kept my arms moving in a defensive gesture lest I get thrown against rock instead of sand. It’s the first time I can recall really respecting the waves. But oh my but the espirit de corps among the wave hunters when we commandeered the high ground and rode down the splashy chutes to shore, only to have the same sea spray us from behind by waves borne by wind-froth!

There’s a swim-up bar at the pool - ordered a Mango daquiri thus fulfilling a childhood dream, or at least early adulthood dream, of swimming up to a bar to order a drink. I’m finding the sweetness of daquiris a fine precursor for beer. The latest is Mexican beer tried is: Montejo. We ran into a loquacious contractor at the swim-up bar who does cement work and who, as it turned out, did jobs for my dad and uncle. Small world alert! We joked that he’s spending my Dad’s money. “Fix or six beers and I’m done,” he says. “You can tell I’m not a big drinker since I’m buzzed after three Corona’s.”

Poolside I start reading “Moby Dick”; I watch the sea and looked for that “appalling beauty - lit up by a horizontal spangly sun, shifted and glistened like a living opal on the blue morning sea.”

Day 6 - Fri

The pool is too architecturally attractive for us not to be pulled into its sway this last day. We set up mid-deck, o’er looking the white tops between the Mayan columns accompanied by a stiff breeze and soft jazz.

Styrations greet the eye like sedimentary layers of a mythical gemstone: foam-white, to turquoise, to black-blue speckled with a thousand points of white wave. I’m glad we moved from our too-suburban patch of concrete off-off-pool. Sure it was quiet and sunny but it lacked the sights. Above and stage-right stands the adobe left wing of the palace, with its patio-balcony floors so sheer and smooth the chairs glide with greatest of ease.

Foreknowledge of the vacation’s end harshes the mellow. Ran into cement dude Jerry and Pat again today and found out they are regular Cancunites - they come down every 2-3 months using discounts earned from a Marriot awards credit card. Steph met a lady from Canada who lives six months in Canada and six months in Ecuador to escape the winters. She says the standard of living is so low there that she hired a maid for $12 a day. Today’s big read was Chabon’s “Manhood” book after a fruitless search for truth and poetry in “Moby Dick”’s more discursive parts.

Day 7 - Sat:

Six a.m. pre-sun rise and it’s surprisingly cool on the balcony, a heavy breeze and a cloudy sky. One last morning…breakfast at La Capilla…a visit to the hottub where I soak a sprained ankle. Watched a sailboat go by. Then onto the airport where I read Josh Hamilton’s book “Beyond Belief”. Fine story of redemption. I like the inspirational baseball story, of stories of excellence and overcoming. Liked “The Machine” and even to an extent Joe Torre’s overdog team “The Yankee Years”. Reading about Paul O’Neill was enough in that. It was never the same after he left the Yanks or the book, so I haven’t finished that one yet.

For Hamilton, it’s surely a lifelong battle and I’ve heard there was a brief relapse into non-sobriety early last year, a year in which he also struggled at the plate.

We make it to Cincy airport and stumble through a Borders. A bookstore in an airport is a breath of poetry in a prose world. I felt intoxiprinted by the wares, spurred by the romance of the terra incognitios of various books, mostly the Five Points section of Rutherford’s historical novel “New York” (Five Points being of particular interest in provoking wonderment how people could live that way) and in Bill Simmons’s “Big Book of Basketball” with all the redolent memories of factoids past, like whether Kareem was better than Wilt. Say but the names and I feel the nostagia: “Jerry West…Oscar Robertson…Lew Alcinder…” Ahh…

No comments: