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Life Arts

Outing Montezuma

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They say that blood is thicker than water. But I'll tell you what's thicker than the two of them. Mierda. That's as thick as it gets, especially when you're standing smack dab in the middle of it.

Somehow against all odds, or perhaps in perfect harmony with the macabre humor of the malevolent spirits of amor, I ended up in A Tail of Two Cities, a place that was the best of all possible worlds and at the same time, the biggest incestuous mound of excrement I had ever stepped into.

This place, which I have come to love; this glorious spot on the map that they say is magical, built on high energy layers of crystal and breathtakingly beautiful, is equally as bizarre, codependent and dysfunctional as your worst nightmare. It's that frightening family next door that makes everyone walk on the opposite side of the street. The story of those with destructive malfunctions deconstructed by a panel of shrinks on Oprah and Dr. Phil. The decades old ick that keeps getting ickier at Hef's Playboy Mansion, more affectionately known as Cocoon Meets Pee Wee's Big Top. You get my drift.

Let me start at the beginning, as I remember it. And since I'm still working my way through the slosh, my recollections of the cesspool may be embellished a bit, but I feel I've earned that dramatic license since my shoes will forever be misshapen, my step off kilter and to this day, I continue to stop and shake loose imaginary feces that I feel clinging to my soles, still.

The New Yorker, His Wife and the Temptation of the Vine

He and his wife were New Yorkers. He was an artist. Notice I use past tense although all players, to my knowledge, are still alive and well, thriving in the glorious heap beneath the searing Mexican sun. Every year they vacationed in this small Mexican village: A seemingly ideal Colonial enclave of narrow cobbled streets, picturesque burros resting along curbs, melodic church bells, enticing scents and tastes. Maybe this is where things start to go horribly wrong for gringos from cold, northern hinterlands; relentless south of the border sun, blinding light, donkey dung, nostril searing aromas of chili peppers and tropical blooms, scantily clothed bodies, and the incessant pealing of those bells, bells, bells, bells - reminding you that you are always just a step away from sinning, or stepping into a warm pile of sh*t. And this, my friends, is far too much titillation for the average gringo used to ice storms and plaid flannel sheets well past Memorial Day. It doesn't take long before one starts to become delusional under the weight of so much sun.

He came to the land of perennial sunshine to paint. His wife came to learn African dance and let her mind rest from harried days as a successful psychotherapist. At home in New York, as well as in the Mexican paradise, they began to grow apart. One chilly autumn eve in Manhattan after a vintage bottle of Chateauneuf du Pape, one of their last meaningful conversations went like this:

"You know, I have to be honest, and maybe it's the wine talking but I feel the need to communicate: You have become so self absorbed, you and your paintings, your shows, your collectors and proteges that it's difficult to be around you these days. Between your enlarged canvases and inflated ego, this apartment is feeling unbearably cramped - I can hardly breathe."

"Really," he said, admiring the Pope's legs. "Well you and your incessant psychobabble of 27 years are numbing and beginning to fall on deaf ears. Frankly, I find sexual fantasies of mowing the lawn far more exciting than the actual thought of making love with you. Notice and ruminate over the words numbing, actual, babble and thought. All we're missing here is a noun and a really good adjective and you just might have enough to outline a paper on tuning out and turning off - the necessity and reality of masturbation in an unhealthy marriage."

"You're a narcissist and an idiot," she sniffed. "I'm surprised you can even grip your brush anymore. And besides, we don't even have a lawn."

"My point, exactly."

Impressed by their banter, they laughed and shared a toast that as usual, they were in perfect equilibrium and harmony with their emotions and with that they agreed to the possibility of a marital separation and to open another bottle of Cotes du Rhone. This one, however, they didn't need to let breathe. At that moment, everything in the room had done all the breathing together that ever needed to be done.

Now it was time to exhale and what they didn't know, and all the other future players didn't know, was that the collected exhalation beginning with wine soaked breaths from a townhouse in Soho and rippling its way thousands of miles southward, sneaking across the border in a vaporous wave and over the heads of border guards and citizen vigilantes, would cause the desert winds to blow in all directions a virtual tempest of dry, cutting heat, and as strong winds don't mix well with Montezuma's Revenge, the reek of unfaithful and interconnecting lives spread across the land like floods across barren desert soil. And there is nothing quite as charming or mesmerizing as an ethereal village on a hill, built on smooth crystalline layers that behind the scenes, is a virtual caldron of bubbling adios that in the dead of night, begins to snake its way through the antiquated gutters of a seemingly idyllic 16th century town and starts to pool and spat on warm door steps.

The Married New Yorker, the Divorced French Woman with Three Children and Lips of Claret

Their last trip together to this mystical Mexican village is where he met her. She was French as only a French woman can be, and had lips as plump and as deliciously scarlet as the French clarets that touched his palate and ran rivers through his veins each night. She had lived in the village for many years and had three small children from a past husband, two boys and a girl. His were grown now and he had been glad, but suddenly the idea of young children seemed tantalizing. Or maybe it had nothing to do with offspring so much as they were tiny extensions of this full bodied femme fatale and anything that could have sprung from her loins had to be blessed much like the case of vintage burgundy he longed to own but was always just out of his grasp. But I'm jumping ahead of myself.

The French-wine-loving New Yorker and the provocative woman from St. Remy, a place where he once painted beneath the white light of the Provencal sun and felt only the benign beginnings of the Mistral, met along the cobbles when the spirits intervened. And even though he was still married he forgot this part of his past and present, and without his brain's approval, his body swung into action, full tilt boogie right there on the street, on those ancient, uneven and holy cobbles where balance is off at the best of times, but when you're suddenly hobbled by the tipping weight of an unexpected appendage, not only did he have to steady himself inside a door jam, but he no longer wished to mow lawns or whack weeds, and she no longer wished to drink alone. And thus, the winds of change began to howl. And these winds, this evil tempest brewing south of the border in a high mountain village in Colonial Mexico, would make the infamous Provencal Mistral feel like a gentle f*cking breeze.

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A native Californian, Jan Baumgartner is a writer and book editor. After many years along the coast of Maine, she now lives full time in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She's recently finished editing two books; one, a memoir for a non-profit in (more...)
 

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Hi Jan, I am glad to see you have posted this hum... by Mac McKinney on Monday, Jul 27, 2009 at 5:35:54 PM
I always appreciate your comments, Mac.  And what... by Jan Baumgartner on Monday, Jul 27, 2009 at 5:41:08 PM
Very quaint and romantically comic story... by Mac McKinney on Monday, Jul 27, 2009 at 5:42:07 PM
like steaming hot mexican cocoa with chili pepper:... by Meryl Ann Butler on Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009 at 2:34:18 AM
Nice Chekhovian whirlwind adventure. And those Esp... by Allan Wayne on Tuesday, Jul 28, 2009 at 11:20:56 PM
while having pneumonia from Frisco:)Good work, Jan... by Mark Sashine on Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009 at 11:32:55 AM
"Love," wrote Anton Chekhov. "Either it is a remna... by Allan Wayne on Wednesday, Jul 29, 2009 at 4:42:48 PM