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On Mexican Time….

13 September 2006

One of the things that I’ve grown to appreciate is being on the recieving end of being on “Mexican” time. I’ve never heard of it described in positive terms before…. so this may be a first. Many people complain about slow services or of how Mexican friends or businessmen tend to arrive late, but there’s a flip side that I find wonderful.

There’s a reason why this clock has a smile on it’s face. It lives in Mexico. Nobody takes it too seriously. People in Mexico don’t yell at their clocks or throw them on the floor because nobody friggin’ cares about the minute hand or least of all… the seconds hand.

When traveling through Mexico, I don’t feel rushed. You can take as much time as you wish to eat in a restaurant, sit and read the newspaper at the table if you want. People take the time to talk with you if you want a conversation. If it starts raining, no matter, just take it inside.

One sunny afternoon, my hubby and I took a leisurely drive down the coast from Merida to Ciudad del Carmen. We spent the night in Campeche and headed back out around noon. A short distance away, we came to the small town of Lerna where I spotted a restaurant on the beach that looked inviting. It had the typical palapa top and it sat on the edge of the Gulf with a “killer” view.

Service was sloooow, but we weren’t in any hurry. There were lots of tables, but only a few other customers. As I looked out at the water, I spotted HIM. He was Hemmingway, he was Picasso, he was to be my next photograph! He was my bald headed, dark skinned, large bellied, subject. I approached him like a school girl getting an autograph from a rock star.

“Would you mind if I take a picture of you?” He did not disappoint. Somehow, my limited Spanish rolled off my tongue and he was mine and I was his. It didn’t matter that he was about 70 or that he was clad in a pair of warn swimming trunks…. I was captivated by his presence.

Instead of an easel or a writing journal, my subject had a sharp knife and a fish in his hands. His hands were as strong as his eyes and his smile as broad as his shoulders. After taking a few photos of him, I asked him if I could watch him clean one of his fish. He not only let me watch, but he also put a fish in my hands and taught me how to clean one, too. Then, he showed me how to draw more fish up to us by throwing the guts over the railing into the water. He taught me the names of fish that swam up to eat the innards.

Before my lessons were done, he pulled a fish out his bucket that he called a toro fish. It had two small horns atop its head. He sat the fish on top of the rail and placed his cigarette between the horns and declared it an ashtray! After a good laugh, I went back to my husband and ordered lunch.

When the plates came, there were generous portions of food on them. Halfway through our meal, our waitress brought out an entire platter of assorted cooked fish. When I told her that we hadn’t order it, she smiled and pointed to her papa. It was a platter filled with all the fish we had cleaned together. Oh, God, there was enough food for an army! What to do, what to do.

Screw getting to Ciudad del Carmen… this was gonna be a long afternoon. ‘Picasso’ came over to our table and we invited him to sit with us. He shared his stories of being a fisherman and of owning this restaurant, which supported his big family. It seems that he was a French/Mexican whose family came from Merida many generations ago. His stories were filled with his contageous humor.

When he was duly comfortable with us, he walked over to a box which was attached to a wooden post in the restaurant. He handed me a leather bound notebook which was filled with his hand-written poems. I listened as he read aloud from some of them. The joy and the enthusiasm that came from him will stay with me always.

I hadn’t gone to a restaurant that day. I had inadvertantly gone to the theater by-the-bay and I was sitting in the audience watching a one-man show. Even the family members in the kitchen were enjoying the action. You couldn’t have put a price on it.

Time didn’t exactly stand still. The sun did begin to set over the water. But no one seemed to care.

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