I’ve been in Puerto Vallarta seven times or more. I fold and unfold peso bills to pay the restaurant at the beach where I’ve already been three times this trip. Folding and unfolding is different than at home. That’s the point. We’re in a condo here for the first time, far above the beach. A lot that’s different about Mexico is different whether we’re here in PV or elsewhere, so I take out my pesos and inquire about the water taxi in my fragmented Spanish and it’s a coastal Mexican experience, new because I’ve traveled less in recent years. Has it really been since 2008 that I came here, or 2010? Alaska Airlines informed me today my frequent flyer account expired years ago as I haven’t flown Alaska since 2006. Ten years. God.
Avalon is pristine. Clean lines everywhere. The hot water heater erratic but the pool warm and not filled with territorial condo owners. Seems the tourists don’t come up this high, or the wealthy Mexican owners don’t bother to rent out their units to tourists, or both. It’s quiet. They use reposado tequila and Grey Goose vodka at the pool bar. I think it’s the bar guy who says it’s ok for my daughter to shout at the top of her lungs…kids are kids, he says. Really? That’s surprisingly nice.
Mexico is nearly as I remember except it seems to be happening in the background while I’m distracted by email and kids, thinking about returning to Berkeley, setting up a dolphin swim. It’s like I’m separated from everything by a bubble. My auto-correct tried to fill in “Bible.” I hope I’m not separated from the world by a Bible. My son and I stopped briefly at the cathedral on our way to get playing cards, on our way to the cafe to play two computer games. Reminds me of a trip to Hawaii with my parents as a teenager. Now we’re getting a handmade bracelet for my daughter’s friend while I approve several games my daughter requests from her iPad up at the Avalon pool. We order after deciding the water taxi would be too bumpy to take us to the dolphins tomorrow, and too slow. My son plays two games while I play one.
The sun comes out but I feel as though I’m going crazy because as the afternoon wears on and I try to write my son keeps tapping me a certain way, trying to get me to play Ron Beasley in a Harry Potter game. But it’s bright now and a relief after a day of clouds. Writing for the first time in a while. I’ve been reading this three-book Magicians series, so easy to fall into. They’re books about mirrors and losing oneself in books. I could lose myself in a book about losing myself in the details of Puerto Vallarta. Didn’t I read somewhere that authors have to write and that is the only reason they can bring themselves to do it? Makes the usual sort of paradox out of free will because if I’m writing it’s only because I have to. Like actually noticing clouds appearing out of thin air rather than rolling across the horizon. Free will is like seeing the sun come out and thinking, “What a good job I did!”
There’s something more important than free will, though it’s related, and as we close the glass doors for the evening and hear the fireworks across the water the darkness amidst the shush of air-conditioning I see it’s personal development: free will or no, you either develop or you are already dead. Develop haltingly and you’re haltingly alive. Tell me about it. I’m back in Mexico after how many years and the fried Lima beans taste good. And what have I learned except that it’s much harder to manage four psyches than even the impossible task of managing one. My wife reads and my kids are supposed to be reading too. Mischief managed? More like mischief overlooked. It’s too quiet out there so I go to check: one reads, one doesn’t.
Just like that it’s nine PM. Different when I’m not lost in a book. More happens. I’m more willing to let go of the day in delicious anticipation of tomorrow. King Arthur was supposed to return from Avalon someday, wasn’t he? When I return from my stay will it merge with my other travels into a montage of cobblestone streets and beachside restaurants? After my conveyance here to the Avalon par avion what is next that isn’t a retreat from the pain of missing this repeated retreat? Children, challenges, the spirit to say Yes I’ll write. The courage not to live to please to earn rewards? The rewards are never enough; only the earning is worthy. Unless Arthur wakes up and gets some work done Avalon is a quiet place. As quiet as a tomb.