Dateline: Ajijic

articles Living, Working, Retiring

Maggie Van Ostrand

A Balloon in Cactus

Great rain clouds filled the sky over Lake Chapala as my friend, Tomas, turned the curve where you first spy Scorpion Island en route from the airport.

“You’ve brought good weather,” he said, grinning, “The beginning of rainy season.” Perhaps the rain was actually to honor not me, but three others who came the same day. We accidentally became part of the parade of the Virgins of Talpa, Lagos de Moreno, and Zapopan, who came to celebrate the remodeling of San Andres Church.

As Tomas pulled up in front of La Nueva Posada, that old feeling crept over me — the feeling of never having left, despite the fact that I hadn’t been back since the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Once inside the hotel, I saw the same brown faces with the same white grins, the same receptionist, the same waiters, all of whom seemed to remember me. It made me feel so good, I wanted to do a Tom Cruise, and jump up and down with happiness on Oprah’s couch.

The only thing different about the hotel was an iron gate with combination lock at the head of the grand staircase, which subtly indicated changing times in Ajijic. Tomas and his friend, Carlos, returned for dinner in the Hotel, where the lifelike eyes of the late Morley Eager oversaw us from the wall of the patio bar as we sat under the great rubber tree. When I first met Morley back in ’95, he didn’t appear quite so stern as in the portrait, but it’s still him.

La Nueva Posada’s famous parrots, Paco and Scarlett, were squawking from their giant cage with the open door. Since Scarlett is also male, they’re doubtless part of the modern movement of same-sex marriage.

Next morning, I ran into owner Michael Eager, who filled me in on hotel news, the brilliant chef Lorraine Russo, and later, Judy Eager, who had just returned from Canada and spoke of her 12-year-old granddaughter, Judy Melissa Eager Hinojosa. “She took my Carlotta, to Show and Tell at school today,” said Judy, her face a mixture of both pride and concern. “Who’s Carlotta?” I asked, “your housekeeper?” “Oh, no,” replied Judy, laughing, “Carlotta is my basset hound.”

The last conversation I had had with Judy prior to this visit was also about one of her animals, a cat, who had fallen asleep under the hood of the family car. Morley didn’t know, and started the car. Needless to say, that was the cat with a bit of nose missing, the cat with the snorty purr.

It’s easy to purr when visiting Ajijic, because friends make you feel so welcome. It’s the only place I know of where your earrings are almost as fussed over as your arrival. People take the time to notice everything about you.

I like my friends’ art better than Picasso’s. Being at Enrique and Belva Velazquez studio was a treat for the eyes. I simply had to have calendars and cards. How can you not love artists with two Zs in their name?

Another artist and great friend, Sherry Sourelis, is a beacon of beauty and kindness, both of which show in her work. Never mind Picasso; I’d rather have a Sourelis.

At Lloyd for some pesos, Aurora Michel, guardian of cash flow and owner of the best legs in town, took a few moments from her extremely busy schedule to chat. I don’t understand how she handles phone calls, email, check signing, office paperwork, and still makes personal time for her well-known community service.

Old friends were spotted on the streets, in the gardens of LCS, and walking along the new shore. The old shore is under water.

Lunching at Tomas’ elegant casa, I noted that he had taught his pair of parrots new words. Now one of them says “Meow Meow” just like a cat, which drives the other parrot crazy, and he responds with “Yadda yadda yadda.” Even Broadway can boast of nothing like Ajijic entertainment.

Happily, a quickie trip to Tlaquepaque, where torn-up streets failed to hinder my superhuman effort to lift Mexico’s economy all by myself, netted a magnificent rebozo and a spectacular bedspread, both from Del Corazon de la Tierra at Juarez #245.

And there were delicious visits with my beloved Josefina and family. Again, I asked if she would adopt me. Again, she giggled behind her hand.

Just like old times.

Published or Updated on: September 1, 2005 by Maggie Van Ostrand © 2005
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