Ring the bell.

Christmas 2008

It’s 8am, the gallos and donkeys are conversing in the gully across from what will be our home for the next six months- The 1st floor of a three floor, solid concrete building in the jungle-surrounded by gays, but in a Mexican neighborhood, a block from the beach. The lunatic fringe of Puerto Vallarta.

I’m sitting outside at a table that I scrounged in the yard, along with two chairs in case a guest drops in, from a junk pile along its brick and concrete edges. I found chair pads in the 2nd bedroom.

A few minutes ago a crash-or so it seemed-occurred directly above me in the Cecropia Tree, a lanky, three story tree that has 9 lovely leaves in a circle on one stem that altogether measure about 2ft. in diameter. The rowdy perpetrators are chachalacas, large brown birds with a yellow underside and long, wide tails that are shaped like paddles. They are similar to wild turkeys. Right now there are 5 or 6 of them causing a melodic ruckus. Seconds ago a branch as big around as my wrist and maybe 3 ft. long landed a few feet away from me. I see the beauty of jungle living but Sophie, convinced the sky is falling, went inside.

Last night I met a Canadian couple at the beach who are here for 3months and looking for a reasonable place to stay. He asked me where I was and how much I was paying. I told him 500 dollars. He said, “Is it a dump?”
“Are you an asshole?” I think.
“It is Mexican funky. It has its share of creative wiring with the requisite, unrestrained use of extension cords, bare bulbs, and I believe hot water only in the shower, which is all I asked for, Dear Santa. And oh yes, and it has screens on the windows that mostly cover them, an air conditioning unit that I assume works because it is plugged into the wall, and the obligatory amount of rebar poking out of the outer wall as if it is perennially under construction; in other words, totally charming.”

Our first week here we I stayed at my friend Jodi’s. It was a good week. She’s a gem: intelligent, fun to hang with and obviously patient since she put me and Sophie up. Sophie prefers her house. It’s more dependable and has grass, a supreme luxury.

I took the panja to Yelapa to look at possible living spaces but couldn’t see the insides of any of the potential houses. But, Yelapa is always full of surprise and this time was no exception. I met Robert McLane, a writer whose book, Stop War America is an interesting narrative of his years as a marine in Viet Nam and later as an anti-war activist. Reading it transported me back to the complex 60s and 70s that fucked up so many lives, but no one more than the soldiers who fought; men, who when they had returned home, and were safe in the arms of women who loved them, cried in their sleep. One of the men in my life, Michael Reinhart, said he felt ruined, that he felt nothing could ever compare or erase the horror and shame in his heart. Michael went to fight in Rhodesia in the 70s. It would be nice to know if he is alive. Robert’s web site is wwstopwaramerica.com.

I find the struggle to keep in the present difficult when the past keeps popping up its’ intense head.

Sophie and I spent Christmas at Jodi’s with 20+ old and new friends. We stuffed ourselves with delicious offerings from each and every one of us, laughed, told stories and sang. After we got home Sophie and I walked around the neighborhood. I happened upon the Palm Bar down the street from me and remembered that Jodi said it might be a place to do some comedy. As it turns out the owner, Ron, was there and he too, thinks it’s a good idea. So we’ll talk next week. It’s been almost 30 years since I MC’d a male stripper club on Columbus Ave in San Francisco down the street from the Carol Doda’s Condor. Yikes. I may be turning into Moms Mabley. Life could definitely be worse.

As a post script to my last blog that ended in Morocco, I must say that the Leonard Cohen concert I attended at the O2 in London Nov. 13th was the best ever. I mean that. He is a man of grace: a humble poet that makes every word and note move my heart. I sat in the nose-bleed section beside a young Pakistani whose English mom had brought him there. During intermission he said, “He’s really good. He’s a poet and makes excellent music.” While reading Robert’s book I thought of the current senseless war that continues unabated-unless something has changed because I haven’t seen the news for a few weeks- and I thought of some of the words in Cohen’s Anthem that were probably written in the 70’s and still current.

The wars they will be fought again
The holy dove be caught again
Bought and sold and bought again
The dove is never free

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in..

That’s how the light gets in…

For my birthday in l976 when my world seemed to be falling apart around me, Larry David Dunn, a wonderful artist in Chicago gave me a pen and ink he had done. He called it the Gypsy Wagon. The wagon is an old wooden one surrounded by light that comes from within. Larry David said it was a portrait of me; that I carry my own light. What a wonderful compliment it was. I have learned that it is what we all must do; let the light shine through our cracks and embrace it –and them.

To everyone, I wish you a new year filled with light, love and a heart full of peace.

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