Eavesdropping on the Malecon

by Tom Nussbaum

I had come to Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon to relax and enjoy the view of Banderas Bay. I sat on a bench and began sipping my coffee from its styrofoam cup. Why, I thought, can’t ‘coffee to go’ come in attractive cups with elegant patterns like Delft China or the family’s Noritake setting used on special occasions in my youth? Styrofoam cups make Red Solo Cups look classy.

A drop of coffee dribbled onto my white t-shirt. My attention, however, was drawn to my right by loud voices. An apparent American family approached. The perhaps twelve-year-old princess whined, “I wanna go to Wendy’s.”

“We’re going to one of the nice Mexican restaurants here along the Molly-cone,” the mother stated.

“But I wanna … ”

“This conversation is over,” Mom snapped.

The girl pouted.

Two couples, perhaps fifty, approached from the left. The husbands held their wives’ hands. Perhaps second-honeymooners. Maybe newly empty-nesters.

“I’m sure Diana called it Yell-LAY-pa,” one of the women said. “She said it was really beautiful and that we had to see it when we were in Puerto Vallarta. But Jim and I can’t find it on any street map of the city.”

“Babe, I think she pronounced it ‘YOUlapa.'”

“No, Jim,” I’m sure she said ‘Yell-LAY-pa.'”

The other husband laughed. “Are you talking about Yelapa?”

“Yes. That’s it,” Jim and his wife chimed in unison.

“Well, my cousin,” the other man continued, “says we can walk there.”

His wife blurted with excitement, “Let’s do that tomorrow.”

Two college boys, one wearing a University of British Columbia t-shirt, the other a vintage Led Zeppelin one, stepped between me and the Yell-LAY-pa/YOUlapa couples.

“We could bike to Guadala-hair-a, Dude,” one said as they passed. “It’s like two hours away. Aaron says there’s an easy pass through the mountains.”

I took a sip of coffee and sighed. “Hey,” I started to call after them to correct them, and then thought, What’s the point?

Another family, parents with two teenage daughters, approached from the right. One girl stared at her phone while walking, nearly knocking over a meandering Mexican toddler who had dashed from his nearby parents. The other girl asked with impatience, “When are we going to the mall?”

A Mexican boy on the brink of pubescence passed, holding onto an older woman’s arm, steadying her as they walked. Perhaps his grandmother, perhaps a generation older. He led her to a nearby bench, helped her get comfortable, kissed her on the forehead, and dashed across the Malecon to a food cart selling desserts. He returned moments later with two servings of flan.

Inspired by the boy, I made my way across the Malecon, navigating the obstacle course of dog leashes and legs, both canine and human, and peered at the flan. But a nearby slice of chocolate cake flirted with me. Seduced, I took my slice of Costco heaven back to my bench. I sat, set my coffee on the ground, and tried to take a bite of cake. It toppled off the elegant plastic fork, rolled down my white shirt, and dove into my coffee, hitting the cup’s rim and knocking it over. The runaway chocolate calorie collection, of course, left a smudge on my white shirt the length of the Rio Cuale. I finished my dessert anyway, picked up the now empty cup, spotted a nearby trash can, and started to rise.

But I was distracted.

Two men holding hands approached. One wore a matching shirt-and-shorts set in bold pinks and purples. The other wore a tight red mesh tank top. They appeared to be about twenty-five but closer inspection pegged them at forty.

“I can’t believe we’re finally here,” Mr. Matchy-Matchy said with exuberance. “So tomorrow, we spend the day at the beach at Blue Chairs or Ritmo’s, and then cocktails at every bar with hot men we can find.”

The other one shook his head. “I didn’t come here to be gay. I want to experience Mexico, the people, traditions, and sights.”

“We’ll go to bars that have drag shows.”

“Oh, that’s better, Bitch.”

A buxom bronze-toned blonde in a gold lamé bikini strutted by, her sheer cover-up billowing in the breeze. Two elderly Mexican men followed closely, ogling the woman.
“Americano o Canadiense?” one asked.

“No sé. Pero me gusta mucho,” his companion replied with lecherous approval. They snickered like schoolboys hearing their first dirty joke.

Two women, one fortyish, the other easily seventy, neared. Their faces reflected a mother-daughter relationship. ‘Mom’ wore a low-riding strapless top that clung to her breasts like seafoam to rocks.

“I am never zip-lining again,” the older one spewed. “Not in this.”

“No one saw, Mom.” 

A fair-haired, fair-skinned family stopped in front of me. They stood out in the crowd like pearls among Tiger Eyes. The father’s shirt announced ‘Amundson Family Reunion 2021.’ The two boys, perhaps six and eight, wore Burger King crowns. The mother gazed at the food carts across the way.

“I can’t believe we ate at Burger King,” she said with a sigh. 

“Yeah. That was cool,” one boy said as he knocked the crown off the other’s head.

“But next time, I wanna go to McDonald’s.”

“Or Wendy’s,” the other said as he picked up his crown.

“We don’t have Wendy’s here,” I offered.

My courteous assistance was ignored.

I got up and stepped to the trash bin. As I was about to deposit my styrofoam and plastic trash, a rotund man in a dirty, red trucker’s cap came toward me. He barged past several people, brushing against them, and attempted to drop a plastic cola bottle and crumpled potato chip bag into the garbage container. He missed. The bottle and bag fell to the ground. He walked on. I picked up his trash, tossed it, and wandered away, reeling from everything I had heard, seen, and spilled while sitting there.

It was then I realized I had not once noticed the view.



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