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A Mexican Odyssey of Tiny Bellhops and Inexplicable Tanlines


After a quick trip to Mexico, I'm moving (moving!) to Israel in less than 48 hours. I’m seriously questioning if I’ll be able to devote more than 6 of those hours to sleeping.

I think the notion of ‘a trip to Mexico’ usually entails one of two things — college kids binge drinking Coronas while naked and/or wearing sombreros, or drug mules headed south to fetch a colon full of cocaine — and both are worlds away from the family vacation from which I just returned . Well, at least the vacation was farther from latter than the former. My folks, the small, pale Northeastern Jews that they are, often seemed comically out of place at our near-Cancun resort, as full of young-ish, sexy internationals as it was young-ish, Mexican families. I noticed an oddly small number of Americans, and those I met were mostly from the South, and mostly drunk by 11am — best summed up by our new friend Susan, the 51-year-old mother from Idaho who simply could never, ever, find her 18-year-old daughter, but could never, ever be found not double-fisting luke-warm margaritas, two factors that were undeniably and inextricably related.

That said, everyone got a bit of what they wanted from the trip. My father Steve got to sit on the beach and relax whilst the family was all together for seemingly the last time in the next year, my mother Randi got to hit the ocean and check out some Mexican crafts, and Phil and I stumbled into a series of adventures that I’ll give you a smattering of below.

Here’s a sampling…

In no particular order, Phil and I… …Walked 2 miles to a nude beach, undressed, and laid on some beach chairs. Two minutes later, a tall German woman was standing over us saying we could remain on the beach, but not in the chairs, as the beach was private. Accordingly, Phil moved his naked butt off the chair and onto the sand directly next to the chair. Seemed fair. We walked into the water, and mere minutes later were being waved ashore by a brooding Mexican man, who scolded us for invading private property — only after silently marching us down the beach and off the premises with his giant arms crossed. Let me tell you, I’ve been kicked out of a lot of places, but this was the first time I’d been naked. Being kicked out of anywhere while completely nude takes shame to an entirely new level.

… At one point, engaged in a hotel room food fight with several French Canadians that involved a barrage of hot dogs being thrown like grenades. At 4 a.m.

… Met a Mexican pool boy who would be Jason Segel, if Jason Segel were a Mexican pool boy.

… Trekked into Puerto Morelos, a tiny beach town a few miles from our resort full of tiny restaurants run by tiny Mexicans. At one point, I was questioning if any waitress in Mexico was over 4 feet tall. The answer is almost certainly yes, but I couldn’t honestly tell you that as fact, because I didn’t encounter any. Regardless, we sipped the sweet, sweet nectar of Sols that cost a dollar and empanadas that were made in front of us and cost less than 70 cents. We chose said empanada emporium based on the impressive quantity of flies that circled the kitchen, which we could spot from across the road. Street food is an art, and I’ve found that the grimier looking the kitchen, the nicer the folks making the food, and, often, the better that food tastes. We struggled to order from a great little family who spoke no English, until an uncle or older brother cut through the confusing Spanish/English jigsaw puzzle of a conversation and loudly stated,”What can I do for you, today?” Ordering was much easier after that. And the food was incredible. And, yes, covered in flies.

… Dove off an abandoned pier into the Caribbean.

… Realized that we tan in fantastically different ways. Or, rather, I got a tan, and Phil’s skin turned into a paint-shades book of various reds and pinks.

… Became the impromptu owners of a pack of stray Mexican dogs. We were walking rather shamefully back from the nude beach when we encountered a pack of wealthy and, at the time, honest-looking Europeans. They introduced us to their lovely dogs, Negrita and Blanca, who were, as you may imagine, black and white. We sat in the shade playing with the dogs for 90 seconds before realizing the Europeans were gone – vanished. We began our walk back to the resort, and were followed by the dogs, who clearly did not belong to said Europeans. For 30 minutes, we were teetering between three thoughts: Wow, playing with dogs on the beach sure is great! and Wow, we’re being stalked by a pair of homeless Mexican beach dogs, this could get weird, and, Europeans sure are tricksters.

… Drug our parents into downtown Cancun — the actual town, not the tourist trap hotel zone — where we ordered the World’s Largest Margaritas at a great Mexican bar. About half way through the drinks, we were spontaneously sombrero-ed, and within seconds the Mexican photo crew at the restaurant were taking our pictures. I’ve rarely seen my parents so uncomfortable, which was hilarious. And yet, they weren’t nearly as uncomfortable as a small Asian woman sitting across from us, who, when spontaneously sombrero-ed herself, sported a look of such terror that I legitimately thought she would silently begin to weep into her bowl of salsa. Once we were properly liquored, Phil and Steve began comparing chins — as in, who has more. The argument was impossible to quelch, so I asked our waiter how many chins he saw between my brother and father. Though it took several minutes, he finally grasped the question, and answered “Seven.” How many do you see? …Were invited to go a-drinking with a 4-foot bellhop named Luis, who told us that A) we’d need him if we wanted to go out in Cancun, because “No one will shoot you if you’re with a Mexican,” and B) he’d phoned his wife and told her he wouldn’t be coming home Friday night. Whether that meant he planned to stay in our room, or fall asleep in a Mexican gutter, I’ll never know. We didn’t take him up on the offer.

There are more stories, but it’s time to start packing. At this point, I leave for Israel in 42 hours.