The Day of the Dead Ladies of Puerto Vallarta

As I went through my photos for today’s post, I noticed that almost all of the human size sculptures were women. I wonder why?

The Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos, is a seriously fun holiday in Puerto Vallarta and throughout Mexico where the dearly departed are celebrated with hopes that the celebration will help them on their journey. People dress up in dead-people skeleton costumes, altars are established, and special foods are prepared. Gaily decorated skulls and skeletons are everywhere. Peggy and I have yet to be in Mexico when the event takes place (which is at the end of October/beginning of November), but the skulls and skeletons are still around, lots of them.

The skulls seem to represent both sexes equally, although this one seems to have a feminine cast to it. The gold teeth made me think of the dentist’s chair, a place I am all too familiar with. Ouch!

Of the life-size sculptures, I photographed, I could only find one man. This led me to speculate, naturally, as to why. I don’t think there is a reason particular to the holiday. About an equal number of men and women die, right. So is it that the girls dress up prettier, or that their eyes are more beautiful, or is it some other attribute, like the colorful bosom of the top photo.

Obviously, clothing is important, and you can do so much more with hats!
And certainly this woman with her red flowers and curls is well-dressed.
The hat and the boas lit up the lady from an earlier year. But what’s with the dead roses?
The eyes have it here…
And here. Same girl dressed up differently it would seem.
Remember the Red Hat Ladies. How about a long necked Red Hat Lady?
This gal had something to say. But I am not sure you would want to hear it.
Here was my only large guy sculpture. I had to go back in time to find it.
Smaller sculptures are found in the shops, often representing Huichol art.
Another example but probably not Huichol art since it is lacking in Huichol symbolism. (More on this in a later post.)
The red fingernails were a nice touch.
Peggy and I were walking down one of Puerto Vallarta’s road and came on this lady walking her dog.
And then there was this tile of a man out walking his dog— a dog that has a mission on its mind. Humor is an important part of the Day of the Dead.
Here’s a lady monkeying around.
A lady on a tile…
And a lady on a dish. Once again, the hat is an important item of clothing.
Skulls are found just about everywhere.
And are creatively decorated, with clouds, for example.
And with hearts.
You could have your kitchen decorated with Day of the Dead tiles. Maybe even peace symbols.
The Huichol have their own versions…
I conclude my Day of the Dead collection with this fellow. Just possibly, he had imbibed a little too much Huichol peyote!

NEXT POST: I am back on the PCT making my way between Carson Pass and Sonora Pass.

The Corsica Galeria de Art, the Galerie des Artistes, and the Cafe des Artistes… Puerto Vallarta

The Puerto Vallarta Art scene is extensive ranging from public art to private galleries and extensive crafts. I found this delightful sculpture at the Corsica Galeria de Art. This fellow looked like he was commenting on my failure to check on whether the Cafe des Artistes was open for lunch.

Peggy and I were in search of a good place to take her sister Jane and brother-in-law Jim to lunch when they joined us in Puerto Vallarta. Both are quite talented cooks, a fact we have benefited from many times. Since we had fond memories of the Cafe des Artistes, it was at the top of our list. Unfortunately, as we discovered when we arrived, it was closed for lunch. (Whoops.) There was no danger of starving to death, however. Restaurants are rarely farther than a block away in downtown PV. More to the point, we found a couple of top art galleries located right next door: The Corsica Galeria de Art and the Galerie des Artistes. I remembered both from earlier visits. Both galleries welcomed us and told me to take all of the photos I wanted. They were quite open to my blogging about them.  Publicity is publicity, right. I’ll start with the art I found at the Corsica Galeria de Art .

These Mexican Chihuahuas caught my attention immediately.
I was reminded of these two cuties we found on Puerto Vallarta’s Isla Cuale a few years ago. It appears that the light brown fellow was getting an earful! Maybe he forgot to take the garbage out. Obviously, he cares. Grin. (Actually, he was about to get his ear bitten. Teach him.)
The gallery featured several other colorful dogs in three dimension. I’m thinking boxer, here.
A profile shot!
This one reminded me of a cocker spaniel from my youth.
The obvious companion to the sculpture I opened the post with. The shadow seemed a little sinister to me, like an evil twin sister. And what’s with the sort of scorpion, sort of cat, sort of person on her hand? 
This was one of Peggy’s favorites in the way the eyes, mouth, teeth and tongue stood out, becoming almost real in comparison to the rest of the painting.
Peggy also was drawn to this hat with its many feathers. I found it almost surrealistic in its intensity.
Are you a person who finds clowns scary? The little girl with her balloon didn’t.  The triple chins suggest a bit too much fast food!
I liked the colorful bull although the eyes suggest it could have been a member of the devil’s herd in “Ghost Riders in the Sky.” (One of my favorite songs when I was growing up.)
Remember Senior Fish Head from my post on the Furniture Mart. This fellow seems to have a similar problem with fish on the brain. 
I’ll close my section on the Corsica with this sculpture. I found it quite unique. You can learn more about the gallery and its artists by visiting its website:  Corsica Galeria de Art

The Galerie des Artistes was immediately down the hill from the Corsica and had a decidedly different feel to it.

I felt that this fellow could have been found hanging out in the woods of ancient Greece.
One artist used hot air balloons to connect his paintings. Here the balloon is offering cherries to the bear. Knowing what I know about bears, it is about to gobble them down.
This giraffe is either coming out of or morphed into a city, giving a new meaning to the term skyscraper.
Alligator with companions on a unicycle? I’ll bet the artist has some very creative dreams. What would Freud say…
Mixed medium skull. I’m starting to think Day of the Dead. (Next post)
I am not sure whether cat woman is facing forward or backward, but she was colorful. Note the extra pair of arms. I blew this photo up and found bears, owls and rabbits staring back at me. But as you know, I have an active imagination and I am pretty sure that the artist was okay with me seeing whatever I wanted to see.
More eyes staring at me. Is that a come-hither pose? Or is it Blake Shelton saying ‘choose me’ on Voice..
And finally, i was quite taken with this collage of floral images.  I couldn’t find a website for Galerie des Artistes but apparently the gallery is on Facebook.

That’s it for the galleries, but it is not the end of the story. Peggy and I weren’t finished with our desire to revisit the Cafe des Artistes. So we made reservations and went there for our 28th Anniversary dinner. The ambience was superb, the waiters great, and the food delicious. Each year, Puerto Vallarta has a celebration featuring world-famous chefs and we ended up with one of the top chefs from Mexico City. It was a close to a perfect evening. We had to rely on our iPhone for photos. I had previously left my camera behind in a taxi and we weren’t able to recover it. The phone didn’t do well with capturing colors in the dim light, however,  so I have rendered these photos in black and white.

We were greeted with a free drink. Cheers!
A free hors d’ouvre arrived at our table next. There were also rose petals scattered on the tablecloth. .
I had short ribs in a delicious mole sauce and Peggy had an out of this world duck leg that melted in her mouth.
We couldn’t believe it when our dessert arrived on a large mirror platter complete with Happy Anniversary in chocolate surrounded by small dollops of raspberry sauce. A candle lit things up and a large spun sugar heart provided the backdrop! And no, I wasn’t a two-fisted drinker. We had moved Peggy’s glass of wine for the photo. Needless to say, the waiters were well-tipped!

NEXT POST: It’s time for the Day of the Dead. We missed it by a few days, but there were plenty of sculptures and crafts around to remind us of the event. Get ready for some bone-rattling fun.

The Chalk Art and Murals of Puerto Vallarta 2018

Chalk art from the 2018 Madonnari Festival in Puerto Vallarta featuring a shaman and his spirit animal.

Half the fun of travel is coming upon the unexpected. Peggy and I were walking across Puerto Vallarta’s main square when we came across a number of people creating chalk art. We had happened upon the annual Madonnari Art Festival that the town shares with its sister city of Santa Barbara, California. Category competition ranged from children to adults. Here are a few of the highlights. 

This was the young woman who was working on the shaman featured above.
Young people were working under colorful umbrellas to finish their work.
Which included these colorful fish.
A pregnant woman provided quite a contrast.
Not sure you would want this guy around your baby!
I liked the colorful flowers this young woman wore.
A close up. Peggy and I visited the area a few days later to take more photos. Time was beginning to impact the chalk art, reflecting its impermanence.
Another artist worked on his masterpiece. I admired the young boy’s look of surprise or wonder..
A masked woman…
And finally, never trust a smiling shark.

Mural art shares a lot with chalk art, both in terms of its limited time frame and spontaneity. Peggy and I revisited a number of the murals we had seen in past visits to Puerto Vallarta plus discovered some new ones. 

This was an old favorite…
I decided it would be fun to render the mural in black and white. I liked the results. I believe the symbolism represents Huichol art, which I will be doing a post on.
Nice kitty!
Realistic cow and moth.
Rather scary shaman/animal.
An interesting decoration for a woman’s restroom. Just how bad do you have to go to face up to a devil fish and devils?
A closer look.
Senior Iguana plays a banjo while an excited frog jumps out of the lake.
We found a couple of black and white murals.
This one reminded me of the popular books where you fill in the colors.
This was part of the same mural.
Shaman woman rising out of a lake, possibly working a little magic on you.
A woman/shaman with a coyote mask?
I’ll conclude today with this native woman who is holding a fawn.

NEXT POST:  I head south on the PCT from Carson Pass, which is named after the explorer Kit Carson, who happened to be caught in a snow storm starving on his first trip across the pass. He reported that dog and dried peas made a tasty treat. I don’t know if I would trust the word of a starving man, however.

A Wonderful, Whacky Pelican… Puerto Vallarta

I’ve spent a lot of time watching and photographing pelicans. Their committee-put-together look makes them a favorite of mine. But I have never seen one do this. It delighted me. I think it was trying to scare up a fish. The majority of brown pelicans make their living by diving from the air for dinner. This fellow may have been a bit young and small for the big time.

The Rio Cuale sits in the heart of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a delightful place with a long island in the middle (Isla Cuale) that includes good restaurants, fun shops, and some very interesting art. The island got its start in the 1960s as an airstrip for rich Hollywood types such as Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and John Huston. 

My favorite thing about the Rio Cuale, however, is the rich wildlife it supports including a variety of water birds and giant iguanas. Bird life includes pelicans, cormorants, herons, egrets and more. On my recent visit I was particularly taken by the young fellow featured above and a snowy egret.

Here is the young brown pelican behaving more or less like I am used to seeing brown pelicans behave.
I am not sure what the youngster is up to here. Scratching an itch? Spreading oil?
Its action here is clear. It’s preening. The pelican and other water fowl have an oil gland near their tail that they use for oiling their body to make feathers more waterproof.
Here it is again, apparently trying to scare up another fish.
And a final shot of our young friend. We speculated that maybe it was a little young for the normal brown pelican approach to fishing.
A few hundred feet away, brown pelicans were fishing in the more traditional way.
Kersploosh!
I caught this orgy of Pelican fishing in Puerto Vallarta in 2016. The insane dive on the right is one of the things I love about pelicans.
I must say that this snowy egret on the Rio Cuale provided a great photo-op as well.
Here’s the snowy egret in a more traditional pose.

The River Cafe is a short way up the Isla Cuale from where we found the pelican and the snowy egret. We like it for its tasty, well-presented food. But we also like it because you can almost always find iguanas hanging out in the trees and on the ground next to the river. This year we spotted a very green one…

It was so green, it almost disappeared among the leaves. The large flap of skin hanging down from the iguana’s chin is called a dewlap. No self-respecting Iguana would be without one. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

We’ve had numerous encounters with iguanas over the years in Puerto Vallarta. But none matched the time when one came to visit us in our villa. I did a post on our welcome visitor, but just for fun, I decided to put up a few photos on him again.

It all started out with a stranger staring in our window at us. Naturally we had to see who had come to visit.
Outside, we found this large iguana staring at his reflection in the window. There were two possibilities: One he had found the love of his life. Or, two, he had discovered a large rival impinging on his territory. Iguanas can be quite territorial.
On closer inspection, our visitor appeared to be quite handsome. I imagine he was a heart throb.
His claws appeared a bit on the scary side. I, for one, wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.
I looked him in the eye, wondering what a lady iguana would see in him. I call this photo The Eye of the Iguana after the Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr movie “The Night of the Iguana.” The movie, directed by John Huston, was filmed in Puerto Vallarta giving the then small fishing village a kickstart to becoming a mega-tourist attraction.
Of course we had to invite Senior Iguana in for a visit. His tail is still outside. He was a big fellow.
He wandered around looking for his love/rival and then finally settled down on the floor like a dog. I couldn’t help but think he would make a great burglar deterrent! After a while, he stood up, checked our villa one more time and then wandered back outside. Next post I will feature a chalk art festival and several murals in Puerto Vallarta. After that, it’s hitting the PCT again, hiking south from Carson Pass.

Weird Things— and Unique Furniture… The Furniture Mart Of Puerto Vallarta

I promised some weird things I found at the Furniture Mart in Puerto Vallarta. I think this guy qualifies. Maybe his weirdness  goes along with having fake, orangish hair. (grin)

Peggy and I have now returned from our trip to Puerto Vallarta. It’s always a good source for blog material. Today, I am going to wrap up our visit to the Furniture Mart, which was right across the street from our hotel. Later I will have several more blogs on PV’s burgeoning art scene as well as get back to a couple of my favorite animals: pelicans and iguanas.  I was amused by both the weird things and unique furniture at the Mart. Enjoy. (Note: Some of these photos came from an earlier visit in 2015.)

Do you think that the Furniture Mart could have hung more things on its walls? And do you find the bony fish as amusing as I did?
Speaking of fish, I suspect these  gave this guy a horrendous headache. I’m pretty sure there is a myth here, but I don’t know it.
Here’s a front view of the fellow I introduced at the top of the post. He’s still scary.
Not so scary, but still not someone you would want to meet on a dark night. Check out the eyes. The teeth remind me of piranha that Peggy and I caught on the Amazon River— and ate. 
I found these masks more intriguing than frightening. The blood shot eyes suggest a long night of partying.
I think that this is a Mayan warrior. There were several life-size sculptures like this scattered throughout the store. Is he holding a monkey or a baby?
A close-up of his head.
Senior Metal Head had wild hair and a wiry mustache.
But his eyebrows and beard were no match for Senior Rope Hair.
As one might imagine, you can find a lot of furniture in a Furniture Mart. This 20 foot table cut from a single log is an example. It appears that the two frogs were impressed.
I decided that a large mirror would serve for a selfie. I look appropriately small.
How about carved wild horses for a table and chairs?
This table was made by cutting through roots of a large tree root. It will be covered with a glass top, I assume.
This table featured a colorful, carved ocean scene.
Matched by the chairs.
This cabinet, featuring a painted ocean scene, was also quite impressive.
A room divider…
As I mentioned in a previous post, the Furniture Mart is a family affair. 85-year-old Grandpa makes these attractive glass lamp-shades.
I’ll conclude with an example of the lamp shades being used in a chandelier. My next post on PV will include pelicans and iguanas, but first it will be back to my hike down the PCT.

NEXT POST: A beautiful lake in Lassen National Park along the Pacific Crest Trail, plus Bone makes some new friends.

Furniture Mart or Zoo or??? … The Art of Puerto Vallarta

A friendly wolf licks Peggy’s face at the Furniture Mart in Puerto Vallarta.

Peggy and I have been coming to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for a long time, long enough to see the lovely two and three story hotels along the north beach replaced by would-be sky scrapers that encroach on more and more beach.

We always stay at the Krystal Hotel, which is located along the main road between the airport and downtown. Years ago, we bought a time share here. It’s not something you do as an investment, regardless of how fast the sales people talk or whip out figures that you are not allowed to take away and study. In fact, there are much less expensive ways to see Mexico. Forget what we paid originally, the ever-increasing maintenance fees alone would easily cover an annual visit to PV, or anywhere else in Mexico.

But Peggy and I like the staff, our villa comes with a swimming pool, and we have fallen in love with Puerto Vallarta: its art, great dining, tropical sunsets, friendly people and amazing wildlife. There is even a taste of more traditional Mexico once you escape from the popular tourist areas.

I’ve blogged a fair amount about the town, more than I remember. I laughed a couple of days ago when I was doing Google research on PV’s public art, came across a promising heading, clicked on it, and landed on my blog.  

I’ve even blogged about the furniture store directly across the road from the Krystal. And I am going to blog about it again— today. I can pretty much guarantee that it is unlike any furniture store you have ever seen. It all started as a failed restaurant. Peggy and I ate there once upon a time.The food was good but the customers were scarce.

The family scurried about,searching for some other way to make a living and decided to make furniture.They also decided to sell art decorations for the home, everything from cute little ceramic frogs to giant metal rhinos. Collecting unusual items became something of a passion.

There must be hundreds of ceramic frogs hanging out at the Furniture Mart. This one is a cutie, complete with eyelashes.
Contrast it with a full sized metal rhino!

The three, or four, or maybe five story structure feels like an Escher painting where you meet yourself coming and going. It is crammed full of art, wood carvings, pottery, strange statues, masks, and Mexican knick-knacks galore, as well as very unique furniture. There are thousands of items. The family of Carlos Paez Coronado describes their building as the Furniture Mart, the largest store of its type in Mexico, and a museum.

We visited this time with Peggy’s sister Jane and her husband Jim who were staying at our villa with us for a week. Jane loves ceramic plates and has dozens of them. We knew she would like the store. Senior Pepe greeted us and assured us that if we bought any item costing a few grand and weighing who knows how many pounds, he would personally deliver it to our doorsteps in Oregon or Sacramento. (Anyone need a 20-foot-long table?) He and his brother fill up a truck with purchased items and make an annual trip across the border. We disappointed Pepe on the mucho grande sale, but Jane almost bought enough plates to make up for it.

I have enough fun wandering through the Furniture Mart that I am going to do three posts on it: One on the wonderfully wild (and tame animals), one on the pottery, and one on the furniture and weird things. Today it is all about animals!

A ferocious jaguar stalking across the floor.
With big teeth.
A friendly dog…
That Peggy pets.
A toothy lion.
An eagle and a jaguar have a discussion about which is most ferocious.
Given this eagle, I’d say a toss-up.
A realistic carved horse…
That Peggy befriends.
Puerto Vallarta’s favorite lizard: The iguana. I’ll be doing a post on these big fellows.
Head shot!
A turbaned elephant…
A trumpeting trunk.
A crabby crab.
A fighting stag displays its hooves.
I’ll conclude my exploration of the Furniture Mart today with this striking painting of a giraffe. Next up on the Mart will be ceramics ranging from pigs to plates.

It’s Turkey Day here in Puerto Vallarta, so Peggy and I will be heading out for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Several restaurants cater to the day. But I couldn’t find a turkey to represent the holiday…

So, a moose will have to do!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all of our Internet friends! –Curt and Peggy. 

Folks in Puerto Vallarta Take the Dead Seriously… Sort of

Catrina hound in Puerto Vallarta Mexico

The charming Catrina has come to symbolize the Day of the Dead. Each artist creates his or her own version. I thought the heart and flowers added a special touch.

Come November 1st, people in Mexico prepare to entertain their dead ancestors. El Día de los Muertos, or, the Day of the Dead, has arrived. Home altars are set up; special foods are left out for the dearly departed; and people get ready to party with grandpa, even though he is no longer around. Why not? If you’d been moldering away in a grave for twenty years— or even a day as far as that goes, wouldn’t you be ready for a little fun, a bottle of tequila, and a six-pack of cerveza?

From a more serious perspective, the Day of the Dead allows people to get together and remember friends and family who have passed on. The tradition dates back to the ancient times of the Aztecs. More recently, the Catholic Church adopted it, as it often has with indigenous beliefs, to expand the flock and keep them faithful. The government, in hopes of promoting national unity, declared the day a national holiday.

Not far behind the church and the state, Mexican businesses quickly figured out that El Día de los Muertos was a cash cow waiting to be milked. Almost any market you enter in Puerto Vallarta offers Day of the Dead items for purchase. Among the most popular are skulls.

Skull art found in Puerto Vallarta.

Skulls are found for sale everywhere in Puerto Vallarta. This fine example is a from Oaxaca. The shop person told me that all of the paint brushes used in Oaxaca art are made from human hair.

Okay, this skull is wild! The art is created by laying lines of beads into wax, a process used by the Huichol indians.

Okay, this skull is wild! The art is created by laying lines of beads into wax, a process used by the Huichol indians.

Skull art found in Puerto Vallarta.

Ceramic skulls are much more common in markets, and much less expensive.

An army of skulls found in the Municipal Market of Puerto Vallarta.

An army of skulls found in the Municipal Market of Puerto Vallarta.

Miniature box art for the Day of the Dead found in Puerto Vallarta.

Miniature box art also captures the spirit of The Day of the Dead. This is a scene in an auto mechanic’s shop. Everyone, it appears, is having a good laugh. Maybe they are discussing the bill.

Dealing with the spirits of the dead is worldwide. When I was a little boy growing up next to a graveyard and sleeping outside in the summer, I encouraged our three cats and two dogs to sleep on the small cot with me. They were my protection from the denizens of the dark. It didn’t matter that there was barely room for me. As a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, I quickly learned that the spirits of the newly dead were particularly dangerous. An all night wake, with lots of rum and much wailing, was required to send the restless spirit on his or her way. My first night in Gbarnga, I heard people screaming and beating drums without a clue about what was happening. It was a long night.

We arrived in Mexico a few days too late to rub elbows with the dead, but we ran into Catrina in a number of locations. This lovely skeleton-woman with her stylish look and clothes has come to symbolize the Day of the Dead and Mexico’s willingness to laugh at death. She started off in the early 1900s as something of a satirical comment on Mexico’s one-percenters of the time, and their desire to wear the latest and most expensive of European fashions. She served as a reminder that regardless of our social status in life, we all end up in the same condition: dead. I salute the people of Mexico for their sense of humor about the subject.

Judging from the number and variety of Catrinas we found, I surmised that Puerto Vallarta's visitors bureau had sponsored a Catrina contest for the Day of the Dead.

Judging from the number and variety of Catrinas we found, I surmised that Puerto Vallarta’s visitors bureau had sponsored a make your own Catrina contest for the Day of the Dead.

We found this Catrina with her frilly hat at the Municipal Market.

We found this Catrina with her frilly hat, hot pepper necklace, and cactus blouse at the Municipal Market.

We found this realistic Catrina at the same location in the Municipal Market on a previous visit to Puerto Vallarta.

And this realistic Catrina at the same location in the Municipal Market on a previous visit to Puerto Vallarta. Note the snazzy ear rings.

I wondered if this blond bombshell with her generous boobs wasn't a Marilyn Monroe Catrina.

I wondered if this blond bombshell with her generous boobs wasn’t a Marilyn Monroe Catrina.

I don't think I have ever seen a plunging neckline plunge this much.

I don’t think I have ever seen a plunging neckline plunge this much. And isn’t the red hat something! I’m thinking this lady is someone’s Valentine.

A Huichol artist worked on creating a Catrina in one of the shops we visited.

A Huichol artist worked on creating a Catrina in one of the shops we visited. I added my pesos to her tip jar and snapped a photo.

Miniature Catrinas, such as this one, and their male counterparts are created to sell to people who don't have have room, or the money, to buy a big one. Many are quite beautifully made with fine attention to detail.

Miniature Catrinas, such as this one— and their male counterparts, are created to sell to people who don’t have the room or money to buy a big one. Many are quite beautifully made with fine attention to detail.

The Puerto Vallarta airport featured a number of Catrina's, including this one.

This gal greeted us at the Puerto Vallarta airport as we were flying back to Oregon.

 

NEXT BLOG: “Want to buy some junk? Almost free.” words of a vendor as we passed his booth. The markets of Puerto Vallarta carry everything from tourist trinkets to valuable folk art.

A miracle of the modern culinary arts: the self stuffing turkey. Happy Thanksgiving. The turkey above is from one of the cards I used to create before writing and blogging took over my life. While we celebrate family and friends here in the US, I also want my friends in Europe and other parts of the world who have suffered so much recently to know that my thoughts are with you. Every day. –Curt

A miracle of the modern culinary arts: the self stuffing turkey. Happy Thanksgiving.     The turkey above is from one of the cards I used to create before writing and blogging took over my life.    While we celebrate family and friends here in the US, I also want my friends in Europe and other parts of the world who have suffered so much recently to know that my thoughts are with you. Every day. –Curt

 

 

 

 

 

The Day of the Iguana… Adventures in Puerto Vallarta

As the iguana stared balefully back at me, his eye seemed to grow.

As the iguana stared balefully back at me, his eye seemed to grow.

 

Peggy and I are in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. While she works on her next Cotswolds post, I decided to slip one in on Puerto Vallarta.

I was home alone when I heard the scratching on our door. Peggy had gone off with our friends Ken and Leslie in hopes of finding Wi-Fi in the hotel lobby. I had wished them luck. The Internet is an on again/off again proposition here at the Krystal Hotel in Puerto Vallarta.

I looked up, thinking maybe the maid had come early, or the pool man. But usually they knock and shout “Ola.” No one was there. I went back to writing. I was editing Peggy’s blog on the villages of the Cotswolds.

SCRATCH, SCRATCH, SCRATCH. “What the…?” I thought, looking up again. The villa has these large, arch-shaped doors made of frosted glass that let in light but not prying eyeballs. Off to the right I spotted what appeared to be large, scary head staring at me through the opaque glass. I recognized it.

The doorways to our villa in Puerto Vallarta were arched. The iguana appeared in the lower right window.

The doorways to our villa in Puerto Vallarta were arched. The iguana appeared in the lower right window.

The head of the iguana appearing through frosted glass reminded me of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

The head of the iguana appearing through frosted glass reminded me of the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

“Aha!” went racing through my mind, “Senior Iguana is here for a visit.” I rushed over to the door and opened it, wondering if he would come in. It would be amusing to watch Peggy, Ken and Leslie’s reaction to finding a large lizard hanging out on the floor of our living room. Maybe I could entice him up onto the couch with a banana.

I found the Puerto Vallarta iguana outside scratching at our window. Was it asking to come in?

I found the Puerto Vallarta iguana outside scratching at our window. Was it asking to come in?

“Ola, Buenos Dias Senior Iggy. Welcome!” I proclaimed. Senior Iggy stared up at me balefully and said not a word. Maybe he didn’t like being called Iggy. He went back to scratching the window with his long claws.

I went inside and retrieved a banana. Back outside I sat down on the porch step, peeled the banana, and tossed a piece to the iguana. He ignored it, like he was ignoring me. It was then that I noticed that Iggy was staring at the window, not through it. He had found true love in a perfect reflection of himself. What’s a puny banana in comparison?

I discovered the iguana was admiring its reflection in the window and wondered if it was breeding season and the large Puerto Vallarta lizard believed he had found true love— or possibly a rival.

I discovered the iguana was admiring its reflection in the window and wondered if it was breeding season and the large Puerto Vallarta lizard believed he had found true love— or possibly a rival.

I was still sitting on the doorstep when Ken, Leslie and Peggy returned. I heard them laughing with one of the gardeners when they spotted me sitting with the iguana. “They are good to eat,” the gardener told them. “They taste like chicken.” Naturally. My friends approached quietly, not wanting to scare Iggy.

“Don’t worry, the iguana is in love.” I doubt that a brass band would have disturbed him. Ken, Leslie, and Peggy each sat down on the porch step where I had been to admire our new best friend. We went inside with the iguana still staring at himself, deeply in love, or perhaps lust. He was still there when we left 45 minutes later, but had departed when we returned in four hours, undoubtedly heart-broken.

Peggy sat where I had and admired the iguana as he tried to reach his reflection.

Peggy sat where I had and admired the iguana as he tried to reach his reflection.

Two days later Peggy and I noticed that another iguana was outside, this time at the door leading to our pool. “Do you think he will come in if we open the door this time?” Peggy asked. “One way to find out,” I responded. Sure enough, a few minutes later we saw a head peaking in. And then the whole iguana followed. Peggy quickly jumped up and closed the door to our bedroom. We might find an iguana in our living room and kitchen amusing. Sleeping under our bed or in our shower would be another issue. He (I am assuming it was a male) wandered around looking for the beautiful girl iguana he knew lived in our villa. He stopped to eat a couple of mosquitos, his big tongue lashing out. (“Go big fellow!” we urged.) Finally, I opened the front door. Off he went.

We left the door open to see if the iguana would come inside searching for the other iguana. We were thrilled to see his head appear…

We left the door open to see if the iguana would come inside searching for the other iguana. We were thrilled to see his head appear…

…Soon to be followed by the rest of the iguana.

…Soon to be followed by the rest of the iguana.

The iguana settled onto the floor and checked us our. He looked much less beat up than the first iguana that had come to visit. Note the size of the claws.

The iguana settled onto the floor and checked us out. He looked much less beat up than the first iguana that had come to visit. Note the size of the claws.

He was truly a handsome specimen.

He was truly a handsome specimen.

Iguanas are common in Puerto Vallarta. We often spot them on the Rio Cuale, big fellows hanging out in the trees above the river— and this isn’t the first time we have spotted them at our villa. Their images are captured in everything from tourist trinkets to expensive art. They even played a major role in Puerto Vallarta’s top industry: tourism.

This big fellow was taking his afternoon siesta in a tree next Puerto Vallarta’s attractive River Cuale.

This big fellow was taking his afternoon siesta in a tree next Puerto Vallarta’s attractive River Cuale.

This small vase with a beaded iguana was made by our friend, Ernesto, a Huichol Indian, for our grandson Ethan whom he had met two years ago.

This small vase with a beaded iguana was made by our friend, Ernesto, a Huichol Indian, for our grandson Ethan whom he had met two years ago.

We found this large mural of an iguana in Old Town Puerto Vallarta.

We found this large mural of an iguana in Old Town Puerto Vallarta.

In 1964, Hollywood director John Huston brought his all-star cast of Richard Burton, Ava Gardner, and Deborah Kerr to the area to film The Night of the Iguana (thus the title of this blog), which was based on a play written by Tennessee Williams in 1961. To add a little spice, Burton, who was still married, brought along his future wife, Elizabeth Taylor. Hollywood had discovered Puerto Vallarta, and, because of the scandal between Dick and Liz, the world did as well.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had adjoining houses connected by a bridge when they were in Puerto Vallarta for filming The Night of the Iguana in 1964.

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor had adjoining houses connected by a bridge when they were in Puerto Vallarta for filming The Night of the Iguana in 1964.

The Day of the Dead… A Brief Interlude

Day of the Dead skeleton in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

This girl was all decked out for the Day of the Dead

It’s the Day of the Dead, or Día de Muertos in Spanish. My blogging friend, James at Gallivance, and Google inspired me to post my favorite Day of the Dead skeleton as a quick break from my kayak series. (I’ll get back to kayaking in my next blog.)

Peggy and I found this beauty at the public market in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The purpose of the day is to remember friends and family who have passed on. It’s big in Mexico. And Mexicans have made a fortune in selling representative statues to tourists.

Today, Día de Muertos is a Catholic festival, but it owes its beginning to the Aztecs. People often take the favorite foods of the deceased out to the gravesite so the dead person can feast. Got to keep those ghosts happy. Trick or treat comes to mind.

May all your ghosts be happy ghosts. –Curt

A popular restaurant in Puerto Vallarta features these to singing cuties on its balcony.

A popular restaurant in Puerto Vallarta features these two singing cuties on its balcony.

A side view of my favorite. Check out the earrings!

A side view of my favorite. Check out the earrings!

A Whale of a Tale– or has Nessie Migrated… Gone fishing in Puerto Vallarta

Photo of Pacific Ocean outside of Banderas Bay, Mexico. Photo taken by Curtis Mekemson.

The ocean is both beautiful and mysterious, filled with marvelous creatures of the deep. I took this photo outside of Banderas Bay, Mexico.

You have all seen the grainy photos of Nessie, the want-to-be monster that hangs out at Loch Ness in Scotland. I, too, have stood on the shores of the fabled lake with eyes peeled and camera poised. Unfortunately, Nessie didn’t bless me with her presence. Sigh. Neither fame nor fortune was to be mine.

One of the more famous photos of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. This is an AP photo.

One of the more famous photos of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. This is an AP photo.

But what if I were to discover Nessie in Banderas Bay off the coast of Puerto Vallarta. Or at least something that looked like Nessie. So what if a little help from Photoshop was called for. Would people believe me? Maybe my photos would appear on CNN… or glory of glories, even FOX News, which, as every one knows, is fair and balanced. I suspect I could at least count on support from the local chamber of commerce. Monster sightings are always good for tourism. Anyway, consider the following:

Nessita, Nessie's daughter looks across the Bay of Banderas in search of a fat tourist who as eaten too many tacos.

Nessita, Nessie’s daughter looks across the Bay of Banderas in search of a tourist who has eaten too many tacos.

Having spotted her prey, Nessita dives beneath the water, coils unfulring as she goes.

Having spotted her prey, Nessita dives beneath the water, coils unfurling as she goes.

And disappears beneath the waves.

And disappears.

I am basically an honest guy, however. Otherwise I’d be rich or in jail. Right? Plus, all of you good folks who follow me, not to mention Word Press, might get a little excitable if I deliberately misled you. I am already under suspicion for reporting on ghosts and Bigfoot. So, I have to confess. What my son-in-law Clay, grandson Ethan, and I came across while fishing were humpback whales frolicking in Banderas Bay. But even they were wonderful, and strange.

Dorsal fin of humpback whale taken off the coast of Puerto Vallarta. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Dorsal fin of humpback whale in the Bay of Banderas.

Head of humpback whale in the Bay of Banderas. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

And the whale’s head.

How was the fishing? At least fair to middling, as the old timers say. Consider it from Ethan’s perspective. Any time you can catch a fish almost as big as you are, it’s a BIG fish. Imagine the tales that Ethan had to tell when he returned to school in Tennessee.

Fishing in the Bay of Banderas. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Our grandson Ethan displays his catch, a jack crevalle.

Even Clay and I got lucky.

Nice fish, but would you invite this motley crew into your house?

Nice fish, but would you invite this motley crew into your house?

NEXT BLOG: 2014 Burning Man tickets go on sale in February. I give you five reasons you might want to purchase one.