Crickets, gangstas, and laundry
Mexico, their slogan is "Expect the Unexpected", at least, I think that is the official slogan of tourism. If not, it should be. Sometimes the unplanned events are the most memorable. Two separate and unrelated conversations about chapulines (crickets) were no longer a coincidence when they appeared on the menu at Tulum restaurant Cenzontle, that very evening. Clearly, it became necessary to order the chapulin enchiladas. No, I did not expect to be eating insects that night, but their crunchy and spicy flavor in a five-chili sauce will have me coming back for more. If you haven't tried them, they don't taste like chicken but they are a bit nutty! Perhaps more akin to eating a fried shallot or garlic, full of umami flavor and delicate crunch. After our insectivorous meal, our little international posse (a German, a Mexican, a Chilean, and myself the lone American) went to the beach to look for shooting stars.
The next day, while chomping 30 peso fish tacos at a rickety plastic table on the beach, I found myself dining with 4 or 5 heavily tattooed Latino men. They looked a little (okay, largely) intimidating and were smoking cigars and being a bit boisterous. To break the ice, as I was sitting at the head of the table, like a literal boss, I mentioned the ubiquity of their tattoos, and the leader of their wolf-pack started conversing with me and my friends in a surprisingly open and friendly manner. Turns out he is the founder of One Shot One Kill Cigars. How the heck am I supposed to find common ground with this guy? Well, he had a camera tattooed on his arm, not just any camera, but a medium-format film camera. I am having lunch with Edgar Hoill! Cigars now, but previously, a famous photographer of ganglands, Yakuza, gritty border towns, Cuban slums, and low-rider cars). He offered me a label from one of his cigars, which had skulls and Mayan warriors on it, but also had delicate paisley symbols. I pointed out that it is a common symbol in henna patterns and was informed it is also a gang symbol! You learn something new every day. The following day, in rather stark contrast, I would be doing henna at one of the classiest hotels in the Riviera Maya, the Fairmont Mayakoba. Perhaps the groomsmen will be smoking his cigars.
At the other extreme, I took my damp and stinky laundry to a lavanderia. The lavanderia is basically someone's garage. The laundry is weighed and you are given a pick-up time and a slip of paper with your name and price on it. A few hours later I returned to retrieve my now bone dry, sparkling clean, and fresh-smelling, in that way that only Mexican laundry can be, clothing. At first it appeared that no one was on staff to get me my goods, but then a tiny little girl, no older than 5 or 6, peered from behind the counter, and greeted me cheerfully in Spanish. She asked my name and if I recognized my laundry (all in squeaky Spanish). I did, and handed her a 200 peso note. Unfortunately they were out of change, so she beckoned her father from what was possibly their backyard, and he took my 200 pesos out to go and get change. While I waited for my change, the little girl licked a thick smear of butter off a piece of toast, while staring at me with her gregarious smile. My laundry smells so good, I am going to keep it hermetically sealed in the plastic bag. Me encanta a Mexico!