When it is rainy season in the Costa Maya, it can rain for long periods and it can rain very hard. And unfortunately, sometimes it can do both. This day was one of those. It had been raining for three days straight. The streets were flooded, the ocean was very angry and everyone was looking for a dry place to hang out and wait for some sunshine. There were no ships in town, so everyone was in their “slow” mode, with nobody having much of anything to really do except sit and watch it rain. Buster was behind the bar, chatting with Stewart and his wife Paula, Mahahual’s newest part time residents.
“So what made you choose Mahahual as a place to buy a vacation home,” asked Buster as he slid both another cold Corona to go with their fish tacos.
“We’ve been looking for something in the Caribbean for a couple years now,” said Stewart, and when we saw these beaches at these prices. Hey I know a good deal when I see one.”
“That is why he wanted to buy here,” said Paula. “I just love the little town. One minute it is hustle and bustle with cruise ship tourist and the next it is a small town with this interesting and eclectic local population. The people are so nice. I just love it!”
“An ‘eclectic local population’ ”, laughed Buster. “That is one way of putting it. Sometimes it is closer to a freak show but it goes with the territory down here. Look around here, we’re pretty full. What do you see?”
“I see a bunch of people sitting around, eating, drinking and chatting. Pretty normal.”
“That’s cause you are new here,” said Buster. “This is really a total freak show, but you just don’t see it. It’s the “Christmas effect”. You know how Christmas can cause people to act weird, like they would not normally. People become very generous, family feuds end, hell even wars stop and enemies have celebrated together at Christmas. Freak shows. That’s what you’re really looking at here.”
They both looked around and back at Buster with a look of confusion.
“Costa Maya has the same affect on people, Let me show you what I mean. See those four people sitting together over there? I promise you, no place in the world would those people so much as even speak to one another, let alone sit together. The couple on the left is Buddy and Sasha. They have more money than God and a huge house out north of town. He made his fortune developing land all over the south. Knocking down forest and putting in golf courses and sub divisions. You know, “paving paradise and putting up a parking lot” kinda guy. The trashy couple sitting with them is a couple of Shiite tree huggers from BC who have been hanging around town now for a few weeks, preaching the green gospel, doing hair braids and odd jobs. Very nice people, just not the kind that normally hang out with two of the Bradenwood Country Club’s finest members. Sunshine, the lady, just braided Sasha’s hair for $25 and is now talking a bunch of new age, hippie spiritualism to two people, who in the US, would not have hired them to cut their lawn. And look at them, They are actually listening to them like their accountant on April 14th.”
“”They do look like an odd pairing but I suppose that is a good thing,” said Paula.
“It’s a great thing actually. Something about this place that does that. I think we strip life back to the basics here and once you do that, we realize how we are all really the same to a large degree. You can’t impress people with fancy clothes here because the weather is such, we all wear as little as possible. To hell with fashion. And forget makeup and hairspray. Old Sasha over there would not be caught dead in Atlanta looking the way she looks here.”
“Yea, well I can agree on that,” chimed in Paula with a laugh. “Matter of fact, how do you like my new hat. I decided to just buy that instead of more hairspray.”
“Hey, I think you look beautiful just like this,” said Stewart with an admiring smile.
“See that guy over there with those two cute girls,” said Buster. “That’s motorcycle Mike. We have a half dozen Mikes here so we name them Mike something. This Mike blew into town a month ago on his motorcycle, so he became motorcycle Mike. He has been traveling Central America for a year on his bike and is slowly working his way back to Indiana. Very slowly! We also have Minnesota Mike, because he is from St. Paul. We have Loco Mike, named such because he got thrown in jail his first night in town for skinny-dipping drunk in the pool at Caballo Blanco Hotel. Problem was he was not a guest and all the others in the pool were. Kinda awkward.”
Stewart and Paula looked at one another and just giggled.
“We have Stubby Mike, Nasty Mike and one nut Mike too,” laughed Buster.
“Why do they call him one nut Mike,” asked Paula with a look of apprehension as much as curiosity.
Buster looked at Stewart and winked, “Because that dude is one big nut I suppose. I’m telling you. Total freak show,” laughed Buster. “See that guy over there thinking he is going to get lucky with one, or even all three of those cute ladies he is sitting with. Well he’s gonna get something alright but it ain’t gonna be lucky.”
“I don’t know,” grinned Stewart. “They really look like they are wanting to buy whatever it is he is selling them right now.”
“Yea, I know. It kinda looks like that doesn’t it. Problem is, those are not ladies. Transvestites. All three of them. That dude is a tourist and he has no idea they are trying to pick him up, not the other way around. Hey, you get enough tequila in him and you never know. Like we say around here, what happens in Mahahual, well, we laugh at after you leave.”
“Oh my,” said Paula. “Mahahual has transvestites?”
“I told you, we have a little bit of everything here. All part of the freak show. Those guys, or gals really, are actually pretty cool. We had a few gay guys move here a few years ago and they found out that here, nobody really cares if you are straight, gay, whatever here. It is live and let live in Mahahual. Once their friends heard, more moved here and then the trannies came. We have a small but friendly and for the most part, very homogeneous homo community. Hey, that’s pretty good. I just made that up!”
“Okay, I’m beginning to see what you mean about the freak show thing.” laughed Stewart.
“You guys remember Ronny, the redneck from South Carolina I introduced you to the other day. He’s over there with that nice looking couple by the door. Well Ronny sells tours by day and real estate by night. When he gets done with those two they may or may not buy any real estate. Probably not actually. The boy really knows squat about real estate. But you know what they will buy? They’ll buy his dinner and that is really good enough for him. Old Ronny will have the lobster special, keep them laughing and ordering drinks, and won’t quit till we serve the German chocolate sundae cake that he orders for the whole table. Gotta love Ronny. At least he brings them to Buster’s.”
“You do have a mixed crowd,” agreed Stewart.
“Mixed crowd? Hell we have mixed households,” said Buster. “See that older couple over there. That’s Bill and Betty. Trust me, he is as crusty and mean as she is beautiful and sweet. They retired here a few years ago when they figured out their middle class retirement would only buy a lower class lifestyle in the US these days. They loaded up the truck and moved to Mahahual, so to speak. She is the sweetest lady in town too. Works all the charities and wouldn’t say shit if she had a mouthful. Old Bill on the other hand, smokes 2 packs a day, drinks like a fish, cusses like a sailor and is generally ornery as a snake. I kinda like the old bastard actually. He comes in every Saturday and watches whatever game we have on just so he can yell and cuss the players every time they mess up. By the end of the game, he usually is so drunk he can’t walk, and Betty comes and picks him up with a big smile after working the soup kitchen at the church, giving English lessons to the local kids and pitching batting practice for the local little league team. Don’t know how we get these sort of people but I suppose we are lucky to have them. I know old Bill’s damn lucky to have Betty, that’s for sure.”
“Gotta love having regulars I suppose,” laughed Paula.
“You guys want to hear a hilarious story. Who does that guy look like sitting over there at the bar,” asked Buster? “If the answer is Johnny Depp, well you would think the same thing about half the young ladies in town thought for the first week he lived here. He’s really just a dive junkie who came here to work at one of the dive shops but his name really is Johnny. Johnny Mead, not Depp. The thing is, when he first arrived, the girl at the hotel he was staying at couldn’t read his hand writing and actually thought he was the real Johnny Depp. Well, a secret last about as long as a bowl of my Jambalaya around here and before long, everyone in town thought Johnny Depp was staying here in town. The dude had senioritas lined up for days before someone finally figured out he wasn’t the real guy. True story!”
“Didn’t all those ladies get mad at him when they found out he wasn’t the real deal,” asked Stewart?
“No, the whole town thought it was funny and watched to see who was the last to figure it out. Not sure who that really was actually. I’m telling you though, total freak show. See that lady reading the paper in the corner. That is Danny. No she is not a tranny like those guys. She is the real deal. Don’t ask me how a Mexican lady got the name Danny. And she no habla ingles! The oldest prostitute in town and, as you can see, it is beginning to show too. But that’s not the freaky part. The freaky part is she has a wooden leg! No joke. Look at her feet. Don’t stare for Gods sake Paula, or she’ll come over and start yelling at us all. But see how her right foot has a sandal and her left foot has a shoe.”
“Holy crap,” said Stewart. “She really has a fake leg! But how does she, you know. What does she do with it when she is, you know, working?”
“You ask me that like I should know,” laughed Buster. “I don’t know actually but like I say, she has the reputation for having a mean streak. I heard a guy refused to pay her once and she beat the crap out of him with the leg. Chased him around the room, hopping and swinging that wooden leg until he paid up. You guys want me to introduce you.”
“I don’t think so Buster,” said Paula.
Buster poured his new friends another tequila and one for himself. “I guess a place like this has a way of finding the common denominators of life. No matter who we are, we really all came here for pretty much the same reasons. We all love the ocean, the sand, the culture or whatever. Not only do we all focus on those things, the things we all have in common, but in the process we forget all the things that too often divide us. Who you vote for, what church you go to or don’t go to, whether you are rock or country, Levi or Lee, whatever reason we usually have to hate one another back home, that just doesn’t seem all that important here. It’s about Mahahual and not about us.”
“Wow, and I thought we just got a place at the beach,” smiled Paula. “Sounds like we found Shangri La.”
“I don’t know about that,” laughed Buster. “Shangri La doesn’t have town drunks, music too loud at night or bad tacos. And I bet it doesn’t rain like this there either.”
“But they don’t have a Buster’s on the Beach either,” said Stewart.
“Which means there is no freak show in Shangri La. You know, maybe that place ain’t so great after all.” With that, Buster raised his shot glass and said, ”To Shangri La Mexico, may she stay a little freaky”
“Saludos,” they all said at once as they clinked glasses.
And so it goes when you are living and dying in ¾ time.