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Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Another city, another time. You’re here in this once authentic Mexican fishing village ruined by gringo tourism and the human carrion birds who run the real estate industry because your brother bought a stay in a sea view villa raffled to benefit a motor home dealer, an individual who would have been better benefited with advice to sell his assets and quit the unholy business of foisting rolling energy crises on elderly retirees who are dreaming of seeing a country that exists only in their fading memories. Your sister is here, so is your father and his wife, your brother of course, his wife, their daughter (your niece) and Sarah, the doomed little granddaughter born with a crippling nervous system disorder that will probably take her life before she reaches her teens. You’re here against a very large part of your will. This speaks well of you, Franklin. Every­one who knows you knows you are not the asshole you often pretend to be. Even your ex-wife Marjorie knows this. We’ll get to her later, only Maude, because by God she’s finally beginning to disappear from the stage of your damaged psyche. The place is called Vila Luna Creciente. The wealthy American woman who owns it, who markets it in this manner, believes that a positive attitude is everything. She asserts negative thinking is the big, big problem. You learn this from a boo about her written by one of her fawning sexually ambiguous male friends, an illus­trated volume that’s prominently displayed on a coffee table in the living room. Come on. You know. You know these extremely affluent people have a take on the world, a take on each other that is so far fucking removed from any semblance of reality, it heaves up an acidic ball of retch in your throat whenever you confront it. If she were here you would want to tell her as politely as possible that some situations in life require a negative attitude, and to deny this is called having your head up your ass. But she’s not here. Her young Mexican house crew is here; Miguel who skill­fully drives you through the maddest traffic in Mexico wherever your party wants to go, including one day to the sobering “Dolphin Experience” in the neighboring state of Nayarit where the incarcerated dolphins do indeed seem like the most intelligent and dignified organisms in the compound, and Lionel who is a gen­ius when it comes to making a Margarita, and Lionel’s au natural beauty of a Mexican wife Lupe whose pro­digious skill in the kitchen produces from scratch sen­sational salsa, guacamole, chile relleno and one eve­ning a steaming caldo of shrimp and beef that results in severe overeating by even your brother whose mid­dle name is restraint. Lupe, were life fair, you could have been Franklin’s wife from the git-go and so much agony could have been avoided.

The “Dolphin Experience” is a definitive experi­ence in what is apparently going on all over Mexico. It’s called marketing. Charge a bunch of gringos addled with guilt about what they’re doing to the world an exorbitant fee to immerse themselves in a small pool to touch magnificent creatures that got here millions of years before they did. Then sell them the photos. Then sell them a time-share or better yet the whole enchilada of owning a condominium on the twelve floor of a structure that looks for all the world like a tenement. But don’t get depressed, right adja­cent the “Dolphin Experience” pools is a golf course developed by a wealthy Italian, a golf course called “El Tigre” because one or more of the holes is like that, ass-kickers that defy the most impressive skills. Why do you feel this way about golf? People you love and respect revere golf. Could it be that you fear you’re wrong about the way the world works? Trust me; you don’t want the answer to that question.

Your father couldn’t get close to observing his great granddaughter Sarah obviously enjoying “The Dolphin Experience” because he’s not very ambula­tory nearing ninety, and in any event, his eyes are shit with macular degeneration and so he wouldn’t have seen it anyway from forty yards away. He stayed beyond the turnstile in an area where you can sit at a table and feed large extraordinary tame parrots that would otherwise be eager to remove a finger. He was thrilled with the colorful birds. He didn’t seem unhappy with missing the “Dolphin Experience.” His mind is still very sharp.

Then we’re all hungry. Miguel, let’s go somewhere for lunch. Miguel knows just the place, an outdoor café nearby that specializes I seafood, mariscos. Turns out to be great, marlin tacos and this rich crab soup come right away and the you order dorado in this diablo sauce that begs an answer from Miguel, hey Miguel, how come the populist candidate just lost the Mexican presidential election? Miguel pretends he doesn’t hear you. Then the waiter shows up again and asks, Would you like a side of Viagra with your dorado diablo? You reply with a straight face (bril­liantly if I may say so Franklin), Gracias pero no nece­sario. The waiter laughs. Miguel laughs. Lionel laughs. Thank god, you think, Mexico is still Mexico. Then you lay it on them. You know, you say as you look directly at Miguel and Lionel, big changes in Latin America. New presidentes; Lula in Brazil, Bachelet in Chile, Chavez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia. Viva los indios, no? You have them, Franklin. The look they’re giving you now is the one they have reserved for the second coming of Bolivar. As we say in the zocalo, iiiiiiiiiiiholay!

In Puerta Vallarta you tell Miguel you want birria. Miguel regards you thoughtfully for a moment (he thinking, Jesus, this gringo knows birria?), and by god, he gets it one afternoon from the birria queen, and so you get it, this wonderful stew laced with chivo (goat meat) to die for, so tender and succulent and ribboned with fat it could star in a porno diet film, and no one else in the family understands, not your brother or sis­ter certainly, not your Daddy and Toni, only your neu­rotic Hungarian sister-in-law (she isn’t all bad) gets the picture, the steaming homemade birria is some­thing to treasure here in the state of Jalisco. A day or two later you ask Lionel, was the meat in the birria vaca (beef) or chivo? Lionel says vaca. When Mihuel is driving you to the airport at the end of the vacation, you tell him, Lionel says the meat in the birria was vaca. Miguel tells you, Lionel is a fucking bullshitter, and he tells gringos what he thinks they want to hear.

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