“Puto, Puto!” the small boy was shouting on the street outside my room at Hotel Azteca. Puto is a local derogatory slur for a gay male, a traitor, or a coward. It’s a curse term you hear a lot from men as you travel around Mexico.

For a moment in my sleepy haziness, I had to wonder whether the boy outside was referring to me. The word ‘Puto’ describes a male whore or gigolo in many Spanish-speaking territories, but it may just as well get unleashed for any suspicion of homosexuality at all in most of those places. It must have been about 11 o’clock when his shouting woke me up. Late again, today.

Last night’s rooftop hangout with Luis was still uppermost on my mind, and my brain a little frazzled by the large joints we had smoked. Shat, shaved, showered, and ambled down to Los Muertos Beach to meet Darcy and Karen for noon. They were the two Canadian musicians I had met over lunch the day before.

There is something about dreadlocks and chocolate-brown skin that seems to attract musicians wherever I am in the world. “Bob Marley,” they usually call out, and I normally have trouble convincing these people that I’m tone-deaf and can’t sing a note.

Got there precisely one hour late to find Karen and Darcy having drinks with an Australian couple; a man and an equally jovial Aussie woman who I take to be his wife. Both Australians are especially loud, extremely animated, completely overdone in fake tan, and you can tell even at a distance that they must be from out of town.

I’m exchanging polite chitchat and getting into my first beer when two hands cover my eyes from behind, and a voice yells, “Boy Marley, cómo estás?” I swivel around and am visibly surprised to see Luis standing behind me. He gives me a warm smile and a big hug but doesn’t mention a thing about our rooftop tête-à-tête the night before. He introduces himself to everyone and sits with us to the full approval of all at the table in that way only beautiful people can.

We all yak together, briefly, before Luis invites me back to Paco Paco’s Hotel Bar. He has a massage to do there in the hotel at 6 o’clock, he says. Would I like to come along and hang out with him afterwards? Since I’m doing nothing better, I figured I’d tag along.

We walk back to Hotel Paco Paco by the slowest route we can find. Strolling along the cobblestone streets and giggling like school children. I’m surprised all of a sudden to be confronted by a statue of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, which is outside what was once their luxury home.

Their former love nest is now a plush hotel called Casa Kimberley with nightly prices I could never afford and an open-air eatery known as The Iguana Restaurant & Tequila Bar. There are spectacular views from here across Banderas Bay and the mountains to the east, and I pull out my camera to record our little excursion.

Club Paco Paco has its own hotel in Puerto Vallarta
Banderas Bay in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Should you ever decide you want to propose to anyone, this would be an ideal spot to do it, but bring your credit card with you. When we finally circle back to reach Hotel Paco Paco, Luis goes off to the room of the man he is to massage, and I go upstairs to the roof bar. But minutes later, Luis returns, saying;

“The man is busy. He has some friends to see. He has asked me to do the massage another day.”

Fair enough, I say. We have a couple of drinks instead and chat about nothing. We are messing around at the bar upstairs when the massage client steps forward to introduce himself. He’s some bigshot businessman from California, he claims, but I find it hard to believe a word he says. I don’t think much of him at all.

“I want to smoke,” says Luis, after a while. “Have you got any dope?”
“Yeah.”
“All right, then. Let’s go back to your apartment.”
“Excuse me?”

I must have misunderstood him at first because as the Californian man started to smile, I thought they meant that the three of us should lumber back to my apartment to get high. Since that was certainly not about to happen, the contempt in my eyes must have rattled the Californian because his good humour vanished. Instead, he made excuses about being “busy” and “some other time.”

Luis and I stroll back to my apartment and lie on the bed for five minutes, just chatting, as you do with a stranger you met the day before. Looking up at the rotating fan blades in a trance, Luis blurts out,

“Oh, I don’t want to smoke, anymore. I want to go!”
“OK.” So…we go.

Is this what hanging out with Luis entails? I somehow think he was expecting us to get involved in a threesome and potentially relieving the Californian of his cash. That’s the feeling I got from him, anyway. We play a game of chess at the local coffee shop, but a small Mexican girl joins us and wants to play with Luis. I sit for a while sipping on a soft drink, waiting, but then I remember that Jesse lives just down the road.

Jesse is the young mixed-race Mexican I met out here yesterday. And as I start to walk to Jesse’s apartment, I see him with a couple of his friends hanging about outside his doorway. They call me in, and pretty soon we head upstairs and sit to share a few beers. Jesse is playing with “Mr Plastico,” his homemade pipe and says how much he’s longing for a spliff. But nobody has any weed.

I suddenly think, well, I better go back down and let Luis know where I am. So, I walk back to the coffee shop to tell him. Thirty minutes later, Luis comes up. The whole atmosphere changes. Luis has the kind of aura that attracts animals, children, women, and men and he knows how to work it when he wants.

Jean, who is supposed to be Jesse’s gringo relative, and Hulio, Jesse’s Mexican relation, are both thrilled to see Luis because they think he is just so good-looking. Each one is practically creaming himself. It is embarrassing. We get to talking heatedly about why Mexicans immigrate to America. Luis gets up, looks over the balcony and sees one of his friends in the street below. It’s a young guitar player, and Luis invites him up to meet us.

The young man starts to play the guitar, Pink Floyd or something at first! But when Luis begins to sing “Running to Stand Still,” and I join in. Everyone is in rapture. They clap at the end and say, how much we complement each other, and how we should start a band. Ha-ha-ha!

Sunset near Club Paco Paco in Puerto Vallarta
Sunset near Club Paco Paco: Running to Stand Still

From there, we pass by The Rocksie, where we sit and chat real intently as usual. Luis has two beers. I have one. Of course, I pay for all. Then he says, “I have to go.” I stay another 10-15 minutes, chat with the old boy, Charlie, for a while, and head home.

As I’m going back, I meet a guy who says he’s got some Coke. Do I want some? I’m not that interested at first because cocaine only ever makes me cold and sneezy. But then, I think, what the hell? A hundred and fifty pesos? I’m sure I could find someone at Club Paco Paco to click it off my chest. Why not?

I follow this guy down some dark, dingy road, and into a bar, where he points for me to sit down. He orders two Cokes with the twenty pesos I give him, sits one down in front of me, then disappears! After about fifteen minutes and many smiles from people in the bar, it suddenly dawns on me that I’d just been played. This dealer was never coming back.

His Coke was not yet flat. “When it sounds too good to be true,” I heard myself saying, before I got up, strolled home slowly, and fell straight into bed. I wake to hear Luis banging on my door with lights streaming in through the cracks.

“I know you’re in there, Bob Marley. Are you coming to Club Paco Paco? What are we doing today?”

To be continued…

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