Landing at the Cancun airport at night in a rainstorm is an eerie experience. The wet heat crawls down your back and you don´t want to imagine what it feels like when the sun is shining.
For some people, Cancun is paradise. For us, it´s more like the ninth realm of hell. There´s no escaping it, however, if you´re flying to the Yucatan peninsula with visions of jungle lakes and Mayan ruins in your intrepid mind. Dazed from the exhorbitant price of the taxi ride, the bright lights of McDonald´s, and the sad town center, we finally found a greasy hotel room. The whiny air conditioner stopped working in the middle of the night (not that my achy stomach was allowing me to sleep much anyway).
The next day we ventured out to the beach, which, aside from the ocean, no less stunning under a thick gray sky, is like a run-down Las Vegas where American corporations come to wink and wilt. Carl´s Jr, Chili´s, Office Depot, Subway, you name it, the Cun probably has it. Inside a giant mall-like dome the Hard Rock Cafe displays a sign over its doorway that says This Is Not Here. Wise words---this simulated inelegant environment is nowhere and everywhere. Eerie indeed.
So we headed to the nicest seaside resort we could find, exploited our tourist-looks, and spent a sultry afternoon dipping into the cool luxury of the pool while a wedding party posed for pictures. Just as the pretty bride managed to cross one of the pool´s quaint bridges with her train intact, the clouds broke open to the tune of Sade´s heart-wrenching croons.
Though we´d planned on exploring the interior of the peninsula, our unhappy bowels had other plans, which consisted of getting all too acquainted with Mexican toilets and farmacias, and which ruled out any bus trips longer than twenty minutes. So we took the ferry to Isla Mujeres, a true island paradise, where, thanks to the low (meaning unbearably sticky) season we got to stay in a fancy (for us) hotel room we´d otherwise never be able to afford. The days drifted by in a tropical haze of swimming, reading, cautious nibbling, and sprawling out on our plush king-sized bed for cool naps and so-bad-they´re-great reruns of Beverly Hills, 90210.
The bright gum-drop buildings, the friendly locals who greeted M by name (thanks to his Vote for Mike T-shirt), the turquoise-clear water, and even the punishing sun did much to restore my weary travel-tummy. Last night the island hosted a raucous political rally for the local elections. As we chatted up two sweet British girls and ate our fish tacos at a sidewalk table, throngs of people on foot, golf-cart, and motorcycle howled and honked in the choked narrow streets. Their excitement swelled inside me (¿or was it the diesel fumes?) as I recalled my long-ago days as a proud socialist behind the bullhorn.
Later, while M nursed another bout of Montezuma´s Revenge, I savored an ice cream cone and watched a basketball game in the town square. As the languid players sweated and cajoled each other on an ancient court beneath a statue of the Virgin Mary, I searched in vain for the fat moon in the sky.