Anyway, I tell him that Jimmy Carter was the first U.S. President born in a hospital. Everybody is impressed with my trivia. Our driver asks, “Where was the president before him born?”
And I say, “Other places.”
At night, a woman behind her stand on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, selling her CDs. Carole spies some of the Buddha Bar mixes and shops the music. Max and I approach the man standing peacefully a few feet away, and I engage him in conversation because he looks so peaceful and a bit sad, and maybe today peace requires a certain sadness, and sadness peace.
I ask how he is tonight in the city. He is in his late 50s or so, with a beautiful, wise, weathered face, shimmering dark eyes, a bandana, an open shirt with salt-and-pepper chest hair, some beaded chains around his neck and wrists.
He nods at me, pulls a device on a wire from his hip, holds it to his throat, and responds with a voice as stoic as it is lovely, haunting, the sound of bronze.
The city has changed, he says. And the city is changing. His hope is that Playa del Carmen does not grow into another Cancun because the quality of the local life here is still good, still fairly peaceful, still vital, still with the feeling of almost a pueblo and not a city.
He tells me that he was a waiter, loved being a waiter, but now—and here he tilts his arm and voice box just so—he cannot be a waiter, and so he and his wife sell music on 5th Avenue.
This man is, far and away, my hero on this adventure. Maybe he is not an angel, or maybe he is. No matter; Henry Miller wrote, “Never trust the writer, trust the tale.” This man is the heart and soul of my brief, limited time in the town of Playa del Carmen . . . may you stay pueblo-like, may the citied demons remain, up the coast, at bay.