First, a word of introduction for the new folks. This post is what we call a Navage Yap. These posts can be about anything I want, including DIY, though more often than not, they’re just stories about life – past, present or future. Usually funny, sometimes sentimental or reflective, Yaps are a way for me to write about more than just crafts and makeovers. It’s possible many of you may only care about that, in which case, I apologize for wasting your time. But I also know that many of you enjoy them, so I will keep on posting them, as I enjoy writing them as much as you enjoy reading them! For those who’ve been here a while, you haven’t seen many Yaps lately, and that’s because we’ve been so busy with moving and setting up the new home. Yaps are posts for more laid back times. Now, that said, we are by no means in laid back times around here. Quite the contrary, in fact! But in my last post, I teased a second part to a story set in Acapulco in the spring of 1983. I asked for you to leave a comment if you wanted the second part of the story, and you delivered!
So here is the tale of what happened next in that open air market on the beach outside the Acapulco Princess on the Pacific coast of warm and sunny Mexico. This is the story of the most embarrassing moment of my life.
For those who didn’t read the teaser post, I’ve brought Part 1 of the story over here so you can read both parts in one place.
The story of the Aztec Sun Stone
In the spring of 1983, my family went on holiday to the Acapulco Princess resort in Acapulco, Mexico. Here’s a photo I found on TripAdvisor of how it looks today.
This was of course back when Acapulco wasn’t infested with drug cartels and machine-gun-toting gangsters. It was a safe and beautiful destination for pasty-white American tourists in the 1970s and 1980s. For those who remember The Love Boat, it was one of three main ports of call for the Pacific Princess cruise liner.
In 1983 that beach pictured above was a little different. I don’t remember it having individual tiki huts. Remember, those were the days of hedonistic sun-worship, SPF and shade be damned! It was Coppertone tan or bust! Where the huts are now, there was open beach, and on that beach was a sprawling and ramshackle open-air shop with a tarped roof held up by wood posts and driftwood. Inside, all manner of Mexican men sold hand-crafted tchotchkes, souvenirs and crap to the oiled-up, coconut-scented gringos staying at the resort.
I was a worldly lad of 11, fresh out of primary school and making my way as a middle school man. My sister Margo was a high school freshman. Together, we entered the market to poke around and buy some junk. She probably wore a bikini or whatever style of swimsuit was in fashion for the high school girl set. I wore my trademark Ocean Pacific swim trunks. In 1983, I would have still been mired in the Hawaiian print fad that I found so enthralling in my youth. Shirts, shorts, you name it. If it had big leaves on it, I wore it. To paint a picture, let’s say it was a blue pair of trunks with white monstera leaves all over it. Tied at the waist, with white drawstrings hanging down in front and white 11-year-old love handles sagging over on both sides. It was a look I liked to think of as Simon LeBon but probably presented more like Pillsbury Dough Boy.
Anyway, my tanned, bikini-clad sister and the miniature beluga whale next to her sauntered into the open-air market. She went one way and at once, the local men working in or hanging around the shop moved into her orbit. Excellent! That left me to shop on my own.
I spied the stone at once. I was a a geeky little turd, and I knew all about the Aztec sun stone. This one was carved from rock! Jade? It had to be! Was I holding an ancient relic in my pudgy little fingers?
I asked the closest mustachioed Mexican how much he wanted for this priceless treasure (it probably once belonged to Hernán Cortés!).
“Cincuenta,” he said. I knew he wasn’t talking pesos, so fifty dollars. Too rich for my 11-year-old blood. I was months away from getting my first summer job on a tobacco farm in Glastonbury, so that kind of loot was still foreign to me.
“No lo tengo,” I said. Of course I didn’t have it! What 11-year-old in 1983 wanders around the beaches of Mexico with fifty bucks in his swim trunks?
I considered my financial position: a crumpled fiver and three soggy George Washingtons.
“Cinco!” I said, opening what would become the greatest negotiation of my life.
“Cuarenta,” he said. Forty may as well have been a billion!
“Seis.” Six. A much better number!
“Veinticinco.” Twenty five was better, but still no cigar.
“Siete.” I was running out of ammo.
“Diez!” he shouted, mustache twitching in disbelief.
“No lo tengo,” I said again. I don’t have what I don’t have!
“Ocho!” I said, finally, and plopped my soggy bills on the makeshift counter.
He sighed. “Bien. Bien.” He took my money, and I had my prize! From fifty dollars (which it obviously wasn’t worth) to eight dollars (which in 1983, it still probably wasn’t worth). Never again would I achieve such a percentage price reduction in a negotiation. Put another way, my negotiating skills peaked at age 11.
There is a second part to this story – one far more hilarious, infinitely more embarrassing, borderline scandalous and entirely salacious. Keep reading for the tale of the stone pipe.
The Stone Pipe
Having just completed the Greatest Negotiation of my life to procure the priceless Aztec Sun Stone for a mere pittance, I sauntered away from the mustachioed man to see what Margo was up to.
I found her a few tables away holding court with a fascinated gaggle of young Mexican men. She had their rapt attention, it seemed. What was she up to? Why were these Mexican men showing such an interest in my sister? What did she have that I didn’t? Why weren’t they paying attention to me?
Well, this wouldn’t stand. This wouldn’t do. This wouldn’t do at all.
Perhaps these fellows just needed to see something funny to distract them from their weird obsession with my sister. Seriously, why were they so interested in her??
Besides layers of oiled fat, all I could offer these misguided men was comedy – pure hysterical comedy. I liked to think I knew my way around a joke. I made kids laugh at school all the time, and I was pretty sure they were laughing, uh, with me and not at me.
But I needed a prop. Everyone knew that physical comedy was the pinnacle of hilarity. Just look where The Three Stooges took the genre! I scanned the market for something I could use for a sight gag. T-shirts, beach towels, shot glasses….c’mon, there’s no comedy in such things! I kept looking, and there! Literally right next to me, lined up on a low display shelf – row after row of pipes. They all seemed to be carved from polished green stone. My father was a cigar smoker at the time, but these majestic pipes might lure him over to the way of the pouch tobacco! They were glorious instruments of nicotine delivery, and the craftsmanship rivalled my cherished sun stone. I wondered if they were all carved by the same wizened master – perhaps in a cave somewhere inland or in a remote beachside shack.
I also wondered why more pipe smokers didn’t avail themselves of pipes like these. They all seemed to favor the same reddish wooden bowl pipes with the curved black plastic stem.
BORRRRR-RING! Why on earth wouldn’t they want to smoke their tobacco from these hand-carved stone masterpieces?
Adults were weird. They never did anything logical.
It was strange though. I knew most people smoked cigarettes, and my dad liked cigars, but you just didn’t see a lot of pipe smokers anywhere. I wondered how this place could sell enough pipes to make it worth their while. Maybe pipe smokers liked tropical beaches?
I didn’t know, and frankly, the thought was crowding in on my plan for hilarious comedy. Now, if I just grabbed one of those pipes and pretended to be a fancy adult man, that would surely get a few laughs and get the spotlight back where it belonged.
I picked one at random from the shelf. The stone was cool despite the heat of the day. I put the business end between my lips and began to pantomime smoking by rapidly closing and opening my lips around the stem as a pipe smoker might do when trying to light a bowl of tobacco.
I had it nailed. It was time to take my performance to the masses.
“Margo!” I called across the market.
Nothing. She continued chatting with the local men. I may as well have been invisible.
“Hey Margo!” I yelled again. Yeesh, what a bunch of dopes. Didn’t they know they were seconds away from watching the greatest comedy routine in a generation?
I continued pockpockpocking my pipe.
“MARGO!” I shouted again, and this time she and every Mexican and souvenir-hunting gringo in the market turned my way.
Holy shit, this was the audience I was waiting for! I had them all…all of them in my hand! I was about to become the greatest comedian in North America – maybe even South and Central America, too! Who knows what stories these locals would tell and how far they would travel!
I started hopping around and sucking that pipe like I was on the moon and it was connected to an oxygen tank.
Pockpockpockpockpockpock! Over and over and over, that lip-vibrating popping sound filled the market, and my audience was stunned into silence. It must have been almost religious for them, seeing such an act. This was the silence of a soul filling up with goodness. Soon, it would overflow and the laughter would begin in earnest.
Pockpockpockpockpockpock! I turned the sucking up to eleven.
Their faces began to crack.
The stunned looks were being replaced by widening smiles.
It was working! I was better than Rodney Dangerfield!
The laughter was washing over me now, a tsunami of uproarious laughter!
Even my sister was laughing!
I was surfing a thousand-foot wave of hilarity, and I was crushing it.
Then I noticed my sister’s expression shift a bit. She put her hand up to her face and hid here eyes behind it. She peeked up from behind her hand, smile faltering.
What? What was I doing wrong? The Mexicans were laughing harder than ever!
I looked around, shaft of the pipe still in my mouth. The oily gringos weren’t laughing like the Mexicans. They looked…embarrassed?
I pulled the pipe from my mouth and looked down at it.
I looked back up, and I think the Mexicans were on the verge of death-by-laughter. They were doubled over and gasping for air. My sister stood nearby, shifting uncomfortably.
I looked back down at the shiny green pipe in my hand – a thick, long shaft protruding from two bulbous, orbs. The orbs where kinda joined in the middle, and that’s where the tobacco bowl was carved.
I looked back up, and the whole market shifted as a wave of vertigo crashed over me. I wanted to drop the infernal thing, but I was frozen like a deer in headlights while the Mexican men brayed like donkeys at my idiocy.
Finally, after about 3 years had passed and roots had grown from my feet, I was able to move again. I hastily replaced the pipe next to the others carved just like it.
How had I not noticed a whole rack of…of…pee-pee pipes? It was so obvious now!
I ran out of the market into the blinding sunlight. I ran across the beach and up to the pool, away from the dying laughter. At least I still had my prize, my Aztec sun stone. No amount of laughter could take that from me. I set my sun stone on a lounge chair and dove into the pool. The water refreshed and restored my confidence. I floated around for a while, letting the chlorine cleanse my soul, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that wall of pipes. I only knew of a few men who smoked pipes, and I simply couldn’t imagine them walking around the neighborhood with a long, shiny, green pee-pee stuck in their faces. I guess I still had a lot to learn, but one thing was pretty obvious.
Adults were weird.