NOVEMBER 26-30, 2003

The beach

Until yesterday, it seemed there would be no trip at all.

Two weeks ago I broke down. All systems went haywire. Too many diuretics to cope with the fluid overload from tricuspid insufficiency led to impaired renal function, cutting back on the diuretics led to me swelling up like a balloon. My legs felt like they would burst like a boiled bratwurst that has not been punctured first. And my scrotum...but you don't want to hear about my scrotum, do you? Suffice it to say that if we did make it to Mexico, I would need a wheelbarrow to walk, and I would have los mas grandes cojones in todo Mexico. Tuesday afternoon, I saw my doctor, and we decided that it was safe to go. If not, what better way to go out than in the midst of writing the Farklempt Page, margarita in hand, watching the sunset, like Hemenway.

After the first day, I had titled the first page, "THE TRIP FROM HELL." But as it turned out, with Carol's strength and optimism, we had a good time. At times, I felt like changing the title to "FARKLEMPT'S LAST TRAVELS," but...who knows?

We really wanted to go. The Thanksgiving tradition in Cleveland has passed into history, and our own kids go to their in-laws for Thanksgiving (and to us for Passover). So, rather than staring at a lonely, dead capon sitting on a big empty table, we decided to go where there was no Thanksgving at all. I found the package in September on Expedia.com. The time was just right, the flight began in Providence, and the place sounded great--a brand new five-star all-inclusive resort near Playa del Carmen. I kept checking the website to be sure I got the best deal, and three weeks later, there was not a flight to be had to Cancun, and not a hotel room on the beach in the Mayan Riviera.

So here's what really happened. The flights from Providence to Charlotte and then to Cancun (USAirways) were packed. The airport at Green was packed--we had never seen such  lines at security. But they finally seem to know what they are doing. God has mercy. When you purchase through Expedia, rather than through an agent, they don't give you seats until you check in. Perhaps the agent saw the need in my eyes. Perhaps she noticed my cojones gigantes. Whatever...we got exit row seats all the way through, and the flights were on time.

But once we hit Cancun...oi veh!  There must have been 10,000 people in line to enter the country--all in front of us. The line snaked back and forth. An official stamps your passport with no apparent awareness of security. It could say "Osama bin Laden," and he'd say, "Welcome to Mexico!" Then you get in line for customs. and when you finally get to the single portal with your bags, the woman says, "Poosh da button," and you press a brass button such as one would use to cross a busy intersection. and a traffic light switches from "Alto" to "Pase." "You can go," says the woman.

Then you find the van which takes you to your hotel, 50 miles south (along with several other couples who go to different hotels). You sit in the cab for 30 minutes, while the drivers chat. Then we go. Our plane landed at 12:15 PM, and it wasn't until 3:15 PM that we arrived at our hotel. (Hint: Take a cab. It costs $40, but it's worth it for two people.)

Our hotel was humungous. One thousand rooms! No matter--Farklempt had written to Don Ignacio Lazaro, the general manager, informing him that we would like to see the best face at his hotel. It certainly worked at the Pamilla in Cabo and at the Bonvechiatto in Venice. Not this time. The reservation agent began to pour us a glass of welcome champagne, but I noticed that the glass was dirty. "It's just water," he explained, "It proves the glasses have been washed." They were all "clean," so we sipped champagne as we checked in. Another agent assured us that we had a splendid room. Indeed, the lobby was very grand, and we were eager to get to our room. This required getting onto golf carts that would take us to another wing of the hotel, then a long walk to a subwing, and up two flights of stairs (no  elevator). By now, I was wiped out.

And the room? It reminded me of the old Ambassador Hotel in Hollywood, where we used to stay when we'd visit Bess. The size was adequate. It was "ocean view," meaning that if you held a hand mirror in your hand extended out the window, and angled it just right, you could see the ocean. The room was strategically placed just beside the water purification plant for the resort, so it rumbled and trembled like an  eighteen-wheeler full of lumber climbing the Kankamangus Trail. I phoned the front desk and told them that this was not exactly what Farklempt had  in mind when he asked the hotel to put on its best face. They were apologetic, and moved us to a second room, which was quieter, but otherwise no different We took our special welcome bottle of wine with us, along with the eight slices of American cheese (a special gift from Don Ignacio Lazaro) and decided to make the most of it. The front desk seemed surprised when they called to ask how we liked the room, and I told them it was not quite up to the Holiday Inn. Well, you can't win 'em all. On top of it all, Farklempt was all puffy and pooped, with all the piss and vinegar used up.

"Ocean View"

We hadn't eaten all day, so we called room service. Unforunately, the menu is limited to filet mignon and shrimp cocktail, when all we wanted was a snack of guacamole and chips ("sorry") and a fresh margarita ("No drinks--you have to go to the bar").

Well, at least there was a two-person deluxe 10-jet Jacuzzi. The water cascaded smoothly from a wide font...but it was brown. Well, we weren't drinking it, so we got in and had in invigorating schvitz.

Jacuzzi shvitz

The following day, when the maintenance man came to replace the faulty shower head, I asked him why the water was brown. He stared at me. "Terra o merda?" I asked. "Merda," he mumbled back.

Agua merda

We took a nap and went out to find a restaurant for supper. There are 4 theme restaurants, and each is beautifully decorated, with a wonderfully friendly and helpful staff. We entered the South Lobby (the two lobbies are so far apart that you must use a tram to get between them), and ate at the Mexican restaurant. There was the perfect Margarita and some sour guacamole. Ceviche was disappointing. The huachinango (red snapper) a la parilla did not hold a candle to the whole grilled fish on the square of Brasilito in Costa Rica. No espresso.

Going back to our room, we got lost along the deserted paths that wind around the lagoon. We must have walked half a mile before a maintenance man led us back to our wing. So ended our first day in paradise.

On to Thursday, November 27 (Thanksgiving)