The wayfarers have come home.
We arrived home late on Wednesday night, and I spent yesterday playing catch-up - washing the smell of the ocean out of our diving gear, washing the smell of sweat out of our leisure clothes, looking at the accumulated mail and e-mail, and making a meal, a ham and chicken jambalaya.
Highlights of the trip: the Cozumel Trifecta, of course; three shore dives for me, and shore dives and boat dives for Mary; some hard work on Peter's Story; and a special tamale supper at La Altenita (which I also wrote about last May, here).
First, the Trifecta. Everybody wants you to add their favorites to your Trifecta, of course. I encourage them to create their own Trifectas, and to pursue the challenge as vigorously as I pursue mine: "Come on, people, if you're coming with me, ya gotta keep up!" For those of you who are unfamiliar with my obsessions, the Trifecta is - all on the same day - the best fish sandwich on the island from La Altenita; a grande bowl of pozole from Los Utates; and the best beef taco on the island from Johnny Bravo's. I am pleased to report that this Trifecta was successfully completed the very day we landed on the island. With room to spare, I might add.
Mary did more scuba-diving than I did, since I'd promised myself some days of hard work on Peter's Story. I got out to dive the Parasio reef from shore three times. There was strong current for all three dives, so it was hard work out-bound and we flew back. My air consumption has improved, so I wasn't as much of an "air hog" as I used to be, though I still use more than Mary, who was, I think, born in the water. On her boat dives, Mary saw sea turtles, southern sting rays, a variety of moray eels, and other interesting critters.
As I had promised myself, I spent a lot of time re-working the foreword and first eight chapters of the Peter's Story memoir I have been working on these past three years. I ended up one chapter shy of making three and a half passes through the manuscript. The prose will read considerably better as a result. Eight chapters done, five more to write....
And, as I promised myself, I spent a lot of that work time in the company of one cool libation or another - usually fresh-squeezed orange juice which I obtained in three quart allotments each morning at "The Market." Si, three quarts, gracias. And regularly, by late afternoon, I would crack open a Mexican cerveza from Mary's supply. I sat in the shade at the table in the courtyard of the Hotel Pepita and worked; and as I worked the hotel's maids worked too, soaking sheets and towels and removing spots from them. And what did they use to remove those spots, you ask? Apparently half a lime works as well as anything. Ancient Mexican secret.
The most special part of the trip? A tamale supper prepared especially for us on Monday night. We'd gone to La Altenita for another of those terrific fish sandwiches, and the fellow in charge, Moises Xix Cahuich, recognized us as the group who had enjoyed a great batch of tamales there when we were in Cozumel last May.
"We'll make you tamales special again," he said. "On Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. Which? How many?"
"On Monday," we said. "Make us thirty."
And so on Monday Moises' wife made the tamales, wrapped in banana leaves rather than corn husks, and when we arrived at the appointed hour the tables were pushed together for us. We ordered our drinks and two or three tamales apiece. Folks, this is as close to heaven as you are going to get. Real food in real Mexico, prepared by real people and served with real care. We were honored to be able to eat these tamales. After supper Moises and his wife and children came out to stand at the end of our table so we could get a photograph and, when Moises' wife stepped into place, we broke into spontaneous applause, a little tribute to her great tamales.
La Altenita is located at the intersection of Av. 15 Norte and Av. Benito Juarez. Moises told us that it stands at the site of the first grocery store along that stretch of Av. Benito Juarez, and takes its name from the grocery store. History is a living thing, you see. The business is a family operation. Last year it was Moises' sister who prepared the tamales; this year his brother-in-law waited on us for one order of fish sandwich or the other. If you go to Cozumel, be sure to take a meal at La Altenita, a meal or two or five. Tell 'em Tom sent you.
All good things come to an end, and we had to step aboard an airplane about 12:05 p.m. on Wednesday for the flight home. I had feared that perhaps Mary might make an ugly scene when it was time to board - she REALLY likes Cozumel - but she walked aboard peaceably enough. Soon we were headed home.
And so here we are, back at it.