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January 24, 2010


I started discovering sex about the time I turned thirteen, shortly before we left for Mexico. (Sex for one, anyway.) And in our small Guaymas motel room I discovered something to go with it: a potboiler novel. My American Heritage dictionary defines a potboiler as “A literary or artistic work of poor quality, produced quickly for a profit.” The definition would not have interested me a bit – I was much more interested in the sex on the covers and the sex in the plot, albeit tame by today’s standards. I found some covers (below) that give a pretty good idea of the novel I found in that motel room.
Guaymas, Where Mom Is Embarrassed, But Not Pregnant
  SNAPSHOT: Mom sits cross-legged on the worn, mustard yellow bedspread draped over the bed nearest the bathroom, sipping a gin and tonic, wisps of hair plastered to her forehead with perspiration. Felice, a rear leg stretched skyward, is cleaning herself.
In spite of border bureaucrats, broken bridges and bad roads, we made it to our first stop, Guaymas, in the state of Sonora. Guaymas was a fishing village, a destination only for American sport fishermen, and there were no big hotels here so we took a room at a small motel on the beach just outside of town. The room smelled of stale cigarette smoke and the rotting shellfish we found in a desk drawer.
Valerie and I were in heaven. We’d been to beaches in Southern California many times but here the water was warmer, the waves more fun and we were free to do as we pleased. For us, this was an adventure with all of the fun and none of the worry.
We spent most of our time on the sand or in the water. Most, but not all. There were a couple of other ways I found to occupy my time. One was looking for girls. Unfortunately, Guaymas came up short. If there were any American girls there, they kept different hours. And I couldn’t see myself trying to flirt with or get to know a Mexican girl if I couldn’t even talk to her.
My other pastime was reading, and I found some delicious new reading material in Guaymas. Up to now I’d been reading the Oz books, the Hardy Boys, and, of course, comics, including “Mad Magazine”. Mad was about as radical as my reading material got. (This was at a time when that magazine was the object of scathing denunciations from clergymen and government officials for its “corrupting influence” on the nation’s youth.) In our Guaymas motel room, however, I found something entirely different. Here was no Donald Duck or Little Lulu, no Dorothy and Toto. It was a paperback novel left by a previous occupant, a two-in-one novel where, after reading the first half of the book, you turned it over and upside down and there was a second story ready to be read. Each had its own cover with graphic (for the fifties) depictions of sex and violence. One cover depicted a beautiful young woman with her clothes partly torn off and a look of terror on her face. A man’s hand protruded from the bottom corner of the cover holding a very large gun, aimed directly at the woman’s stomach. The title: Sweet, Lovely, and Dead.
On the other cover was more of the same. A beautiful young woman, her clothes partly torn off, was tied to a tree, a look of terror on her face. (Was it the same woman? How could she get herself into so much trouble?) Beyond the tree two men, a good guy and a bad guy, were in a fight to the death. The title: Death for a Dame.

I’d never seen anything like this before and I was fascinated, first of all by the pictures. The images took my emerging adolescent sexuality in new directions, aroused new feelings in me of guilt and pleasure. I spent a good deal of time looking closely at the women’s cleavage, the voluptuous breasts with the subtle hint of nipples barely contained by the strips of cloth left to her by the maniac who had attacked her. I wished that the thigh-high slit in her (oh so tight!) skirt was up the front, rather than on the side, and then wondered what was under the skirt. Times when I was alone (not too often when you’re living three to a motel room; four if you count the cat), I imagined myself with one or the other of these two women who let me look me under their skirt. This increased my pleasure, of course, but also my guilt.

I devoured the two novels and identified with the good guy private dick in both of them. He looked tough, talked tough, acted tough. He drank hard, fought hard, loved hard. He was everything I decided I wanted to be. I felt I was grown up now, thanks to Sweet, Lovely and Dead and Death for a Dame and I kept a lookout for more of these lusty, busty potboilers.
SNAPSHOT: The burly guy propelling his way through the closely spaced tables of the packed restaurant is Jack. Mom and Val and I are pulled along in his wake while a waiter, gesturing and yelling, is trying to head us off.
 Mom struck up an acquaintance with an American man passing through Guaymas on his way back home to Tulsa. Jack was a big, fleshy man sporting a cotton candy sunburn. His black hair was wavy and shiny. Dixie Peach? He smiled a lot at Valerie and me but we figured it was because he was smitten with Mom. Or, if not smitten, he had ideas. We could both see that. We also knew something that Jack didn’t: Mom didn’t like greasy hair.
The night before we left Guaymas, Jack took us out to dinner at a very popular and very crowded restaurant. I was hungry and it looked like it was going to be a long wait. But once we were inside Jack spotted an empty table across the room and immediately started pushing his way through the packed crowd of waiting people, pulling Mom along by the arm while Valerie and I struggled behind them, trying not to get separated. All the while Jack was booming out in English, “Make way! Make way! Lady with a baby! Make way!” And the crowd parted.
We arrived at the target table just ahead of a waiter who had been trying to intercept us. Jack, like a magician, swept me and Val onto two chairs and at the same time held out a chair for Mom, looking quite proud. Beaming as unto a possum, as she put it later. It was a phrase I’d heard her use many times and once again I wondered what it meant.
 Mom, meanwhile, was thoroughly embarrassed and unwittingly helped our cause by repeating loudly to all within earshot, “¡Soy embarazada! ¡Soy embarazada!“ in one of her first attempts at Spanish. “Embarazada” sure sounds like embarrassed. We found out later it meant “pregnant.”
We Almost Lose Felice
SNAPSHOT: We’re somewhere south of Guaymas. The landscape is flat, barren, bereft of any greenery, a paint-by-number picture with only one number. Sand and rocks, tumbleweeds and mesquite stretch across the land to the distant mountains.
We were up early the next morning before the heat of the day was unleashed. As we packed I asked Mom, “What about Jack, Mom? We think he likes you.”
“He has greasy hair,” was all Mom would say. Val and I exchanged knowing smiles.
We rounded up Felice, packed our things and ourselves into the car and left Guaymas, heading south. A long day lay ahead of us – four hundred-plus miles to Mazatlan, our Promised Land.
SNAPSHOT: The three of us are standing by the car, immobile, looking out across the desert. We’re watching Felice run off into the sandy, rock-strewn, shadeless waste.
After a couple of hours of hot driving Mom pulled over to take a break. Other times when we had stopped, Felice had made no move to leave the car, but apparently she’d been making plans. This time, as soon as my sister opened her door, the cat leaped out and, scrunched down, looked wildly from side to side. Then she started running madly across the sand. The hot sand. The very hot sand. Almost immediately into her flight, too soon for any us even to find voice, let alone move, Felice must have realized just how ill-conceived her plan was. Hardly breaking stride, she wheeled around and raced back to the car, jumping in through the still-open door and onto the camphor chest, where she glared at us and proceeded to wash and soothe her feet, as if nothing had happened. The three of us were still standing there, still voiceless. Finally, Mom simply said, “Once burned, twice shy.” I’m sure she intended no pun but she was right; Felice made no further escape attempts the rest of the trip.
By eleven in the morning the sun was baking everything, including the three of us and the cat. Opening the car windows simply allowed in a constant roar of hot air, doing little or nothing to cool us. Air conditioning? Not in the kind of car we could afford.
 Along the highway there was the occasional old man or young boy leading a donkey, or a woman with a basket balanced on her head. I watched them for as long as they were in view, approaching and receding. I wondered: How did they stand the heat? And where could they have come from and where could they be going? I drew a blank. We hadn’t passed any towns or villages or houses or even any roads leading to and from the highway. And if there were paths, I sure couldn’t see them.
Then an oasis, so unexpected that we were past it before Mom could react. To our right, fifty yards off the highway, was a refreshment stand! Mom quickly made a U-turn and headed back.
In better days the stand had been white. Now it had simply taken on the same dull gray-brown of the surrounding landscape. The only splash of color was the familiar (and, oh, so welcome!) round, red and white Coca-Cola sign below an opening in the front of the stand. A wood panel propped up by a pole shaded the opening and served to close the stand at night. “See what you can get for us, David,” Mom said.
The counter was tended by an old woman whose smile revealed more teeth missing than present. Like the stand, she had taken on the color of the landscape.
“Tres Cokes,” I said, smiling nervously and holding up three fingers.
“Tres pesos,” she replied, holding up three fingers in return. I gave her the money and she grabbed three Cokes from the rusty cooler behind her, icy water dripping down the light green glass. They hissed open and she handed them to me.
Back in the car we sipped our Cokes, quietly enjoying our break. Val gave Felice some water from a container we carried along with us. “Let’s get some ice to put in the water for her, Mom,” Val suggested but Mom was reluctant.
“Felice might get sick, dear. I don’t think we better.”
“Why do you think there’s a refreshment stand here, in the middle of nowhere?” I asked.
“I’d like to know where they get the ice to keep the Cokes cold,” she replied. “There are no power lines leading into the stand so they can’t have electricity. There aren’t even any power lines along the highway, for God’s sake!”
Just then a bus pulled off the highway and lumbered its dusty way to a stop a few yards from us. A dozen or so people got off, including two men carrying big blocks of ice with ice tongs. A couple of passengers stretched and others went to get food or drink.
“Well, now we know,” Mom said.

NEXT: We’re There: Mazatlan!  &  On the Road Again – But Why?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 29, 2010 6:59 pm

    >Saeta que voladoraCruza, arrojada al azar,Y que no se sabe dondeTemblando se clavara…Gustavo Adolfo Becquer y nico

  2. January 30, 2010 8:12 pm

    >Or, as Cock Robin said, "I shot an arrow into the air, it fell to earth, I know not where."

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