Tuesday, April 19, 2011

How I Went Looking for Jesus on a Donkey and Ended Up a Mexican Movie Star

It started with a weekend road trip to Uruapan in the state of Michoacán, about 160 miles from San Miguel de Allende. I went with my friend, Eleanor, and we were planning to rendezvous with other friends who were going to the same destination by bus. We were all headed for the wonderful annual crafts fair there.

Ceramics at the crafts fair

Michoacán is the headquarters of La Familia drug cartel that has a penchant for beheading people. But it was the beginning of Holy Week, which is a big deal in Mexico. People spend a lot of time in church and in religious processions so we figured the narco traffickers would be too busy with all that to be committing mass homicide.
I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again: I love driving in Mexico. We sped south on the magnificent toll roads, mainly through immaculate farm land and occasional marshes that are home to otherworldly white herons.  We only had one uncomfortable moment when we thought we’d missed the by-pass around Morelia, the state capital. So we stopped at a gas station and asked two handsome and kind young men for directions. They led us in their pick-up truck to the on-ramp and waved us off with dazzling smiles.
The road climbed even higher into the Sierras then as we approached Uruapen dropped sharply down into a sub-tropical climate zone. Wending our way through the outskirts of the city I almost ran a couple of red lights as I’ve been living in a town with no traffic lights for the last nine months.  We checked into the fancy-pants Plaza Hotel (a whopping $52 a night each for bed and full buffet breakfast) and it was a good choice as it was on the square where the crafts fair was happening.
Lunch was first on our agenda and we certainly earned it. To get to the restaurant we had in mind, we hiked the length of the stunning national park that starts on the edge of the city and scales a large hill. It was lush with tropical foliage and waterfalls around every bend.

A waterfall in the park

Sweaty and low on blood sugar we finally reached the Urani Restaurant and plopped down at an outdoor table overlooking the park. Uruapen claims to be the avocado capital of the world and the macadamia nut capital of Mexico so we leaned into that: guacamole, macadamia encrusted fresh local trout with jicama and mango salad and cappuccino ice cream.  

Macademia nut encrusted trout.

The rest of the afternoon we made a start on the overwhelming display of beautiful craftwork and gaped at the gorgeous women in their ethnic costumes and waist-length hair. We topped off the day downing margaritas in the hotel bar with our friends from San Miguel.

Stunning fine embroidery work by these women

The next morning the big adventure began. This being Palm Sunday and knowing how Mexicans love a parade – especially a religious one - I was convinced there was going to be a procession with a man dressed as Jesus “riding into Jerusalem” on a donkey. I can’t get enough of that kind of thing so we left the hotel early and headed to the cathedral on the plaza. The entire sidewalk was lined with women making and selling intricate palm weavings to be taken into the church and blessed. I grew up Catholic and we always had a simple cross made from palm fronds but I’d never seen anything like this.

Women weaving palm fronds outside the cathedral

There was also a professional looking film crew setting up outside the church so I was more convinced than ever that Jesus was imminent. As we were hanging around a young woman with a clipboard approached us and explained that the crew was making a promotional film for the Mexican tourist board and would we be in it? “Hot damn, yes,” we said without hesitation. Next thing, my hair was being primped and we were being given our instructions by the handsome director, Sergio.

Our director, Sergio

Eleanor was at the bottom of a short flight of steps and I was at the top. We were both supposed to be buying the palm thingies and interacting with the women making them.  There was a camera dolly set up and when Sergio yelled “action” the camera rolled along the sidewalk as Eleanor and I crouched down and “bought” palms. It was all fairly simple but in true movie fashion we did take after take for over an hour.
My vendor, though a beautiful looking woman, was quite surly. I tried desperately to talk to her but she simply scowled at me. I learned later that this commotion was preventing her from selling her wares so I felt bad for her.

My "co-star" wouldn't crack a smile or even tell me her name

I was quite jealous because Eleanor, on the other hand, was having a wonderful interaction with her co-star. And the woman turned out to be a psychic who was telling Eleanor all about her life as they acted out the charade!
After it was finally a wrap and the releases were signed, we realized we didn’t have that long to take in the enormous craft fair so I sadly gave up any idea of seeing Jesus that day and we headed into the mass of tented booths in the middle of plaza. (And where, incidentally, Eleanor took the photo of me that I’ve made my new profile picture.)  As we were trolling the aisles full of ceramics and lacquer work and embroidered clothing, I heard singing.  It was the parade!  I knew it. Abandoning Eleanor, I took off bobbing and weaving through the packed crowd to the perimeter of the plaza where I thought the parade was headed. Nooooo! I missed Jesus! All I caught were the apostles as they headed into the church.

I missed Jesus!

Oh, well. This is only the beginning of holy week. We have a packed few days to come of a bloody and beaten Jesus dragging the cross from church to church – in some cases, town to town – as he’s flogged and then strung up on the cross (seriously, I’m not kidding about this). I’m truly sorry I didn’t catch him on his last good day, but in compensation, I finally became the movie star I knew I was destined to be when I was eight years old.

Update on Spanx

In my last post I commented that I'd like to know who named Spanx. Well, I was just catching up on reading The New Yorker and there in the March 28th edition is the answer. Journalist Alexandra Jacobs does a fine profile of Spanx inventor Sara Blakely.

She's a size 6 ("the largest I've ever been," she claims). And now she's bringing out a line for men with a "3D pouch." She sent a sample of her Spanx wifebeater to her father-in-law and it apparently took him half a day to get in and out of it. His wife said she never laughed harder. Welcome to our world, guys.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cooling Down Body Heat

Scientist have discovered that our brains aren't fully developed until we're well into our 20s. At least not the parts that help us make rational decisions and put the brakes on when it comes to impetuous and irresponsible behavior, which largely accounts for the stupid choices and reckless acting out we do as kids. (Thank God sexting hadn't been invented when I was a teenager!)

As we get older, most of us do develop the ability to exercise some measure of impulse control. The sad thing about that though, is that over time we also lose our appreciation for impromptu boinking.

Fortunately, for our vicarious gratification, sexual spontaneity occurs a great deal in movies and literature. It seems that in popular culture people are always ripping off their own or each other's clothes and making passionate love on the kitchen table or in elevators. I'm not talking about soft-core porn, either. I saw a whole bunch of it once when my cable company offered a free week of Cinemax, but I decided it wasn't worth paying for. There's a lot of spontaneous sex in those movies, but it's very much by rote (boy/girl; girl/girl; boy/girl/girl; boy/different girl) and the acting is so lack-luster that they could have been making a cheese sandwich instead of wild, monkey love.

There are movies that do it right. One of my favorites is the steamy neo-noir Body Heat  from the early 1980s. Remember that? William Hurt played Ned Racine, a cocky small town lawyer who was bamboozled into killing the husband of Matty, played by a sizzling Kathleen Turner.

William Hurt and Kathleen Turner in
Body Heat. Whew!

It was set in the humid summer of South Florida, and everyone was constantly in heat and glistening with sweat. Who didn't go weak at the knees when Ned hurled a chair though Matty's window to get to her? The subsequent consummation of his smoldering obsession (yeah, she had a slightly different agenda) on the hall floor was one of the most unforgettably erotic scenes in cinema. But maybe that's just me revealing a bit too much about own fantasy life. (Or maybe it's not just me: the movie scores 97 on Rotten Tomatoes.)

Bear in mind it was only a movie. In real life, Ned would have tripped the burglar alarm or slashed an artery on the broken glass. Meanwhile, Matty would've worried he's lose his ardor because he spotted the dust bunnies under the hall table or because her bikini wax was overdue.

Even reputable sex manuals and how-to-keep-your-love-alive books rate spontaneity highly as an aphrodisiac. They want you to meet your husband or lover at the door wearing a garter belt and a saucy gleam in your eye. But when you start stacking up the decades you're not going to do that unless you want to risk him having a stroke.

It's my belief that these types of books are authored by the same people who produce those interior design books featuring exquisite rooms with no tangle of computer wires, piles of unread magazines, dog toys, boxes of tissues, laundry hampers, and do forth. In other words, these books - sex or design related - are written for people without spouses, kids, pets, jobs, hobbies, habits, or bodily functions. And they're definitely not written for people with a few years on them.

But do let's get back to Body Heat. It was made in the days when the only thing husky about Kathleen Turner was her voice and William Hurt looked like a leading man and not your high-school guidance counselor. Ted Danson had hair (at least I think that was his own hair?); and Mickey Rourke looked like a real live boy.

Mustachio-d Hurt and Ted Danson with a head of
someone's hair. Hopefully, his own.

Oh, Mickey. How we loved you then.

Imagine that chair-through-the-window scene played out now. First off, Ned would have to take his Viagra 30 minutes to an hour ahead of time; so the breaking and entering would have to be premeditated making it just a plain old crime instead of a crime of passion. Picking up and attempting to throw a lawn chair would have either given him a hernia or put his back out.

Matty, in the meantime, would be wearing foundation garments rather than a thong. Imagine trying to wiggle alluring out of Spanx in the throes of passion. (I'd love to get into the head of the person who gave such a naughty name to a garment that's like granny panties to the nth degree.) I don't think so.

Ooh-la-la. Them sexy Spanx
(And why do they show them on
models who don't need them?)

And as for the bikini wax: ha ha ha! If she's become as smart as I think she is, that particular form of self-inflicted torment is never gonna happen again in her lifetime.

The hall floor is not sounding attractive either. That hard wood that everyone loves so much now is hell on old joints. Oh, for the days of rug burn!

As chance would have it, I heard an interview with Kathleen Turner just the other day. She was out on the media circuit touting her new Broadway role as a nun in the play High. Once Matty now a nun? Say it ain't so. No sooner had that thought crossed my mind when Ms. Turner commented that she had just realized it was exactly 30 years since Body Heat was released. She went to say that her days of appearing nude, as she did in the film, were long over.

Kathleen Turner on stage with a naked man.
But now she's a nun.

Still, at least she'll always be immortalized on screen at her luscious best. The rest of us will just have to rely on how we think we looked when we confidently frolicked tanned and naked in the waves on a Greek island; surreptitiously skinny dipped in a hotel pool at three a.m. in the steamy heat of Singapore; or just shucked it all off in a heartbeat at a metaphorical chair-through-the-window moment.

Before I put a bullet to my head, let's consider if we have gained anything in compensation for losing the urge for off-the-cuff nudity and boinking? What we now know that we didn't when we were young and horny is that as initial passion cools to a simmer, what your relationship might lose in chemistry, it will gain in intimacy and substance and shared experiences.

Eh, sorry; that's all I got.