Monday, December 30, 2013

Gatos y Perros

When we lived in Iowa I remember hearing references to a "million dollar rain" to describe precipitation that arrived just in time to turn a mediocre harvest into a silo busting bumper crop.

We're having that kind of consequential rain in Puerto Vallarta right now, but the million dollars is a disappointing loss, not a windfall.

Vallarta lives on tourism, and the fat end of the fat season is right now, from around mid-December through the first couple of weeks of January. Foreigners and nationals alike save up for holiday vacations and spend them here.

Weather is a big part of what draws the crowds. The monsoon rains of July through September are long gone, as are the summer heat and humidity. Daytime temperatures peak in the balmy 80s, dropping into the 60s most nights.

Skies are blue day after day. The boats ply the bay, packed with whale watchers, snorkelers, parasailers, jet skiers and fishermen. Other fun lovers head by the truckload for zip lines, horseback rides, galleries, and the attractions of smaller towns in every direction. And still others browse the shops for souvenirs, local tequilas, silver, Indian beadwork etc.

They all return to their hotels, order drinks, put on the new tropical duds they've bought, and head out for dinner and views of the technicolor sunsets that make every winter evening special on the Bahia de Banderas.

After that, a lot of them hit the clubs and dance the night away to the booming house music that would keep us awake if we weren't already long asleep. Their wads of pesos at eight-plus to the dollar feel like play money, and they spread it around freely.

But for the past several days, a front has squatted over most of the state of Jalisco. It has been raining almost continuously, day and night.

You don't even see rain like this in Vallarta during the rainy season, when the days are still mostly sunny and the thunderstorms usually don't arrive until afternoon as brief, ferocious squalls. We haven't seen the sun since last week.

What must make it especially hard for local merchants is that they know their million dollars are right here, close enough to smell in the pockets of the disappointed tourists who sit stranded in their hotels or don't venture out any farther than one of the local Starbucks.

Those are all packed with damp and dispirited out-of-towners trying to self-sooth with the familiar menu and caffeine buzz. At least somebody's making a little hay while the sun doesn't shine.

We also see a few visitors now and then in dreary clumps on the sidewalks, trying not to get splashed by the buses and wondering where they can find a windbreaker or an umbrella, items that aren't easy to locate in these parts.

Our ceiling, freshly painted in anticipation of the new roof that we hope will stop the leaks before next summer, is now drizzling on us again and starting to bubble its way back to the scabrous state in which we found it in September.

At least it's an opportunity for me to try to practice my Spanish with fellow sufferers, but the conversations are short.

"¿Que piensas de estas lluvias?" I ask everyone I encounter as I go about my little bits of business.

"Es loco," they almost always reply, in a way that makes it clear the less said the better.

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