I dream about a Tahitian man singing over a hard-boiled egg. It’s a wild kinda singing. More like high-pitched shrieking. I like him. I want to follow him wherever he goes. A bunch of green flashes before me. Then I’m on the catamaran in Mexico and it’s really a spaceship and I can’t see anything from the helm, so I’m steering blindly and we’re sailing between all sorts of trees that grow out of the water. I keep getting the spaceship stuck and I’m freaking out, but none of the charter guest seem to mind.
I wake up before sunrise in a bed above the sea of Cortez. I’m surrounded by ornate tiles that cool the body to touch and ceramic pots so big that you could stuff a body inside them. The house belongs to my best friend’s father. His name is Giovanni. He’s Italian down to his last oxygen atom. He’s also a scientist. And a sailor. And an explorer.
The last time I was in that house, was a long time ago. Right after I lost almost everything I owned to Hurricane Sandy. Or Super Storm Sandy. Or whatever that destructive thing finally got named. One must lose to gain, and since then I have gained. I have gained a lot. I have gained immeasurable things. Nothing that really matters can be measured…can it? Talk to me of your gold and I’ll talk to you of my guts, of God’s glory, of the glittered sunset that my eyes just drank.
Giovanni makes me laugh. He’s retired, plagued by nothing, and as honest as honest gets. I met his daughter Stefania in NY. She was my friend even when I was my own worst enemy. That says something. We worked together in a three-story night club in the west village. Movida. It was designed by the photographer Dah Len, he described the space as a “luxury yacht on a voyage of hedonistic discovery.” Blacklights, chandeliers, marble dance floors, stripper poles, disco balls, and mirrors and mirrors and more mirrors. A lot of rock stars, wanna be rock stars, and kids of famous rock stars hung out there.
There were a few cats from Little Rock, Arkansas that worked at the club; one was a bartender, the other a bottle service sexpot, then there was me…the gal you had to sweet talk to get into the VIP lounge. I don’t know how I got the position because I couldn’t tell a rock star from a rambler… life’s better that way. Whose who anyway? One other time in life I sat across from the actor, Mark Ruffalo, inside of a teepee for 12 hours straight. Sunset to sunrise. It was a ceremony. We swallowed peyote buttons. The rattle was rattling and the water drum, drumming and the prayers, praying. Every once in a while, between my thunder-headed epiphanies, I would look across the fire and see Mark. He was familiar to me, like staring at someone that I sort of knew- a friend’s brother, the barista at my local coffee shop, somebodies’ somebody. After we greeted the sun and the whole shebang was said and done, I said to him, “Hey, haven’t I met you at like a party upstate or something?” He smiled and said, “Maybe.”
Anyway, back at Movida, I often wore sequins to work and I was the perfect VIP longue gal because I didn’t know who you were and you had to prove something more to me in that moment that we met with a red velvet rope between us. My job was kind of dangerous, party people on drugs don’t like to be told “no,” so I had my own bouncer who protected me. He was as tall as the ceiling and made of a mound of brown muscles. And he could crush people with his pinkie toe, which was the size of a blue whale’s penis. He was my superhero and next to him I felt safe.
Stefania worked the coat check. People sometimes checked all of their clothes- naked nothings strutting all about- and whatever they left behind, we kept. When our boss would keep us past the clock he’d try to pay us in cocaine, but I’ve never cared for riding the white horse, so I’d say, “No thanks, I’ll take another $100.” I’d go home, put my wad of cash in a cigar box, sleep for two hours, then wake up and go to my internship at Magnum Photos. I was burning every candle at every end, back then.
Stefania taught me how to be cool by New York standards, she lent me clothes, introduced me to music, took me to museums and parties and Coney Island. She also taught me that spirits can speak through strangers. After her mom died, she was a mess. She asked her mom for a sign. That very day Stefania was walking the streets of the lower East Side when this man crossed her path and said, “You’re S-S-S-S-S-Stefania.” He was foreign, maybe French, maybe South African. She said, “Yea, do I know you?” He said, “No, I just had a feeling that it was you.” Then he said, “I have message for you. Don’t worry about your life, it will be just fine. You have this protection around you.” She said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I mean, your mom.” Stefania cried. The foreign man all but held her.
Sometimes all you gotta do is ask!
So yea, I love Stefania and her dad, and here I am, at his house in La Paz. We watch the sunrise from his rooftop. We drink espresso. We eat pizza at 7 a.m. We watch some Scandinavian news channel about a Mexican ritual… I don’t understand a word it says, but I like the visuals. We go provisioning for the sailing voyage. Giovanni drives me and Alida all over La Paz to gather the goods. The city is made of psychedelic graffiti. My head pop, pop, pops. We go to a market where there is a shrine for the Virgin and she is surrounded by Christmas lights and fake cactus plants. We watch fresh fish, larger than men, get scaled and sliced before our very eyes. We buy a lot of fish. One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. We go to a bakery. We buy fresh bread. We go to a tortilla maker. We buy fresh tortillas. We go to the only Asian market in that part of Mexico. We buy everything made from rice and drops of spice. We go to a farmer’s market. We buy fruit and vegetables and edible flowers. We go to a grocery store. We buy an entire cart full of booze. We are tired. I want to collapse. I want to sleep for days, but I have to go to the boat now.
Before I leave Giovanni says, “Olivia, watch out for the Coromuel Winds around here at night. They come up fast from the south-west. Boats drag anchor all the time.”
I drive. I think about the winds. I turn every which way the wrong way along the way, and arrive fried. The marina is fancy. You need a gate code and a platinum credit card just to get in. I roll down my window and say to the security guard, “I’m just a captain trying to get to my spaceship.” I smile. He smiles. The gate opens. I feel altered.
I weave past somebody’s version Shangri-la. The people are perfect and they have a lot of perfect kids that speak 1,000 tongues, and play piano like Beethoven, and they’re all dressed in Gucci. My feet catch fire. I walk into the Dream Yacht Charter office. It’s small with papers piled high. I sign my life away. I’m the skipper and it’s all on me… the weight of heaven and hell and everything in between.
I go over my float plan with the manager of Dream Yacht. He tells me how remote the area is. I already know this, but him reiterating it, makes my butterflies flap so hard that I fear that their wings might fall off. He says if anybody gets hurt, it would take a lot of talk on a VHF and up to 4 hours for someone to rescue them. He tells me to be careful. He mentions the Coromuel winds too, and tells me to use every inch of chain I’ve got. He tells me to take notes about the systems aboard the boat and to study them hard. He says if anything breaks, I gotta fix it on my own or wait a while for help. Most charter companies will zip out to meet you wherever you are and fix things for you in nothing flat. Among all this luxury, that is not one of them.
Captain Ron is next to me. It’s 2 p.m. and I don’t know much tequila he’s already had. He’s renting a boat with his daughter and nephew. He hasn’t studied the charts one lick, has never even heard of Navionics. I wonder if he’s driven a boat before. I admire people who know next to nothing and still go wide open and full throttle. I’m the opposite, I memorize every manual and still move at half-speed. Captain Ron recognizes this difference in us and asks if he can follow me. I like this idea. Buddy boating always gives me more confidence. I pull up my chart and pass it over. “The fish marks the spot,” I tell him.