Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Appointment in Tonalá

There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture,  now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.
From Appointment In Samarra by John O'Hara

OUR Saturday departure from Pátzcuaro was threatened by the violent events of Thursday afternoon and evening. Los Caballeros Templares gang skirmished with police and the Ejército, hijacking  public and private vehicles and setting them aflame. Most of those incidents took place in distant Apatzingán, Uruapan and Morelia.

Photo from quadratin.com.mx

We were worried less about our own safety than about our ability to get to Tonalá, Jalisco, where we had reserved a room at the Casa de Las Palomas, prior to a flight out of GDL on Sunday morning. The bus line companies or the Camionera Central of Morelia had suspended activities until the disturbances were squelched.

Casa de Las Palomas. Hotel photo-cropped

We developed a few contingency plans, but as our departure time grew closer, the bus lines began running again, and we reached our destination in comfort and ease. The hotel is very well arranged and managed, and the room we had ($440 pesos for 1 or 2 persons, king bed, wi-fi, AC and fan; The rooms are arranged around a large, roofed atrium, and broad stone stairways access the various floors.

After a nice dinner at the close by Restaurante El Rincón Del Sol, we went to our second floor room to rest. A couple of hours later, I arose and was thinking of going out to buy some pan dulce for a light breakfast in our room.  But when I saw that it had started to rain, I changed my plans.

Instead, I went up to the azotea or roof terrace, in the hope of finding an approved place to smoke a cigar. The owners of the Hotel La Casa de Las Palomas have done an excellent job in developing the rooftop to make it a congenial place for parties. When I topped the stairs, I saw that it was raining harder but I dashed across the open area to the roofed section. Alas, the only smoking area was out in the open.

Terraza in good weather. Hotel photo.

Now the rain was beating alarmingly on the arched translucent room. The wind was picking up, driving rain through the partially open sides of the sheltered party room. The wind screamed and began to hurl pellets of hail against the building. Cascades of water poured off the peaked roof, and despite the drains, began to back up.

Terraza in the storm. Don Cuevas photo
At that point, I decided to take further shelter in one of the small restrooms at the back of the party room. They were solidly roofed and the walls were perforated only by small louvered ventanillas. Only a little wind driven water came though the louvers.

Back of the covered party room. Rest rooms to left.
By this time I'd been up there 35 minutes or more, and I began to think of returning to Doña Cuevas and the hoped for dryness of our room.  But as darkness cast its somber cape over the beleaguered city, the storm continued. I twice saw electric lines short out in pyrotechnic showers of sparks. (Just like in the movies.) Sections of the city went dark, and ours followed, but power was quickly restored.

First, I decided to take some photos. With hindsight, I wish I'd taken a video to convey the motion and the roar. After a while, the rain diminished enough that I could seriously consider making a dash across the open area of only about 50 feet.

Crouching to avoid drenching my camera and my iPod Touch, I raced through ankle deep water. At the head of the stairs, I found Norberto, a hotel employee clad in yellow rain slicker, desperately trying to hold back the water. He had rolled up carpets to dam the top- of the stairs. But ni modo (Noah Vail), the waters cascaded down the stairs, forming shallow lagoons at the landing. Then, once more, it spilled to yet lower levels.

Our floor had limited pools of water, and to my relief, our room was dry. My shoes and clothes were soaked, but by some miracle of modern fiber technology, the shirt and pants dried out by morning.

We heard hotel staff labor until at least midnight, clearing up the water. By 6 a.m. we saw only a few damp spots and a small puddle on the wooden dance floor.  The cab ride to the airport was dreary but uneventful. Our flight was very pleasant (more on that later.) We arrived in San Jose, CA to beautiful weather.

Others did not get off as lightly as us. Here's a report from El Informador de Jalisco (in Spanish).Las lluvias dejan cinco mil damnificados en Tonalá


Susan said...

This is our hotel of choice when we come to the big city!! The staff is very accomadating and always seem to remember you. I always ask the the corner room with the balcony - it's a bit bigger. Great choice!

Don Cuevas said...

Thanks, Susan. We'll ask for the corner room, thanks to you.

Don Cuevas

Anonymous said...

It's often been my experience that Mexican hotels with that layout around a central patio are very noisy in the rooms. The central area seems to act as a bullhorn. But you don't mention that, so I assume it was no problem.

But see what kind of problems you encounter when you smoke? Would have been better to stay dry and cozy in your room with your wife. She's a nice woman.


Don Cuevas said...

Welcome, First-time poster, unseenmoon!

Problems when I smoke? Yes; dropping hot ashes into my lap.

Back in the room, yes; it was cozy. I had to strip out of my drenched clothing and get under the covers of the bed.

Don Cuevas