Gambling with the mainland and more……

Well, having lived on the island of Cozumel for close to five months now, it seemed a good idea to leave her for an afternoon.  Maybe I could do a little shopping for those hard to find items, and fit in a little sightseeing along the way.  Yes,  a good plan.  However, although the idea came to me on a Saturday, waiting until Monday to avoid the weekend crowds seemed a good plan as well.

Monday afternoon was glorious.  Blue skies, white clouds, but with a nice breeze.  I walked to the ferry, paid for my round trip ticket and headed up the stairs.  The camera had to come out, of course, so as to snap a few pics of the modern architecture inside the “dock.”  But, having timed it closely, it wasn’t long before  boarding.

The trip took about thirty minutes, which is quite a bit less than it took the first time I came to the island from Playa Del Carmen about twenty years ago.  The boats used today are much nicer as well.  Now they have several decks to choose from, air conditioning, and lots of drinks available, although that hasn’t changed since my first time crossing so long ago.  It seems that alcohol and vacations often go hand in hand and, for most, why not?

Having flown to Cozumel via Mayair when I moved here, it had been a long time since I’d been to Puerto de Playa Del Carmen.  I have to say that not much had changed other than even more of the shops were now in permanent structures that wouldn’t be as easily blown away during events such as Wilma.  But, there were still t-shirts, sea shells, slabs of jewelry, crazy hats and the many other baubles that remind us we’re in a hot spot for vacationers.  And, even though it was Monday, there were still crowds of both tourists and hawkers.  It was a festive,  and  absolutely fun, place for an amateur photographer like me.  Bright, tropical colors were everywhere as well as the crazily clad tourists, the insistent store workers, and the occasional living statue. Oh, and before I talk about the “statue” I saw, let me mention something.  Personally, I don’t think anyone besides Bo Derek has ever looked good in tight braids with beads, but God Bless those of you who still try.  Okay, back to my story.

In San Miguel we have what I like to call the “tin man.”  But, at the puerto of Playa Del Carmen they have Michael Jackson.  He plays the music and, on occasion, will do a few moves before his next “freeze.”  His moves are very good and I had to watch him for a little while.  He’s kind enough to strike a pose whenever he sees a camera, and was also nice enough to ask me if I got a good shot, once I was putting pesos into his tip jar.  And, by the way, his English is quite good too.  After tipping him I sat and took it all in for a while until I saw something that changed my plans, as vague as they were, for the better, or worse.  I’ll let the reader decide since I’m never really certain.

A small, but colorful poster was pasted on a wall just off to my left.  It told me that there was a casino in town and the name of it was “The Winpot.”  Now, for those that know me, I love the slots.  Do I know the house will always have the odds?  Yes, but I still enjoy sitting in front of a noisy machine, putting in a few pesos, and waiting to see if I’m a winner.  Could it be trouble?   Of course, but only if I spend more than I can afford.  Since I’d already budgeted for a few wanted, but not needed, items the decision was easy and off to find the Plaza Las Americas I decided to go.  It was time to find a taxi.

Now, you will notice that there are no pictures of the casino and that’s for two reasons.  First of those is that the outside is not particularly photogenic.  A large, rather drab wall with the word “casino” across it and the word “winpot” on the lower right hand side is all that one sees.  There were also rather large, uniformed men standing just outside the door so I decided to forgo the opportunity.   I was, however, given permission to take a pic of one of the waiters as long as there were no machines in sight.  My favorite waiter,  Javier, was nice enough to pose for me, briefly, in the midst of his many jaunts back and forth from the center bar and the gambling folks perched in front of their favored machine.

There is a both a smoking and non-smoking section, which helps me to partake in two of my vices at the same time.  I found a machine that seemed to like me and there I sat sipping a vast amount of free coca colas.  I only play the penny and nickle slots so I am often able to last for hours.  But, not this time, “hours” just seemed a bit excessive.  So, after winning back most of what I’d lost, it was time to go.  I’d decided that there were still a few things I wanted so off I went to do a bit of shopping in the mall itself.

Back at Puerto de Playa Del Carmen, with my few bags in hand, the camera came back out.  A plastic, grinning shark is what welcomes those of us who are going to Cozumel.  I’m not quite sure if there’s a message there.  Since it was about time to board I went to stand in line.  I noticed a group of women dressed in traditional garb and, after pointing to my camera, they shyly allowed me to take their picture.  I noticed another group of folks surrounding something and my curiosity got the better of me.  I walked over and saw that they were chatting over their centerpiece, which was a pooch in a purple laundry basket.  The man was even nice enough to allow me to take a photo of his pup and he reached in to hold the dog up for my benefit.  I’m not sure I got its “good side,” but the moment was fun.

It was easy to stay in a good mood on board as well.  Folks were just plain happy whether due to being on vacation, or it was the end of their work day,  who knows, but smiles were everywhere.  And, I’d like to add, something I’ve noticed is that when I’m taking photos many locals want me to take theirs as well.  One family on board were so nice, so much fun, and so eager to pose that I took a bunch of shots.  Although I’ll just put one on here, I want to say that it was hard to choose which one to use..  They were just that much fun to be around.

Once I went up to another deck I ran into a friend of mine.  She told me she was meeting some folks for karaoke and asked me to come along.  I agreed, but with a timeline in mind since it had been hours for my pups to be outside.  Do they have beds, a constant shady area, a bucket and bowls of water, treats?  Yes, but I still worry.  She understood, we agreed on a timeline, and we hailed a cab as soon as we hit shore.

Now, for those that know me, I like to think I can sing.  I can’t.  Back in the days when I consumed the liquid courage I continued to be convinced that Barbara Streisand should be worried.  Now that I tend to avoid the stuff  reality wins.  Of course, that left me with the ability to take pics of those who could actually carry a tune and their audience.

As always, the locals were friendly.  Happy couples were supporting the talented, and just as vigorously, applauded  those without the ability to even carry a tune.  Apparently the only requirement was that someone have the courage to stand at the mike and give it a try.  For a second I was, almost, talked into trying myself.  But, I was having too much fun to put myself, and them, through the experience, so I declined.

A little while later I noticed I was focusing quite a bit on the lighting of all the pretty bottles behind the counter.   Since I also knew that they are the same ones that just might give me that courage to embarrass myself,  I had to pause.   I knew it was time to head home.   It is, after all, a small island.  So, with these thoughts in mind, and eager to see my pups, I headed out for a cab.  It had been another good day in Mexico,  why spoil it, yes?               Salud!

p.s. I hope that taking a bit of literary license is alright since this story is actually the combination of two days.  I’d had more serious things to do on this past Monday so it seemed like a good idea.  Hope you enjoyed!

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