The Quest
Volume 3 Book 7 Part 4 of
Living in the Bonus Round

Sunset in Manzanillo, Mexico.

[ Book 3-6 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]
[ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] [ Pt 15 ] [ Pt 16 ]

January 18-20, 2004.
New Year's Eve.
[I'm just a little bit behind on the diary because I'm now in Indianapolis and we are getting my Internet connection hooked up. So, before I describe what's going on here -- and by the way, I'm a very happy camper -- I want to finish off the photo album from the cruise. I've gotten a lot of great responses and am happy that readers are enjoying this.]

After we went through the Panama Canal, before heading up to Mexico, we stopped at a small port called Puntarenas in Costa Rica. Puntarenas is a very small village on the west coast. It's not really a tourist spot in the classic sense (except for those who love going deep into the jungle on nature trips, which I don't). They recently installed a big deep water port. But as you can see, the coast line is spectacular, lined with palm trees, clean (dark sand) beaches and, in the background, dense forested hills.

Puntarenas coast line. Beautiful beach.
Puntarenas coast line.

Puntarenas downtown.

The little town itself, however, is small and not really very scenic. It's just a place where people live. The thing that was most difficult to deal with was the heat and the humidity. 10 minutes of walking around and we were almost ready to collapse.

Jimmy hot.Jimmy in humidity.
Jimmy didn't like the humidity the heat.

As with all South American towns, the main structure is the Roman Catholic Church. In this case, I have to say, though I try to avoid criticizing other religions, I have big problems with the way the RCC uses the image of Jesus to get poor people to give their money. I saw it when I was a teenager visiting Mexico with their glass coffins and bloody paintings, but here in Puntarenas I saw a statue of Jesus on the cross that I found so shocking I could barely look at it.

The small stone church was under renovation.

Old church steeple in Puntarenas.Church in Puntarenas.
The small RCC church of Puntarenas.
Notice the cross hanging over the altar.

Bloody Jesus on cross.Jesus bloody knees.
We called this statue "Scary Jesus."
It hovered over the altar at an angle, hanging over the people.

Beautiful pink flower.
But flowers, of course, love the moisture and the sunshine.

What a contrast to our next port, Mexico's Cabo San Lucas which is at the far tip of Baja California. Playground of the stars! The beautiful bay is surrounded by spectacular rock formation which curves around until it reaches the beatiful city, lined with condos and tourist shops and luxurious yachts.
Cabo San Lucas.

City of Cabo San Lucas.
Cabo San Lucas.

Now THIS is a yacht.

From Cabo we went back down south for the second part of the cruise, stopping at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Manzanillo and then, finally, Acapulco.
Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta.

Cliff divers in Acapulco.
Cliff divers of Acapulco.
See the diver? I actually caught one in mid-dive.

Acapulco bay.
Acapulco bay.

The divers of Acapulco put on a special show just for our ship. After they finished diving, they climbed back up and greeted us on our way out. We put dollars on their wet bodies for tips. And boy, did they have beautiful bodies. These guys train from the time they're able to start swimming. They've even formed their own union because it's such a specialized skill.

Finally, for New Year's Eve, heading into 2004, we anchored in the harbor while the city put on a beautiful fireworks display and we all celebrated on board the ship.

Fireworks in Acapulco
Fireworks in Acapulco.
New years party on ship.New Years Party on ship.
New Years Party on deck.

Bar staff on New Years Eve.
A happy crew.

As I stood out on the deck of that ship, I reflected back just little bit and thought of all the things I had to be thankful for. First, that Jimmy and I could  be there at all. This is not the sort of cruise we could ever afford. We were there because of a long chain of events beginning back when I left East Texas in the late 70s and got a job singing at a cabaret theatre in Dallas. Then years later, the musical director of that theatre ran into me by accident at a restaurant in Dallas where he told me of a job on board a cruise ship where I met Adam & Nicki Derrick, entertainers from England who began working on another ship where they invited Jimmy to come do a lecture. Then Jimmy ran into an old friend, Kirk, who used to work for the late great entertainer Charles Pierce but who was now working for this line, who then invited Jimmy lecture for him.

I thought of how many times Jimmy and I had sat together in a hospital room not knowing if I was going to live or die. And yet, here I was was, shoulder to shoulder with some of the richest people I had ever met face to face. Little did they know that I was standing there wondering how we were going to pay the rent next month.

I also took a moment to think of the people of Mexico. I looked over the lights of Acapulco, to the hills just behind the city. I thought about the tour we had taken that day. How the tour guide pointed out some mud and wooden shacks nestled up in those hills. Inside those shacks were dirt poor "indios" who had trekked from the interior of Mexico, people who could speak neither English NOR Spanish, but who had come to the outskirts of Acapulco hoping to find a job so that they could eek out the most meager of livings.

I also remembered the tour guide telling us, "You want to know the difference between Americans and Mexicans? We may not have much, but we are very happy people. We sometimes look at the people from your country who come here and so many of them are stressed out, worried... I don't know for what reason. But we have learned that you cannot earn happiness. We love each other and we are a very happy people."

And that's it, isn't it? Happiness really does come from within.

At the stroke of midnight, I found Jimmy and as we held each other tightly, I stood on that deck and I raised a glass to all of us. To the fabulously wealthy people around me, some of whom were scowling and grumpy because they had to walk all the way from one end of the ship to the other. To the Filipinos who worked 14 hours a day scrubbing the decks or serving food so that they could send money back home. To the tall east European waiters and bartenders seeing America and the world for the first time. To the poverty-stricken Indios up in the hills who saw Acapulco as a Promised Land.

I was thankfully appreciative that we could be here on this day, that we had talent, that people all over the world were either reading our words, acting in our plays or singing our songs, I knew that I was, indeed, not just the luckiest person on earth, but that I was gloriously insanely happy.

Maybe even as happy as a Mexican.

Jim Brochu & Steve Schalchlin

[ Book 3-6 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
[ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10 ]
[ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ] [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ] [ Pt 15 ] [ Pt 16 ]

© 1996-2003 by Steve Schalchlin.
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