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MURAL 61 in Cancún, Mexico

The Situation .....My dentist in Ohio retired. I know, I should have just immediately found a new one, but that isn't what happened. However, when a filling broke apart and I was left with a gaping hole in my mouth, the situation needed to be resolved. So, I found a dentist almost within walking distance from my home. Then, I mustered up the courage and went to meet the guy.

My new dentist cleaned up the hole and refilled it. He was afraid it might need a root canal, but I missed that bullet. And, I'm very thankful about that. However, he said that the tooth was fragile and needed a crown. A $1400 crown. I said I couldn’t afford that. The lady at the desk said they could lower it by $100. That wouldn’t help a lick. So, it was time to contact my other dentist . . . in Cancun. It seems that I was destined for another trip to the Caribbean, like it or not.

The Solution .....I sent a message to Cancun Dental Specialists. The guy who checked the messages had no idea what I was talking about when I suggested dental work in exchange for a mural. But, a few days later, he asked his boss. “I got a very strange email. Are you interested in trading dental work for a mural?”

Much to his surprise, his boss said, “Absolutely!”

So, my first mural since Covid was arranged, in the Caribbean. Including flight and accommodations, it cost me half the price of the crown in the USA. and I had to stay in the Cancun area for two weeks.

Of course, I mentioned this to my new dentist by my home. Everyone in the office was skeptical. Mexico? Seriously? However, I've been to the dentist in Mexico. I've seen how modern the facilities are. The operation is no back-water shanty down a dark alley with machinery dating back to the 1950s. With dentists trained in the States, it's as modern as anything I've ever seen. And, I traded a mural for dentistry work in these very offices the last time I needed big work done at the dentist.

This was a very welcome rerun, not the need for dental work, but an exchange of services rendered.

In Cancun .....The work that I needed doing was completed over two days. I'm not going to say that getting a crown is painless dentistry. But, I'm really pleased with the work and the service. I was well taken care of. My part of the exchange was a little more complicated. I planned two weeks in Mexico so I would have plenty of time for the mural. I'm not sure what happened. You know, life gets in the way sometimes. But, I didn't connect with the dentist about the mural design until day eight. I kind of wanted the design done well before that time.

Communication..... I finally got a ride to the dentist's home to see the wall for the mural. She wasn't there. She just called me and said, "Make the design for the mural. I will be home in two hours." It usually takes me much longer than two hours to make my mural designs. The only thing I had to go on was that she wanted elephants.

Okay, my last mural, at her old home, was a wall outside by the swimming pool. I went outside to the new pool area and that wall was indeed very long. It was about 18 yards long. I could only design the first 6 yards, but it promised for future exchanges in Cancun. Win-win!

Who wants brown and grey elephants when you can have happy and colorful?

When the dentist arrived home, I asked her if she wanted grey and brown elephants or if she wanted happy colorful elephants. She opted for colorful. I would have gone with that as well, so I was pleased. The following day, her driver took me out for paint shopping. While we were at Home Depot, she called to say she changed her mind and wanted greys. No problemo. It was her wall.

By the way, I learned something about elephants in this design. In the West, elephants with trunks pointing up mean good luck. However, in the East, a trunk pointing down was lucky. If you have two elephants seated at the front of your house, it means protection for your home. Well, my design had all of that so I assured the dentist that all bases were covered. And now, you know too.

When I arrived at the dentist's home with my paints, my first step on a wall is to prepare a grid. And, I learned something on this experience. I use a chalk line to make the grid. Of course, I use blue chalk because that's the color everyone always uses. However, in preparing for this trip, I purchased some orange chalk on a whim. I will never use blue chalk again. Either color works fine for making the grid. But, after the design is done, the chalk needs to be washed off. And, the light orange color is so much easier to get rid of. Lesson learned very well, finally.

As I was in the final stages of completing my grid, the dentist came out to ask, "Is this where you plan to paint the mural?"

"Isn't this where you wanted it?"

That would be no. Instead of slowly decorating this wall that is 18 yards long, she had a 30 foot vaulted wall in her living room in mind. I was so relieved when she said, "Maybe by the pool would be better."

I readily agreed.

"And, I think it should be with the colors," she added.

Mural 61..... I sketched the mural on the wall, washed away all the chalk line and touched up in white everything that needed touched up. In case you are a novice, no amount of yellow, orange or red paint hides pencil marks below them. You can paint them half a dozen times an still see the pencil. So, every little error in those sections needs to be painted in white. I completed it around five in the afternoon and called it a day. Usually, I would have painted till dark, but I did all of this work under the blazing Mexican sun. I was toast. Burnt toast.

In case your Spanish is no better than mine, this reads "Phillip Martin and two Picassos".

Picasso 2 and Picasso 3..... In the amount of time I had to do the mural, it couldn't possibly be a solo job. My design had eight elephants, but on my own, I knew I could only do three or four of them before I had to leave Mexico. I told the dentist I needed help. She asked about ability levels. I needed bodies with arms, not talent. I'm not sure where she found them, but two men showed up for a couple of half-day shifts. They were fast and talented. I called them my Picassos and the wall could not have been completed without them.

Whenever anyone starts painting, I ask them if they can count to three. There is a three-step process for everyone to follow. 1. Dip the brush in the paint. 2. Wipe one side of the brush. 3. Wipe the other side of the brush. If you do that, generally, you have much less of a chance to slop paint everywhere. And, if anyone does slop paint, I threaten to beat them. I don't know how to say that in Spanish, but I know what to do with hand gestures.

As it turned out, you can guess who was the first person to slop paint. Without missing a beat, Picasso 3 offered to beat me. It was the moment when I instantly bonded with these guys. They worked well on the mural and appreciated my sense of humor.

It's in the details. .....The dentist wanted a full moon and some stars in the design. There wasn't enough time or paint to do that in the background, so I did it on one of the blankets covering an elephant's back. She also wanted the names of her four grandchildren somewhere in the mural. If you look closely at the stars, you'll see the names Lukos, Lucia, Andreas and Andrea. Abuelita (grandma) should be pleased with that.

And finally, if you look really closely, you might find the number 61 somewhere in the design. It is Mural 61 for me. In my recent murals, I like to celebrate the number somewhere in the design. Hopefully, you have eagle eyes.

Copyright 2022 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.