You Almost Can't Go Home Again
You already know that saying isn’t exactly true.  At least in my experience, after twenty years of wondering the globe, I find myself living in Ohio again.  But, I knew enough not to return to rural Ohio where my mother grew up.  Anyway, we all get the concept.  If you return somewhere, it’s not going to be the same.  Some changes are easier to accept than others.  It’s a fact of life that you should already know all about. You just have to be ready for some changes if you return.  And, it works on vacation destinations as well.  I stayed in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, for a month about two years ago.  I didn’t know what to expect upon my return.

There were several goals for the day.  During my last visit, I had a taste of the Day of the Dead.  Those who truly celebrate, paint their faces like skeletons and wear festive clothing.  I don’t get that festive, but I appreciate a good paint job.  I took a photo of a beautiful “dead” senorita and then drew her portrait.  I wanted to give her a copy, if she was still alive.  Well, I located the proper souvenir shop, but employees at places like that are easily replaced.  Nobody recognized her.  Okay, she had paint on her face, and that couldn’t help the identification process, but I created a very good likeness.  I left in defeat.

Fifth Avenue, the main tourist drag in Playa, lost some of it’s luster.  Summertime is peek tourist season and those selling all their wares were out in force.  Want some drugs?  Want some tequila?  Massage, mister?   I passed them by without a glance and wandered into a shop with a huge screen television.  I happened upon the last ten minutes of the World Cup match between Brazil and Belgium.  Talk about a dilemma.  Should I cheer for the country where I lived for nine years or the country where I had the most amazing welcome with a muraling experience?  I opted to just enjoy the match.  However, there were a lot of Mexicans (recently defeated by Brazil) who were so thrilled by the little kingdom by the sea.

One more task for the day was to visit Ismael at DIF and check out my mural that was not quite two years old.  I figured it was best to go to the office first before wandering the campus unsupervised, uninvited and unidentified.  That’s when I learned that Ismael was no longer working at DIF. 

So, I moseyed my way across the campus to my mural.  And, I learned something.  I learned first-hand, up close and personal, that murals do not last two years in blistering tropical sunshine.  This mural was three months shy of a second anniversary.  It should
have been scraped, resealed and repainted a long time ago.  All colors were faded.  Much of the paint had cracked and pealed up from the wall, just waiting to flake off.  It was one of the risks of returning to check out the wall.  It was best not to photograph; I'd remember it as it had been.  And, this was not just for Playa del Carmen.  I recently learned that two other murals (in the Galapagos Islands and Paraguay) had been destroyed in building renovation projects.  This mural was a step above that . . . but just barely.

My final task of the day was down on the beach at the main gathering point in Playa del Carmen.  The peer is not far away and most afternoons you can enjoy Aztec dancers performing their traditions.  I was hoping to find Edgar.  It’s his portrait that I entered in the PromoWest Art Competition in the Arena District in Columbus.  Edgar’s portrait is now on display in my hometown.  I headed to his hometown to give him a few copies of that art.

It had been a while since I last saw Edgar.  There were three dancers in the afternoon.  One of them could have been Edgar, but he just didn’t seem as friendly.  I thought the day might be a total bust, but I mustered up my courage to talk to non-Edgar.  He said my friend would perform later in the day. 

It was worth the wait.

The one and only time I met Edgar, I gave him a portrait of his wife, Alejandra, and I took his photo.  Well, much to my delight, when Edgar showed up to dance, his wife was by his side.  When I took her photo about four years ago, and drew her portrait, Alejandra looked fierce.  She was an Aztec warrior, after all.  But, it was all an act.  I gave her another copy of her portrait and said it was for her mother.  There was no fierceness any more.  She glowed and I saw nothing but warmth in her eyes.  Finally, I had my opportunity to photograph Alejandra holding her portrait.  I never thought that would happen.

And, Edgar was just as warm and gracious.  Of course, I took a photo of him holding his award-winning portrait.  And, I finally told him his portrait was now on display in Columbus.  He was so very pleased to help spread his culture around the globe.  As for me, I was pleased that I made the effort to go “home” again.
Copyright 2018 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.