Posted by: Jerry Garrett | November 27, 2010

On the Road Again: The Art of Doing Nothing

Puerto Vallarta's famous seahorse statue at sunset 11/26. Taking this photo is perhaps the only thing of substance I accomplished today. (Jerry Garrett Photo)

Doing nothing can be harder than it seems.

I’m working on it, though, here in Puerto Vallarta.

(more later)

Pause.

(moments later, now)

Okay, that didn’t last long. This is a work in progress, I will admit. But I’m doing much better than when I arrived here five days ago.

“When you travel, the body arrives before the soul.”

That nugget is courtesy of a now-estranged friend, who said it somewhat reprovingly, and with an emphasis on the word “you”.

On average, it seems as though my soul arrives about three days after I do. If the trip is shorter than that, I might miss it entirely – rather like a lost suitcase that never quite catches up with you.

Rush, rush, rush. Is this "The Amazing Race"?

So, I can be guilty of hitting the ground running. Was I first off the plane? How fast can I get my luggage and get through customs? Did I beat everyone through customs? First into the cab? Is this “The Amazing Race” or something?

On this trip, anyway, I’m supposed to be resting, recuperating, re-charging my batteries.

Tell that to my brain.

(pause)

My taxi driver wanted to know if he needed to stop anyplace along the way, before arriving at our destination: a beach-side casita on the other side of town. I could think of at least three places: the market, the hardware store and the ATM. My mind was racing, until I threw the red flag. “No, gracias,” I forced myself to say. “La casita, solamente.”

“We’re just going to chill,” I told myself, like a mantra that needed to be chanted.

Yet, within the first 24 hours, I had found myself scrubbing the kitchen floor of the casita… Then, up at the Oxxo, food shopping. I also found two places with internet connectivity. Another place with the best cevihe in town. A realtor who wanted to show me property. And a flat-rate phone card to the U.S. for $9.99 a month. Whew!

I figured out the problem of “no internet” at the casita and soon I was online, answering emails (99 percent of which could have waited), googling this and that, checking all my favorite sites. Why?

Finally, I made myself turn the laptop off. The dumb smartphone too. Fortunately, someone had stolen the casita’s television set. I also switched off the lights, to avoid attracting mosquitoes.

Margo

In the ensuing silence, I heard the ocean, crashing waves against the rocks below. How about just looking at the stars? A clicking sound nearby turned out to be a small gecko (now named Margo) that barks.

Still, I found myself going to bed that night, thinking of things elsewhere – anywhere but where I was. “Where are you?” I asked myself. “Be here. Here!” A fitful night followed, starting awake with something I had forgotten to do before I left home, some un-returned call, something I should have said, an errand I forgot to run.

Black dots: Jumping rays.

The morning of the third day, I started to smell – not just hear – the ocean. Feel the salt air. See the fog burn off, across Banderas Bay. A slapping sound mystified me. It turned out to be sting rays, jumping out of the water like children on a trampoline, and belly-flopping onto the water’s surface with a splat.

Sonny, the pseudo-songbird

A yellow-and-black tropical bird studied me, from a telephone wire a few feet away.

I relaxed. For about an hour. This was still a work in progress.

An inordinate amount of time can be expended when traveling, trying to find the best places to eat. The devoted minimalist needs only two kitchen appliances: a Mr. Coffee and an Osterizer blender.

Modern marvels

As time goes on, I find these two marvels of modern engineering can handle about 80 percent of my daily nutritional needs.

Laundry needs, I found, can be kept to a minimum by sleeping in the same t-shirt and shorts you spent the day in. I plan to throw away most of the clothes I brought, particularly the suit and tie.

Learning to relax.

Day four was somewhat more successful. I passed the morning reading a book and dozing by the pool. Better.

In the afternoon, I mustered the energy to march down to the beach, to lounge in a chaise under a palapa, people-watching and fending off trinket salesmen.

“I’ve lived at the beach back home for eight years,” I told Victor, my favorite waiter at the Bar El Viagra (real name). “Not one day, have I ever done this there. Why not?”

“You’re stupid?” Victor answered.

It was sort of a rhetorical question, man.

Perhaps, because my beach doesn’t have hot and cold running waiters, 15 ice-cold beers for $5, or two-for-one 24-ounce margaritas for $6. The afternoon evaporated in a happy haze.

A fresh t-shirt each day keeps the coroner away.

By day five, I joked that I was in the Margaritaville Witness Protection Program. I did nothing until noon. And very little afterward. (I found it helpful to change the color t-shirt I was wearing each day, so people parading past my beach chair wouldn’t think I’d died.)

That evening I found myself watching the sunset on the Malecon in Puerto Vallarta. I spent two hours there, wishing it had taken longer.

Terminal velocity.

After that, doing nothing seemed to come easily. In fact, it became increasing difficult to do anything. I worried, briefly, the condition might prove to be terminal.

It’s an art. It really is, this business of doing nothing.

I may update this post, as additional thoughts on achieving nothingness occur to me. But I’m in no hurry.

Jerry Garrett

November 27, 2010

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Responses

  1. I did a search for an image of the boy and the seahorse in PV and Google brought me here. Or maybe it was fate. Regardless, I want to say thank you. Thank you, sincerely. If you’d like, you can contact me on facebook under Mike Q Purple or http://www.facebook.com/melawrence … I have only had the pleasure of reading this one entry four years after it was first posted. Hopefully you are not dead and bought new t-shirts eventually to prove so… I will read more when I have the chance. Hope your day is grand!

    • Thanks! Yes, I’m still alive. But, sadly, not in PV at the moment! Paradise.

      • I didn’t suspect. Where are you now? – On a side note, your article has cause turmoil in my life. I really do not know why i am typing this while I am getting slapped in my ass by someone I have not seen in years who is drunk and I had to go to a random bar to pick her up… God bless it. Ha! i would like to talk to you after reading a few more of your travels! If not, i appreciate your response,


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