Acapulco by Lawrence Russell
Lawrence Russell


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We're in a 1978 Ford Galaxy, looking back at the Acapulco crescent as we rise into the puff clouds. Postcard view, the white towers of the 3 star hotels facing west.

See? says the driver. Sly Stallone's house.

Large neo-modernist villa, glass, concrete and white stucco, cantilevered patios and palms, like something out of Architectural Digest. Cliff-top, great view.

That's Stallone's place? says Ajo.
Si, says the driver. Stallone lives there.
I laugh, say, sure he does.
Believe it, says the driver.
Look, I say, every place you go, Third World, guys show you the biggest house in town, say that's Stallone's.
You ever cabby him? says Ajo.
Me? says the driver. No... my amigo.
Ajo laughs, says, his friend

Brutus and I laugh. Driver laughs too.

He is helicopter pilot, says the driver.
Your friend flies a chopper? says Ajo.
Anyplace you want, guys, says the driver.

Ajo rolls down the window, starts filming.

I stop so you can get your picture, says the driver.
S'o.k., says Ajo. This is cool.
Nice camera, says the driver.
Digital, says Ajo.
You work in the movies? says the driver.
Advertising, says Ajo. You know, propaganda.
Propa..., says the driver. You mean, hoochie coochie?

We're really laughing now.

Hoochie coochie yeah, says Ajo.
You come right place, guys, says the driver. We got hoochie coochie.

Aztec Gold

She's long, she's lean, she walks for our pleasure, shoes clacking on the marble tiles. Short black skirt and black hair tied back. She goes behind the bar, looks our way, smiles.

A moment of silence.

Propina, I say.
That her name? says Ajo.
That's what I'm calling her, I say.
Not to her face, says Brutus.
What's propina? says Ajo.
"tip", isn't it? says Brutus.
Yeah, I say. Tip.
Ajo chuckles, raises his shot glass, says, Propina!
Propina! I say.
Cisco! says Brutus.
Yeah yeah, says Ajo. Cisco!

We down our tequilas, quickly soften the flame with Corona.

What's Cisco today? says Brutus. Up, down?
Hunret thirty, says Ajo.
Great, says Brutus.
Gonna split any day, says Ajo. Etcetera baby.

Nice lobby, I say. Fabulous view, bit of a breeze.
Five star, says Brutus.
More like four, says Ajo.
Newest hotel in town, says Brutus. Built in 93.
Looks older than that, says Ajo.
It's the moisture mixed with the heat, I say. Rust never sleeps.
We missed the party by fifty years, says Ajo.
Cancun's the place now, I say.
Yeah, says Brutus. Newer.
Still, I say, this is pretty good....

The walls, the arches, pastel yellow, the furniture white. Even the grand piano is white, plays softly with a phantom pianist, a black digital controller.

Orson Welles partied in 'pulco, I say.
Before or after Elvis, says Ajo.
Well before Elvis, I say. Late forties, early fifties. Used to sail in with Errol Flynn.
Now there's a guy I can't figure, says Ajo. I mean, what Flynn movie is any good?
He died in Vancouver, I say. In the arms of a fifteen year old girl... that's what I remember.
How old was he? says Brutus. Like ninety?
Not that old, I say. Fifty something maybe.
Errol Flynn, says Ajo. "In like Flynn" -- thaz all I know about him.
He was big time, I say. He was the Sly Stallone of the forties.
You think Stallone is a sex symbol? says Brutus.
Guys like him, I say. Guys liked Flynn too.
Nobody I know likes Stallone, says Brutus.
You like him, I say. Always watching Rambo.
For a laugh is all, says Brutus. Fuck.
Admit it, I say. You'd like a piece of Stallone.

What happened to Welles? says Ajo. Like he just evaporated.

Drink no wine/ before its time, I say.

fat and crappy

Do you know anyone who actually reads anymore? I say.
Books? says Ajo. Nope.
I read, says Brutus.
You read what, I say. Fat paperbacks of crap.
I'm reading Iain Banks right now, says Brutus.
Fat and crappy, right? I say.
It's readable, says Brutus.
Face it, I say. Banks has only written one -- repeat, one -- good book. His first.
I have a first edition of The Wasp Factory, says Ajo. Signed. Bought it in London.
You know I dragged ass all over Glasgow looking for it, I say. They kept saying, never seen it in hardcover. You'd think they'd have it there. I mean, he's from the area.
The Wasp Factory is one of the best novels of the eighties, says Brutus.
One of the best first novels, maybe, I say. Some of the stuff he puts out is illiterate.
You mean his science fiction, says Ajo. That's for money.
Not my money, I say.
You used to rave bout him, says Brutus.
Figure my first is worth triple what I paid, says Ajo. They want hundred and fifty for it on the Net.
You know anybody that's read it? I say.
My scene, people only read tea leaves, says Ajo. Newsletters... divorce papers... bar coasters.
Your broker read? I say.
No, says Ajo. Never read a book in his life
What about e-mail? I say.
Lolita handles his e-mail, says Ajo.
How'd he get through university? I say.
He didn't, says Ajo.
You must be kidding, I say. Doesn't he have a M.B.A.?
Lotta brokers don't have degrees, says Ajo. Securities ticket, that's it.
Ajo and I are the only guys with degrees in our office, says Brutus.
Amex has a degree, says Ajo. He doesn't read either.
Homo reads, says Brutus.
If you call reading the Bible every Sunday reading, says Ajo.
Reading text has become passe, I say. We've reverted to a pictographic society. Computers and billboards, TV and vids -- it's a point-and-click world.
Get this man another drink, says Ajo.
Yeah, says Brutus. He's starting to preach.
What? I say. Preach? You think I like sitting around listening to you two jerks yapping about the stock market?
Hey, says Brutus. It's pictographic.
What's the last book you read? says Ajo.
All the way? I say.
Yeah, says Ajo. Bet you can't remember.
He's a name dropper, says Brutus. Alls he knows are the covers.
Be Cool, I say. I'm working on that.
No you're not, says Brutus. You left it behind in Cuernavaca.
I did? I say.
You threw it in the waste bucket, says Brutus.
He threw Elmore Leonard away? says Ajo. Good move.
Fat and crappy, you said, says Brutus.
I never, never throw books away, I say.
Have you forgotten you burned The Hand Maiden's Tale? says Brutus.
He burned Margaret Atwood? says Ajo. Here, have my Curvo... haven't touched it yet.
And he burned Ondatjee's The English Patient, says Brutus.
I can't imagine him spending the money to get either of them, says Ajo.
I didn't, I say. They were free.
You review them? says Ajo.
How could he? says Brutus. He burned them.

Here comes Propina, like a model advancing down the runway. You can't beat sitting in an open lobby in Mexico drinking gold and beer. Served by a woman who isn't afraid to smile when being ogled by three men and two digital cameras. Ajo: Hawaiian shirt, tan shorts, leather sandals. Brutus: white T-shirt, black shorts, Tiva sandals. Me: you just know I'm cool.

Senorita Acapulco, I say.

As she leans over, sets fresh drinks on the low table, her smile is pure Aztec Gold.

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© Lawrence Russell

Culture Court 2000