An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
of November 23, 2014
Issued from Río Lagartos, YUCATÁN, MÉXICO


The same cold front that this week brought heavy snow and cold temperatures to eastern North America crossed the Gulf of Mexico and stalled for three days atop us. Here it was a real "norte," bringing only a few showers but enough chill for people to put on jackets. The wind simply roared through town. Flamingo tours and fishing were abandoned and all the town's colorful little boats were tied up at the storm wall or anchored just offshore, where they bobbed on white-topped, muddy waves like corks on choppy water.

When men can't take their boats out they stand around in little groups huddling out of the wind, holding their arms together, looking philosophical. The wind blows great brownish-green, soggy mounds of seaweed up against the storm wall, and foam from crashing waves jumps the wall and flies across the street like white tissue paper. Terns, gulls and pelicans line up atop the sides of boats and atop pylons out in the water, sometimes looking snug and resigned but other times harassed and uncertain, just like the whole town.

When the strongest gusts whirred around building corners and whistled through wires, people cocked their eyes and looked around. It reminded them of Hurricane Isadora in 2002, which devastated the mangroves and nearly destroyed the town. Everyone has stories. Everyone is still spooked by that hurricane, and everybody knows it's just a matter of time until an even worse one comes along. With this wind, and all these idle men huddling in corners, there were memories and apprehensions in the streets you didn't see, but felt.

At night, the usual sounds of distant barking dogs, motorbikes and people's TVs were drowned out by the wind's incessant roar. Inside the roar, somebody's loose sheet of tin convulsed against rafters it was gradually tearing itself from; a coconut palm's fronds noisily lashed the side of the house. It was like inside the head of an old person no longer able to hear quieter sounds, just the constant head-roar of irrepressible Nature taking its course, and the heartbeat of things falling apart, of impersonal, out-of-control lashings and beatings.

But, beautiful was the town with wind rampaging through it, beautiful when the sun began breaking through clouds, beautiful when things calmed down and men turned up along shore looking over their boats, and trading jokes with one another. Beautiful when the air was quiet enough for the odor of baking tortillas to waft through the streets, and beautiful when the terns, gulls and pelicans could soar and dive in their usual ways, exactly as terns, gulls and pelicans are supposed to.  Facebook Icon.