A spicy lesson
June 8, 2007
The summer after my graduation from high school I went to Puerta Vallarta, Mexico with my mother, best friend, his mother and two sisters. Keith’s father works for the airlines so everyone could practically fly for free. With a short layover in Los Angeles we were on the ground in a foreign land ready for a week away from the routines of life. Keith and I were especially excited being eighteen and entering a country where we could legally drink. Puritanism be gone!
Typical behavior left with the first meal out when Keith and I both ordered beers while feeling the eyes of our mothers upon us. (Or maybe that was just our guilt~this was wrong—right?) With the first sips reality shifted. I had drunk beer back in the States but being able to order and drink with Mom right there–well a barrier had been crossed. A more equal footing, a responsibility and trust extended–welcome to the club!
And now to the spice…
Both moms, pretty liberal to begin with, really got into the groove by the end of the week. This loosening of collars manifested in an all-day snorkeling/booze cruise. The fish of many colors were quite captivating and the spotting of a small octopus a surprise gift. Dropped off for a few hours at a beach I had the opportunity to parasail and experience the strange sensation of full sprint towards the water and then lift-off! Good touristy fun.
Thankfully all of the snorkeling and swimming happened in the afternoon before the bar became the center stage. I don’t know where the boat went after it dropped us off at the beach but upon our reboarding the craft–the ambiance had shifted. And soon too did my sobriety. The staff did not just serve alcohol–they staged events. They challenged us to get in front of everyone and either make a fool of ourselves or share in the victory of quickly consumed alcohol.
The first contest involved shooters (three gradually taller glasses) that the bartenders would smack down on the bar in succession and the contestants would race two at a time while the crowd cheered them on. I was chicken. Until I feel this tugging on my arm to get out of my seat. I resist until I see who it is-my mom! Keith joins me in the duel and this is one showdown that has only winners. (That is until the next morning when light and sound are no longer my friends).
The next event involves drinking Corona bottle beers without the use of the arms (Very difficult). Next the finale which might not have been the last event but sealed the rest of the cruise for me. It’s a bit blurry now although I know that tequila and an unidentified green pepper chaser were the main ingredients. The challenge: take a shot of tequila and then take a bite out of a fresh pepper. I’m confident after the previous events (cheers still ringing in my ears) and slug back the Cuervo and follow with a large bite of the vegetable. Instant fire. I have never felt this much heat on my mouth, lips, traveling into my throat and into my sinuses and nasal passages. Body’s immediete reaction: I’m awash in liquids barreling from all facial orifices. I cringe down into a seat in sensory overload, a numbing comes over me that may be endorphins thankfully released in shocked response. I remember laughter and concern as I dump beer and water in the direction of my mouth.
Yes I was the fool to chomp down on the atomic veggie. I felt the star of the show and paid with every little nerve ending in the vicinity of my mouth. A big head that became quite small indeed. A step in seeing the big consequences that come with taking on the responsibility of court jester.