New Condos and Leaking Roofs Under the Palapa

So back to Puerto Vallarta. I flew in July 2011 to a steamy, rainy and hot Mexican beach town. I decided to stay at the historic and oldest hotel in “Centro” PV, the Rosita, but as my cheeky children like to remind me, the hotel is two years younger than I am.

It is a wonderful place, but because it was the hot summer, I was the only gringo in the fully booked hotel by the sea. I kept being asked to join nearby tables by sympathetic families, as Mexicans are the most generous people I have yet to meet. The Rosita also gave me a perfect jumping off point every morning to crawl up the hills to our very much “in-progress” condo.

The first day was a shocker. After staggering up the steep hill, I had to climb the 10-storey building, as our now infamous elevator had still not arrived. But it would not have mattered, because there was no electricity in the edifice anyway. I did for a moment or two wish that we had bought on the first floor to avoid the what might be life-ending stairs.

When I finally fell through our door at the top, disaster stared back at me. Water was dripping from every light fixture in the ceiling with a huge puddle on the floor. I flew up the spiral staircase to the terrace above with all threat of heart failure forgotten replaced by abject fear, to see a deep depression in the cement over the living room that was full of water, indicating that something heavy had been dropped recently.

Just then Eddy the Realtor, our developer Sergio, his son Sergio and about 10 guys apparently all called Pepe appeared at the front door. It was clear I was not expected yet. Sergio (the father) handed me a beer by way of a greeting, while Eddy collected his thoughts as I gesticulated mutely at the water not unlike an excited Helen Keller.

The story came out. A piece of equipment had inadvertently fallen on the roof and what with the storms and everything, there was a puddle. They had hoped to have it fixed before I returned. The 10 Pepes began to bring in equipment to redo the ceiling and the roof above it. All would be well, I was assured. I sat down on the chair-less floor, mumbling that I wanted a guarantee about the waterproofing and I meant it. No one answered, so I held my head.

Eddy and Sergio (the first) went off upstairs to chat and drink, followed by half the Pepes, while Sergio Jr and the rest of the Pepes stared at the leaks.

Suddenly I saw a yellow shirt on one of the workers and realized it was exactly the yellow my wife and I wanted for the bedrooms. I started pointing at the shirt and jumping up and down. I had forgotten the Spanish word for yellow but I remembered it was the same as a town in the Southwest U.S. I shouted “Waco,” then “El Paso,” then “Santa Fe,” then “San Diego.” The men looked at me with alarm, since possibly several undocumented relatives of theirs lived in these places and I might be trying to trick them into admitting something untoward.

I don’t know why I started to yell “Palm Springs” — maybe I was trying to use English names in order not to frighten them — but I could not seem to stop. “Palm Springs, Palm Springs, Palm Springs,” I kept saying, pointing at the Pepe in the yellow shirt. The confused men had backed up against the far wall, led by Sergio Jr. Nothing in their past had prepared them for a bi-worded Canadian.

Finally Eddy stuck his head through the terrace door and shouted, “For heaven’s sake, yellow is amarillo in Spanish.”

There was a pause and then everyone suddenly got it. Not only was I loco, I was funny too. After much laughter all around, I became known as Señor Palm Springs. Three days later after a break in the rainstorms, the roof was fixed.

I was introduced to Juan the decorator or design contractor, as he preferred. He found all the colours we had talked about, and suggested that we build a palapa on the terrace, because it is the height of cultural affection for Mexico and would be seen for miles.

We spent two days picking out furniture, at least the basics: Beds, dining room set, couches and a few chairs. However I refused to have anything to do with selecting appliances without my wife, as I know where to draw the line, eh?

All in all, things were looking up.

Then another bombshell. Eddy the Realtor had a sad look on his face the day before my return to Canada. He haltingly explained that since Sergio the developer was losing money on the building, he knew I would understand if he (Sergio) took the storage space from the owners and built two more condos so he could break even. The storage area surrounded the pool by the not-yet-here elevator-but-there-was-no-electric-anyway.

Enough was enough!

I fully intended to have Sergio arrested. He could not do this again. After all, he had already taken away the good faucets and glass doors for the bathroom showers, plus he refused to tile the terrace after putting a hole in it that he was not going to tell me about.  Now we would have no storage space? Over my dead body.

No one said anything. I suddenly got a cold feeling in my water that “over my dead body” could be arranged.

Then thankfully Juan the design guy said he could build a little “bodega” (small storage) at the back of the stairwell to the upstairs terrace, just behind the as-yet unbuilt palapa.

The pagoda would be built along with the palapa.

I needed a drink.  I was sweating. How many times would I be castrated?

“How much would the palapa and the bodega cost?” I asked. Juan told me. My legs went weak.

I stumbled back to the Rosita Hotel and climbed into a margarita.


Next column Jan. 14: “What closing cost?”

Copyright Christopher Dalton 2014

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