She’d made that classic misstep so many make in early age. Recalling back to those late sixties moments. Rolled into memories long ago set adrift and yet still lingers. Honduras, at least for her, was no place.
Speaks to: if you do something well, be careful to cast it aside without some deep thought.
I’d been thinking of getting a pair of Cuban Heels for several months. At sixty-nine, my decisions come with much thought, recriminations, doubts, and pauses. I ask myself: Why on earth do I want a pair of Cuban Heels for Christs’ sake. I wear fucking shorts! In that case, I thought, I’d wear jeans a couple of times a week. A total wardrobe upset!
Why did I want to get another pair of Cuban Heels? The short answer: for the fun of it. The more complicated issue: a sure to fail intent to regenerate a moment from my very energetic and free-roaming sixties mindset.
Forty years ago, certainly in another life, I’d owned the iconic, (though back then the word iconic wasn’t used) ankle height, tight-fitting black leather boots, latex sides stretched to accommodate my feet as I’d slide them on. I’d had them custom made for around ten bucks in Honduras. Just the previous two summer vacations I’d worked as a cattle hand at a huge cattle ranch on the Guatemalan southern coast, the boots I wore were the traditional, big heeled cowboy boots, no latex.
The real cowboy boots eventually went in a different direction. My life in the hotel environment forced me to leave behind that traditional, country lifestyle. And with a sense of lingering grief: life led me elsewhere.
Back then, It was cool wearing Cuban Heels, as Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones wore them along with countless other rockers. After graduating from high school and leaving the windblown Lake Michigan shores Honduras was an impossible distance away from anything considered cool in the groovy sense. So I wore my rocker boots! The simplicity was the beauty. Oh, it wasn’t out of my mental reach that this was one way of joining the big sixties, hippy wave. Like many just like me I was one of the countless who’d fallen into the whole quasi hippy thing, boots included.
And now at sixty-nine, what’s this? A throwback thing? A desperate grasping for a quickly passing life? I think not. Just to clear before continuing. The short, latex sided boots just felt a part of me, were very comfortable, and the bigger heels I’d selected at the bootmakers near Antigua satisfied my desire to express at least to some degree that sixties attitude.
Must have been near the end of 1969, I’m sure I was wearing the sleek, black, big heeled boots when the weed-smoking, married couple, wandered into the hot, dusty hotel lobby (she’d made their wedding rings he’d pointed out displaying outstretched arm, his need to tell apparent). They arrived from Anchorage, Alaska, this last leg on the chicken bus to San Pedro Sula from Guatemala City International Airport with their tiny dog sadly named Slam as though living purposefully and yet unwittingly in a constant state of non-relax needed an added cue… A bit, it seemed to me, like overkill or like calling your wife or girlfriend Scream…
He was a skinny musician, guitar, mostly well used and hopeless chords and brain-numbing harmonica and to his great detriment, sadly, sang Tom Jones, poorly at that, double condemnation.
As odd is this next comment may seem, here it is: I could never quite square with people traveling with their pets, this was compounded when it was obvious they weren’t having an obviously wonderful time. You may not understand me, perhaps this says something more about me.
During one of just several conversations, the story was clear: she sold her small, hippy jewelry shop, no she didn’t say hippy; she said they got seven thousand dollars. He’d convinced her of a life of adventure and discovery, an exotic, yet safe, ‘move with the wind man’, with her money… After all, it was the very late sixties, on the cusp of ’70. Though when thinking back to those times no one ever said: “It’s the sixties!” The sixties had still not become ‘The Sixties’.
It was too clear to me they were burning through their funds, his Tom Jones was utterly unremarkable, and his Blood, Sweat, and Tears was worse; a future as a musical success was impossible short of a string of miracles. To clarify, on their current trajectory they were headed to the proverbial granite wall, fast.
Perhaps he’d seen just a few too many sixties-era movies, those wanderlust movies of lost youth roving the Western American desserts and for some not clear reason she allowed for him to lead her onto this road of self-imposed, self-discovery/misery. He’d somehow managed to convince her of the perfect plan!
She had the spirit of pioneer, I think she was the real Alaskan, well you know, born and raised… I’m sure he was from the East Coast, most likely New York City, jittery, energetic, momentarily convincing due to his maddening self-assuredness in his talk, one of those guys who knows everything, done everything but in fact after being around him… A Jim Croce look alike.
The thought occurred to me: The guy was from the Big Apple, the center of the world. She was from the Alaskan boonies; it’s easy to reach the usual conclusions, oh hell I’m sure I reached unfair assumptions…
She was short, impossible to ignore figure, wild blonde hair pushed aside with a backhanded gesture, a tired beauty, wondrous mystery in her soft, yet bright blue eyes. Natural, sensuous lips. Nancy. Shape hugging blue jeans and white, short-sleeved T-shirts, feet baring sandals showing pretty, small feet, turquoise, and silver rings on several tanned toes! I even remember her light pink toenails! A time when the girls still turned up the hems of their jeans tight up around tanned calves.
So they asked me, or rather the guy asked me as she nodded agreement to be their manager while they were in San Pedro. Find them gigs in the city. Of course, I’d never done such a thing but I figured, hey how hard could it be to find them one or two jobs around town. So my real job was front desk receptionist in my parents’ hotel. Yeah, try selling a guy singing excruciatingly unsuccessful renditions of Tom Jones and try listening to badly performed: “What Goes Up Must Come Down” more than once in a night, you will run for the door.
I agreed to find gigs for them while they were in San Pedro Sula for a couple of weeks. I foolishly agreed for one, simple fact: Nancy. Thinking back to all those years ago, would I do it again? Yes.
So for a week, which is all that it lasted, I was their manager along with my black Cuban heels for the duration. For just a moment I was in the music industry properly decked out with my rockers’ boots! Dig it!!
No doubt I was probably wearing my black boots when we all smoked weed, (grass we used to say), in their hotel room and the skinny guy put phosphorescent dayglo dots on Slam. The not very amusing dog ran around in the darkroom. For a moment, through the darkness I glimpsed something in Nancy’s barely visible, blue eyes, it was clear though like she was thinking: missed the right train. I tried to avoid seeing her pain. Felt as though I’d gotten an illicit look under the hood…
Her husband went to the bathroom and that was when she returned my gaze, I had hopelessly fallen, a jewelry artist, her perfect figure, beautifully shaped arms as she stroked Slam, crushing good looks and miserable yet beautiful eyes. Yeah, I was in love, I smiled stupidly at how suddenly this could happen, it was the season. This was how it could happen back then, surely the age too as I was perhaps nineteen. She was older. She gifted me with a special smile that told me the world was wondrous and full of possibilities, all the stars were in place and my heart sang, visceral, warm, all-consuming.
Several days later the couple hit the road, there were no gigs for them to play. The hotel manager, my cousin, as a favor to me, let them sing for three nights in the bar for their food and room, said: ‘I don’t want hippy types…’ I argued with him that if they didn’t play they ran out of money. I saw them off at the hectic and noisy bus terminal, the pall of black exhausts overwhelming, the colorful bus jamb packed with people, animals, supplies; they headed south in the direction of Nicaragua.
I thought back to their bar shows and how It bugged the shit out of me to watch the dirty old men making plays for my beauty, she was at each performance to dutifully hand him his guitar and to shake both herself and her tambourine, she seemed so alone, and the skinny guy, useless for anything except strumming for himself, there was no apparent emotional dividend reserved for her. I think it was that he’d cloaked himself in his outsized ego, there was an element to him that clearly excluded her and what became clear to me was that just beneath his strange bravado was a strain of hysteria, a panic.
All this time passed I realize that the scared look on his face was the look of impending failure, his dream to be the next rocker crashed, his beauty would fly away.
On our last breakfast, before they took the taxi to the bus terminal, he’d excused himself as he had to finish packing his bags. Placing her hand on my forearm she thanked me for my help and said with no prompting that she was heading back home, alone to Anchorage; she’d bought an airline ticket from Managua. She said she wanted to get her jewelry design business restarted.
“Thanks for helping me see …”
I didn’t know how I had helped her other than that I worshipped the ground she walked on.
I wished her well.