Monday, March 2, 2009
Sally at the computer in our "office" overlooking Zihuatanejo Bay.
When Sally headed for yoga class at Paty's this morning, I set out for the end of Playa La Ropa and the southwest edge of Zihua. bay to try my luck at shore fishing again. It was a longer trek than I'd remembered, and, as I indeed had remembered, the rocky shore there was littered and smelled of human abuse. Nonetheless, I was able to further refine my casting skills, learning that, without the stiff headwind I'd had to deal with at La Barra, I was able to throw my large red-and-white pencil popper a good 75 yards, even without very solid footing. Apparently, the fish weren't impressed though.
Our goals for the day: to check out a strange and spectacular building I'd heard about, all but hidden on the hilltop not far from our villa; and to find a set of laquered salad bowls to match our black plates and goblets.
El Partenon is the local nickname of the pseudo-classical cliff-top palace of former Mexico City police chief Arturo Durazo Morano. Known as "El Negro", Durazo was notoriously corrupt, amassing a fortune through his connections with the drugs trade. Since his arrest almost 30 years ago, the property has been unoccupied and its upkeep neglected.
We walked up an unmarked, overgrown road flanked by signs declaring the land government property. As we rounded the last turn in the road, some of the grounds' classical statuary came into view, as well as a spectacular, massive arbor still splendid for its healthy cloak of raucous- magenta bougainvillea. But between us and the entrance to the building stood an iron fence of a scale one might imagine faced the Greeks and their warrior-stuffed horse at Troy.
We jumped when we suddenly heard a voice and saw a face duck behind a wall. I peeked around the corner to see a man, his dog and their little home tucked into one of the out-buildings of the compound. After he donned a t-shirt, the man emerged to introduce himself and begin his informal sales pitch for his guided tour. After agreeing to a fee about a third of what he'd asked, and promising to maintain complete silence as we entered the building,we shook hands with "My" (his best shot at Mike), short for Miguel and he let us in to walk around on our own. The building, with its wonderful columned facade, was full of more statues, Italian marble floors, a number of very bad frescoes, and other lavish (one might say over-the-top) features. The upstairs bedrooms each had a bed platform once suspended by chains from the mirrored ceilings. Some had jacuzzis, now covered in mouse droppings and bat guano.
Miguel finally caught up with us and began to explain that the place had been primarily used for orgias (orgies), and to point out in nearly all the paintings the figure of the Centaur, or, as he referred to it with great drama, el diablo. Other frescoes showed people engaged in all sorts of abhorrent behavior, like gnawing the flesh off of other, still-living people. These Miguel simply described as loco.
Outside, in what might have been at one time a beautiful garden area, was a large swimming pool, now filled with only a few feet of fetid water and surrounded by still more gaudy statues, some toppled.
Trying to forget the sheer wierdness of the Partenon, we continued walking toward town and the artisan's market, stopping along the way for a cold drink and a snack/lunch. The tightly-packed little stalls of the market were sweltering as we went from one to the next trying to find just the combination of materials, size, design and workmanship we wanted for our fruteritos (salad bowls). After about a half an hour of disappointing all the eager shopkeepers, we returned to the first artisan we'd talked with, who offered to custom-make our set of one large and six small salad bowls. I was proud of my improving Spanish language shopping skills, not only communicating our very particular wishes for the bowls, but working the man down from his original price of the equivalent of $120 usd to $60 for the set.