The club I play in Playa is called Posada Xi Ka’an. Don’t worry about the weird name. In the Yucatan a name like Xi Ka-an (from the Mayan: “Place of the Site of the Location of the Spot”) is no big deal. They have places around here named Oxkutscab and Tixcogob, man. Dzilbalchan, Dzinup, Xclakal, Xul-Ha, Hochob, Holbox, Xkaladzonof, X-Masil, Chikinzlofla. There’s even an Xpo, but it ain’t pronounced like they do in Houston. So do what everybody else does, fake it. The Mayas themselves can’t pronounce these things. I mean, come on…Xclaf? They just put the names on the map to confuse invading armies. It didn’t work. But it sure freaked out my spell checker. Check the website, Xzkcl.ctlom.
Seagull The Blasé Sojourner

Seagull could cover a mind-numbing number of songs, and had written a few of his own, but he was at his best–and remember, it’s all relative–when jamming his own lyrics on existing tunes. Such as Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville”, of which he had done dozens of vamps, including the one he was singing at the moment.

I spoke with the waiter, he said, “Be by later”
I’ve been here an hour with two lousy brews
They say “ahorita” or “un momentita
And leave you alone with the “mañana” blues

I’m wastin’ time again in Ahorita-ville
Waitin’ for my damn dinner and drinks
The waitresses say they’ll be back sometime today
But you know, that’s not what I think

They said they’d bring it in a Mexican minute
But two happy hours have already passed
I ate all the corn chips, the salsa and bean dip
And nibbled the salt off the rim of my glass

I’m wasting away to bones in Ahoritaville
Waiting for my waiter to come through the door
Some people say he just snuck by with a tray
But I think he don’t work here no more

I called for the cuenta, they said, “un momenta
If they’re back in an hour it’ll be strange
I paid a few pesos for my chile con queso
And everyone’s vanished to go hunt for change

I’m wastin’ half my life in Ahoritaville
Waiting for this damn dinner to end
Some people say it’s just the Mexico way
But by now, I’m all hungry again

A crowd-pleaser, especially among “sophisticates” like this film festival scuzz, who congratulated themselves for knowing what the Spanish lyrics meant–unaware that everybody else in the world did, too: even the Mexicans. But the waiters just hated it.

As soon as the meager applause died out, he ditched his multi-forged guitar and grabbed his dumbek, tossing the strap around his neck so it could hang right in front of his crotch. He pounded a quick, bright staccato on the rim, then moved to the slap and went into his watered-down, generic, but energetic Afro beat. And Copper was suddenly just standing there. Staring at the crowd with her arms hanging at her side, trailing chains. Slowly she lifted her arms and held them over her head, the Lost Soul dangling her chains like a broken puppet’s string. Then suddenly, somehow, they ignited and she stood between two crackling balls of fire. She paused a beat, then swung the fireballs around her, the excess white gas blasting parallel tongues of fire onto the floor like hot rails to hell. As always, she danced a trance inside the sphere of holy flame.

At the front table, where you could actually feel a little heat from the blazing poi, Loris turned to Gareth and said, “Think about it, you show up with some music and entertainment, and hint that it’s what your films about. Hand drums and fire-spinning: hot totems for today’s youth.

Gareth leaned back and scanned her. “What makes you think that’s what it’s about?”

Loris smiled. “What do you think?”

Gareth, mindful of her close rapport with the rock head he expected to direct his film, nodded sagely. But please, show up and try to impress Coppola and Shane Black with a hippy fire dancer? How about a mime, just to round it all out? Maybe an organ grinder? Kenny might like that angle.

The gas was just about exhausted in the wound Kevlar balls at the end of Copper’s scything chains. And suddenly they flew off her hands. The crowd gasped as the chains flew across the floor and out the open door to the deck, pinwheeling alongside each other as their fires guttered out.

And between the flying sparks, Xchab walked into the club not looking at anybody, just doing a very Indian-like shuffle-dance to the beat of Seagull’s drum. She held her arms out from her shoulders, swept slightly back like a jet’s wings. She moved slowly into the room, shuffling and stamping, her taut young body weaving dreamily.

There were twenty parrots in the entryway to the Xi Ka’an, wings clipped, their scintillating, psychedelic feather moirés somewhat dulled by captivity in huge wrought-iron cages. And suddenly, for no reason, the birds were out of their cages. And flying on chopped-down wings. Xchab danced into the center of the floor, her arms rising and falling as she bobbed, her hands making circles in the air. And a squadron of brilliant birds hovered behind her arms, making big, flat, iridescent wings that moved and wavered and pulsed behind her as she danced without knowing her arms had become the leading edges for a flying wedge of determined, silent birds. Or that a huge blue parrot,with gold chest and white circles around its red eyes, was hovering unerringly over her head, fluttering back and forth as she nodded her erect head and shook her gleaming jet mane.

Winston entered the room unseen as people froze with cigars halfway to their lips and icecubes lying in their mouths, gawking at the Mayan girl dancing as the focal point of a wing of flaring feathers. He put a six-hole cane whistle to his lips and started piping. It was a shrill but soothing sound, a highly Indian tattoo of chrome notes as clear as icepicks, broken up by a slightly breathy counterpoint. Music from the Chiapas highlands, a splashing Laocoon rain over the tight metallic beat of the dumbek. Copper shook a bundle of goat hooves, producing a dry tambourine-like sound that reeked of stone temples and yellow eyes in the jungle.

Suddenly Seagull rattled off a sharp burst of rimshots, Winston reached into the highest register for a sustained scream from his whistle and Xchab threw her arms over her head to bring her hands together. The birds flew up, spiraling into the high rafters of the club. Then the lights went out.

Copper was working the tables with professional cool, her tin can wrapped in woven ribbons clanking and whispering as it filled with loot, Kenny was staring like a man envisioning tongues of fire, Gareth slowly turned his face to Loris, eyes wide and mouth sagging open.

She chuckled and touched his forearm on the table. “They’ll just love to see us,” she said.

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Seagull, though as about as establishment-unaware as they come, still found is art, such as it was, driven by economic realities. One of which was that songs mocking out tourists are not favored in places that pay one to sing. So he rather relished serving up his latest opus for the select.

They come to the Island in the winter time
Drink tequila on the beach with salt and lime
They swing in their hammocks and laugh ’cause they know
Everybody back home is covered with snow

They’re only here for six months or so
While the weather back home is twenty below
They’re out in the sun with a smile every day
They’re the snowbirds down from the US of A.

They put on a sweater at the first sign of fall
And give their travel agent a telephone call
They wait ’til December, see what Santa Claus brings
Then they pack up their bags, and they spread out their wings.

They’re only here for six months or so
Until the hurricanes are starting to blow
They’re out in the sun with a smile every day
They’re the snowbirds down from Ontario way.

There’s Canadian sunsets and Indian summer
But Northern winters can be quite a bummer
They wait until the Superbowl and Grey Cup are lost
Then they head for the airport, whatever it costs.

They’re only here for six months or so
While Old Man Winter puts on his show
They’re out in the sun with a smile every day
They’re the snowbirds down from New York and LA.

They wear oil and bikinis, every woman and man
So they can fly back up north with their Yuca-Tan
It’s tropical heaven they all can time share
And nicer than freezing their butts off up there

They’re only here for six months or so
When hell freezes over they’re ready to go
They’re out in the sun with a smile every day
They’re the snowbirds down out of Canada, eh?

It went over better in Summer, when there were fewer gringo snowbirds in the Café Cueva, though you never knew how the sunburned, silvertipped resident set might take it, either.

But the place was pretty full for low season, and incredibly hottie-loaded. That one table over by the bookcase was one hundred percent over-the-moontang and he’d add on a few points every time the big black chick made a move. Not that he’d kick Miss Saigon there out of bed, either. Hell, he wouldn’t even toss Curtsy back to the dolphins. Amazing bunch and he was playing to their table, hard.

But not to ignore those new faces on the sofas around the coffee table in the back corner, by any means. A slender drink of water slipping around in a cotton shift that made it pretty clear it was just there like the veil on a sculpture: temporary cover up some amazing shape. Sitting right by the cutest Mayan chick he’d seen yet. I’d buy a bracelet with my name on it from her for a dollar, Seagull thought as he strummed an instrumental break. Even sing one just for her, like “You’re sixteen, you’re beautiful and you’re Mayan”? And a familiar face amongst them. Not to mention familiar tight tits, tough ass and red head. The fire-dancer he’d almost hooked up with in Uxmal two years go, but she was traveling with that sexy lezzy with the rattletop djembe. Damn! Maybe I should set my axe on fire and play with my teeth.

Copper was unaware she was being scanned by a potential musical collaborator, traveling agent, and bed-partner: she was just relaxing in the mellow, sweet, innocent Isla Vibe. She’d always doted, on the Island: the perfect combination of her kind of laid-back and unspoiled with a decent number of gringo dorks with enough money to make spinning her fireballs here an exercise in profit, not just exercise.

Beyond that, she had a certain affinity to a place where she had her own church right on the main square. Well, not really her church, though to hear some people tell it…

The combination of her name and hair color brought a spark of recognition everywhere in the area, but nowhere more than on Isla, where the main church on the plaza principál is dedicated not to the Lady of Guadalupe, but to the Virgin de la Caridad de Cobre. Unusual in Mexico, where you gradually find out that it’s barely even a Catholic country at all, in the normal sense, but manifestly a goddess cult in which Christ is revered mostly because he’s the favorite son of the original Latin Lupe Lu. But the Charity of Copper virgin cuts her action on Isla, where Lupe’s church is much smaller and located out in a colonia. Well, also located on a clifftop with Caribbean view, but prestige-wise, Copper Charity is the go-to deity on Isla and Copper got a kick out of it.

A deeper kick, that still hadn’t completely settled in the lamina of her subcon was that in Cuba, where the Virgin originally hailed from the town of Cobre, she carried a second ID, a persona she found fascinating. To a practitioner of Santeria–the Latin Caribe’s answer to voodoo–many Saints are merely hosts for powerful Id gods, AfroCarib spirits that ride people like horses but reside inside Catholic canoneers like parasite eggs injected into host grubs. The Virgin might have her sparkling white chapel and muted bells in the main square, but over the flickering lanterns and fresh-spilt blood of sacrifice she was the Goddess Oshun, and far, far from a blushing virgin bride.

Xchab had absolutely no idea what sort of place her weird new companions had dragged her to this time. It was obviously a gringo/Euro kind of place but showed none of the flash she associated with that in Cancun. In fact, it was downright shabby: old sofas, used books piled all over one wall, rough floors, burlap ceilings, counters and shelves made of what looked like driftwood or at least heavily distressed lumber. They didn’t even make your coffee for you! They brought these little glass cups of grounds in hot water and you had to push the plunger down to pour the coffee out. And how about the entertainer? He looked like a clown with his big puffball of sandy hair and his tramp clothes and taped-together glasses. And his guitar looked like it was not only used, but abused and grafittied by some minature music gang. And if wasn’t a clown, just a singer, then his singing really, truly sucked.

Loris was pretty totally happy, not that she was a hard person to make happy. She was running with maybe the best man she’d ever met, was on the trail of oXo, and absolutely loved Isla Mujeres. Their cabana at the Villa Ki’in was like a dream to her; funky living room with posters of Kahlo and Zapata opening out on a patio with cane loungers that gave onto a powdery beach sloping down to a little lagoon of calm water flushed by waves breaking over a reef. The water was clear as the air, and shallow enough that she could walk over to the reef and peek down at tiny wrasse darting in Technicolor. She’d lazed on the beach all afternoon, drinking in the sun and Bannock’s presence, but with few words spoken. Just watching Copper and Winston frolic in the water while Xchab strode solemnly around at waist depth, her long man’s shirt floating around her as she peered into the crystal water like a stalking heron. Just resting a hand on Bannock’s hairy arm and feeling him relaxing, too. And, okay, yeah, drinking a few Coronas.

And now this little place with the cool Brit couple and the knucklehead slacker singer and the Yucatan coffee and rich brownies and the feel of a sort of hideout from reality, some forgotten niche in development where you could be unwary and human. The people who came in for coffee seemed to share that feel: uncoiled, yet aware, happy to be here. The other table there, those three model-looking girls, look at them. Just young, beautiful and not a care in the world.

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The Hidalgo stretch used to be good for buskers, but now it’s a victim of its own excess. You’ve got your fake Mayans in blackface and peacock feathers blowing conch shells, your fake Peruvians with bells and whistles and “Que pasa, Condorito?”, your phony mariachis doing “Tears In Heaven” on trumpet and violin…it ain’t over ’til the fat man with the guitarrón sings. If you’re not wearing a costume or setting shit on fire, nobody even notices you.
Seagull: The Blasé Sojourner

Seagull rattled his battered blue enamelled “ranchito” cup like a crapshooter and spun his tips out on the counter of the takeout pizza joint next door. Hmm, not too shabby for summer. What that USD bill from the Beyonce babe in the straw hat was actually a fiver! Hot damn! He could have afforded a nice barbacoa sandwich at the Cueva.

But he pocketed the bill and counted out enough for a slice of pizza. He slapped the coins down on the counter and said, “There it is, hotstuff, change you can believe in.”

The beautiful Weejun (with the unfortunately big Weejun SCUBA boyfriend) scooped it up and gave him a heartstopping smile from the midnight sun and said, “Be the change you want to sponge in the world,” before popping his pepperoni and chorizo slice into the oven for a quick remelt.

That was it right there. If he wanted a change of gears, he was going to have to do it. Every stick has to shift for itself in this brut-assed world.

He was alone on stage for his second set, Congón having presumably split to Poc Na with that sanpaku Argentine hippy chick. Always hostel-friendly, our Congón. Leaving him with only what rhythm he could beat with his feet. And the crowd, if that’s what you want to call three tables, had that “heard it before, twice” look about them. The Grace Jones negress had split (and thanks for your support) but the table of hotties was still there to be schemed on. Especially the redhead. He had some ideas in that direction. Meanwhile, when your feet are in the stirrups and your ass is on the ground, best bet for a crowdpleaser is sing about about drugs.

Well I have run a few guns across somebody’s enemy lines
I’ve flown in a few tons of sinsemilla in a B-29
I’ve done Swiss-made watches and leather huaraches
Sometimes I’ve even moved a little Coke…..a Cola
I’m just supply demand without the duty or the excise man

Not bad, not bad, hit em with a hooky chorus and it’s chicken in the pot.

I’ll be makin’ a break from takin’ over contraband
I might trade you this hash for some cash and a Volkswagen van
I’ll be heading for the border with my papers in order
Taking my departure south of Puerto Vallarta
Gonna get myself nice down in Smugglers’ paradise

And now the bridge to Tipville.

There are rusty old freighters sitting down at the dock
Full of Panama red, full of Peruvian rock
Seaplanes loaded with their quota of imported booze
There are shadowy bars with flamenco guitars
Señoritas with their eyes like stars…
I just think I could use some kind of tropical kind of a cruise

It’s just the right site for living high while you’re lying low
If you’re feeling flush or had a brush with the Border Patrol
So mellow out on that beach and reach for that Mescalito
Drink something cold and wet and watch the sun set on Smugglers Cove

And one more for the baby’s new shoes

Just gimme one more shot of that Jose Cuervo
And I’ll be headin’ on down, to the boundry of Mexico
One more bottle of Tequila to go
I’ll find the salt and the lemon and the women
Down in Smugglers Cove

He hit the retirees up front first, and glommed a couple of bucks out of sheer confusion. The Aerofloters chipped in a few kopeks or bukniks or whatever the change house wouldn’t accept, then he was moving on the Babetable. The big guy wasn’t around, which embolded Seagull considerably. That guy looked like he could strike highway flares on the tip of his dick and crunch your ass up like a stale dinner mint.

But present company seemed nice enough. The Andie McDowell-looking brunette gave him a five and TKO smile, the Indita stared but didn’t scalp his ass or anything, and the redhead–what the hell was her name? Cher? Chastity? Cash N. Carrie?–dropped him a few few pesos and that look you get from other people who work for gratuitous gratuities. So he laid it on her. “I remember you.”

She fluffed her pile of coppery coils, pushed her chest forward almost imperceptibly and drawled, “Most people do.”

“Great fire dancer. You were working the tourbus crowds at the ruins with a guy playing a samba rig.”

“He was hot, too. Shame he was a total asshole.”

“Who’s drumming you now?”

Another lingering look. Looking mostly down. “I don’t really take applications. As such.”

“Look I can do the beat. I’m not in the league with Cagón there, but not many are. And I’m only a partial asshole. Forty percent, tops.”

The brunette chuckled at that, a soft song like a creek turning pebbles. Copper–that was it! Copper!–gave a half smile and said, “Gonna beat on your box?”

“I drum too, you know. I’ve got a dumbek and I’m not afraid to use it.”

He could see the blowoff coming, so he blurted out. “Look, I know where we can make some good money before high season. I’m starving here and I’m guessing you’re not doing much better. There’s gonna be a film festival down in Playa…”

“I heard about it.”

“Couple of weeks off. Meanwhile, we could work sunset at the beach, do a wedding or two, after hours at the CasaBlanca. Make some coin, shake down the act, go down and wow the Mexi-moguls.”

Copper gave him a long evaluation this time. He stood still for it. You work with somebody like this, truck the road together, it’s not like a blind date or something. He saw a slight softening in her face, a semblance of a yawn.

The brunette must have seen it, too, because she said, “Would you like some coffee or something?”

Then he felt the bruiser behind him, a sort of dark heaviness he associated with a rough hand on his shoulder and footwear up his butt. But Copper looked past him and smiled at the guy. Said, “Hey Bannock, this is Seagull. We’re going to be working together.”

Hey, she remembered him, too!

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