Escape Artist, Part One

October 22, 2010

Every year as the weather gets colder in Prince Edward Island, I start daydreaming of sunnier climes. Not that Tokyo is appreciably sunnier, mind you, but it is at least quite not so bitterly cold come January. Still, by the dead of winter, I am usually more than ready for an infusion of warm ocean breezes and palm trees. Last year I took a break from Tokyo in usually-tropical Jeju Island, South Korea, where, as my regular readers may remember, it pretty much snowed for most of my stay (if you have a look back through my previous postings, you will find several about Jeju around December, 2009). It was quite beautiful to see icicles hanging from swaying palms, but my lazing-about-on-the-beach plans were sadly scuttled.

My friend John MacDonald, who runs Cardigan Lobster Suppers in PEI in the summers, works like a stevedore all season: serving thousands of lobsters to hungry tourists, keeping the 19th century restaurant building in repair, operating a sailboat tour company, arguing for progress at town meetings (where many of the recalcitrant townsfolk firmly believe that anything that has changed since the 1950s has been a change for the worse), and only occasionally finding time for a leisurely chat over a Barbados rum. But in the winters, John takes off to exotic locales, from which I receive occasional postcards, most of which depict just the sort of beach I have in mind: Australia, New Zealand, Cuba, Viet Nam, Bali.

In two weeks or so, after the potential mischief of Halloween has passed, John will bid goodbye to Prince Edward Island for several months, this year heading to Puerto Escondido, Mexico. Puerto Escondido, for those unfamiliar with it, is a smallish (20,ooo full-timers, plus a regular influx of tourists) town on the west coast of Mexico. The name means “Hidden Port”, although it seems nowadays it is hidden only from Americans, who seldom venture beyond the vast and powerful tourist magnets of Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and Cancun. For Mexican families, surfers and intrepid backpackers, however, Puerto Escondido has evolved into one of the prime tourist towns of the Oaxaca coast. It is mostly downscale and rustic, even retaining a handful of palapas (palm-thatched buildings) housing seafood restaurants along the waterfront. I can almost taste the ceviche…

So, anyway, John asked me if I would like to come down there with him for a couple of weeks before I return to Japan. Mindful though I may be of Kurt Vonnegut’s admonition, “Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God,” I can’t swing it this year. I already have my flight booked, a new apaato rented in Tokyo, and so on; as you might well imagine, it pains me greatly to have to miss this particular dancing lesson.

As I am late getting to the Land of the Rising Sun this year, the leaves will all have fallen, the skies will likely remain the same steely grey color for the next several months, and the only palm trees on offer will be potted in hotel lobbies; thus, John will be carrying with him to Mexico, in addition to his clothes and personal effects, a large suitcase containing my envy. Safe travels, amigo!