Tag Archives: vomit

Mexico City Blues

by Ben Tanzer

We were in Mexico because of my mother. It was her idea to take Adam and me south of the border. Her vision was that we would see the great artists of Mexico City—Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiros, and Kahlo—and then hit the beach in Cancún. But things started going wrong and, on our third night in Mexico, a country where everyone actively discourages you from drinking the water, we all decided to order shrimp scampi.

I can’t remember what the meal tasted like; I can tell you however what happened the next day at the airport as we prepared to catch our flight from Mexico City to Cancún. It started with Adam saying he had to go to the bathroom. We waited, and waited, but as the minutes passed it began to seem less and less likely that he would return, and at some point I went to look for him. The bathroom was dark and quiet, and Adam was nowhere in sight.

I walked up to the row of stalls and called out his name.

“Adam, you still in here?”

“I’m over here,” Adam said, sounding like a junkie looking for his next hit.

“Hey man, what’s going on?” I said as I worked my way to his stall.

“I have diarrhea,” he said, “I didn’t make it all the way to the toilet.”

“Shit,” I said, my expletive matching the mood, “are you okay?”

“I need another pair of shorts,” he said, “and I need them now. Some guy has been pounding on the door and screaming at me in Spanish.”

I ran out of the bathroom and sprinted to the nearest newsstand. They had no shorts. Nor were there any at the duty-free shop. I wandered the terminal; no shorts were to be found. This was not the airport of today, mini-malls full of Starbucks and Benetton stores, massage tables and Polo golf shops. This was pre-globalization, and it was an entirely different time and place. The first George Bush was in office, MTV actually showed music videos, and Barry Bonds was still a string bean hitting no more than 30 homeruns a year for the Pirates. This airport had the basics—the International Herald Tribune, cheap rum and imported cigars—and that was it.

I walked up to a young traveler type, one of those guys you see at every airport. They have one backpack on their back where it belongs and another on their chest, where it does not. They’re wearing dirty, faded Columbia shorts and scuffed leather sandals of indiscriminate origin. They have a scruffy, not-quite adult beard and disheveled near Jew-fro hair. Their t-shirt has some obscure reference to Machu Picchu or some island, somewhere, where people drink hallucinogenic tea before dancing all night beneath a full moon.

The guy can be from anywhere, but he tends to be from Australia, doing that walkabout thing they do.

“Hey dude, excuse me,” I say.

“Yeah mate, he says.

Bam, called that.

“My brother had some bad shrimp,” I say, a little panicked, “and he didn’t quite make it to the bathroom, and now he needs some shorts, and I’m hoping you might be willing to sell me a pair.”

I want to be cool, but I’m not—I’m desperate. If this guy won’t help me, we’re fucked, it’s that simple.

“Sure man, no problem,” he says, smiling, “you can have them for free.”

I want to hug him, but that seems too personal—plus how am I going to get around his front pack? Still, I want to do or say something.

“You rock brother,” I say, “and that Pat Cash, cool dude, handsome too.”

“Right,” he says turning away, “good luck with everything.”

I dash back to the bathroom and pass Adam the shorts under the door. He’s gaunt and ragged when he finally comes out but feels fine by the time we get on the plane. My mom though can’t say the same.

“I’m feeling very sick,” she tells me as we take off.

“Let’s see if they have some Alka-Seltzer,” I say.

“No,” she says, “that won’t help.”

This response is expected. My parents don’t believe that medicine is ever helpful, they won’t take anything, and for years all we have had kicking around the medicine chest is an ancient, unused bottle of aspirin and a home colonic that no one has ever opened. I think this has something to do with showing weakness and an aversion to products and brands and anything corporate, though mostly they don’t like being told what to do, and the act of taking medicine somehow acknowledges that someone, somewhere, off behind a curtain is doing just that.

I stop the flight attendant, who then brings my mother the Alka-Selzer.

My mother drinks the Alka-Seltzer.

“Wow, that’s incredible, it really works,” she says.

The Alka-Seltzer incident becomes our touchstone for every discussion on over-the-counter medicine from that point forward.

After we land I become so sick that, after making myself vomit for an entire afternoon, I am forced to lie in bed for two days. I watch Mexican soap operas, drink bottled water, and while I should be dreaming of bland foods like white rice and toast, comfort foods, we didn’t do that when I was growing up; we didn’t follow rules, we dreamed what we dreamed, and so I dream of chicken fajitas.

I do get healthy though, and outside of the moment days later when we actually have to question whether or not Adam was dead, the trip was really quite lovely.

I should pause here to say that we thought Adam had drowned while jogging on the beach when the tide had come in but he hadn’t returned.

My mother, at this point healthy herself, sunburned and lovely, her hair still all black and long, was convinced that Adam was dead.

“What am I going to tell dad,” she said over and over again.

I didn’t want to believe Adam had drowned, but when the hotel finally said they would look into sending out a helicopter to search for him I started to wonder.

Moments later when he walked in barefoot and tired after getting lost and being forced to walk back to the hotel along the highway, I realized just how terrified I had been.

I also realized that it might be time to go home. Which we did, at this point smiling and full of love, the good memories far outweighing the stomach problems and near drownings.

At least that’s how I remember it. Memory is a funny thing, and I wonder if Adam remembers the trip the same way I do. I e-mail him the draft and ask him for his thoughts.

He replies immediately.

Dear Ben,

Your memory of the story is actually a bit more sanitary, pardon the pun, than what I remember. My memory of this story is that you, Mom, and I went to the airport and we divided up the jobs. You had to do one job, mom had to do a second job and the third job was that I was going to wait in line for all of us to check in.

Quite a long line in a hot and crowded airport, I might add. As I was waiting in line recognizing that I was doing a job that would not only affect my travels but yours and Mom’s as well, I felt quite nauseous and had a strong sense that I had to use the bathroom. I said to myself that for me to get out of line and then for you and Mom to come back from your jobs and for us to have to start at the back of the line again was just not acceptable. We might lose our flight. So I waited for what seemed like an eternity, probably only about five minutes, until I felt a variety of explosions racing through my body.

Not knowing what to do or where I was in the airport, I raced outside, where I vomited…and had diarrhea simultaneously, painting the Mexican sidewalk a variety of colors, but everybody around me seemed to not be phased at all. I raced to the bathroom. And from that point your story is the same as my memory.

Perhaps it is my recognition that I will not become famous in any other way, or perhaps it’s my hours of watching the Jerry Springer show, but either way reading this story does not embarrass me. I need to run, nature’s calling.

Adam

There is much I can say here, about memory, and diarrhea of course, but I think it’s most important to note that this is something we shared, and it is now an ingrained piece of family folklore, like your first words or the night you were caught with a half-naked girl in your room. We didn’t do over-the-counter medicines or bland foods, we didn’t have rules, we were rarely careful as children, or necessarily even cared for all of the time, but we had love, lots of it, and adventure, and we now have stories, many, and a shared history we all revel in.

And who wouldn’t kill for all that, despite the trade-offs? No one I know.

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Man’s best friend

Puppies are just so damn cute. If they weren’t, we would never let them piss on our laps and shit all over our houses.

Sweet Perfect Hazel was an amazing puppy; she was cute, she was obedient, she was calm, she didn’t bark. She was a border collie mutt, attentive and social and smart. She was an A+ dog in all things except Housebreaking. F. A solid, shitty F.

  1. We put down newspaper for her, patting the paper to show her that this is where good doggies go potty. She was so sweet. She’d scamper onto the newspaper, with us saying gopottygopottygopotty, and then she’d go to the edge of the paper, all four paws on the paper, and squat, her little doggie butt hanging over the edge of the paper so she could shit on the floor and not soil the beautiful paper we’d laid out for her.
  2. After she ate, I would take her outside on her leash. We would walk around. I would be super patient, waiting for her to do her business. Nothing. I would sing to her. Nothing. 45 minutes of nothing. I would eventually decide she didn’t have to go, so we’d head back inside. She promptly ran to a corner of the living room carpet and baked a Tootsie Roll. I think she was actually waiting to go inside so she could do her business.
  3. We locked her in the laundry room until she pooped. She’d cry and whimper and howl until we let her out, where she would promptly scamper somewhere exciting in the house and let it fly.
  4. We built a little pen outside, next to the kitchen door, where we could leave her cooped up until she pooped. Minimal success, and then we discovered that she could get out and we were too inept to patch the pen properly.

It was horrible. NOTHING WORKED. Crate training seemed cruel and unusual punishment and slightly unnecessary. My girlfriend and I were both 22; we had bachelor’s degrees but were still at the developmental stage where you get the phone shut off because you forget to pay the bill and it’s easier to just close the office door than clean up dogshit. This is actually quite a brilliant solution. We lived in an enormous house, a four-bedroom summer home on a lake, out in the wilds of central Virginia. The house was so big that if Hazel took a dump somewhere, we could just ignore it. Like the Mad Hatter’s tea party – move on to another room. So we did.

Hazel was an equal opportunity pooper. The house had vinyl flooring in the kitchen and laundry, hardwood in the living room and dining room, slate in the foyer, and wall-to-wall carpet in the bedrooms. She’d poop in all rooms, but she seemed to prefer the wall-to-wall carpeting. In this case, ignoring fresh dog poop makes sense – if you let it dry and harden, it is easier to pick up. I have a terrible gag reflex, finely honed from growing up with two poop-mongering black Labs. Trying to gingerly pick up Sweet Perfect Hazel’s moist poop and not have it smear into the carpet was a nightmare. Way easier to breathe through your mouth and pick it up tomorrow. Or maybe on the weekend. Yeah, that’s better.

I worked days and my girlfriend waited tables at night, so the only time Sweet Perfect Hazel was alone was if I went out at night and left her home. Frequently, I’d come home from work, change out of my suit and into casual clothes, and then take Sweet Perfect Hazel out with me to the restaurant where my girlfriend worked. It was during the summer months, and I’d sit on the restaurant patio having a beer with Hazel on a leash. It was far preferable to being alone out in the woods in a empty old house full of drying dogshit.

One evening I came home from work as usual. Coming in through the kitchen, I heard the phone ringing. I dropped my keys on the kitchen table and looked around – the phone wasn’t where it belonged. In such a huge house, a 1989-era cordless phone could be left anywhere, and finding it was a chore. I started jogging through the house toward the sound of the phone ring. This was pre-cell phone and voicemail; screening calls was unheard of. I picked up my pace, not wanting the caller to hang up. We were not only too lazy to pick up dogshit, but we were also too lazy to get an answering machine.

I ran through the rooms. Dining room – nope. Living room – nope. As I made a sharp left into the slate foyer, I spotted the phone on the bookcase, and I picked up my speed. I was wearing dress shoes, and my left foot hit a patch of something slick on the slate.

That’s when life kicked into slow motion.

My foot went out from under me, forwards, and I was launched into the air in a classic slip-on-a-banana-peel move. Except this wasn’t a banana peel. As I slid, I caught the pungent stench of fresh dog shit in the air, feeling it sliding underfoot, and my gag reflex kicked in. My foot went forward and I went backwards. Assaulted by the smell of dogshit, I vomited. A big, hot, involuntary jet of vomit shot into the air as I fell. I landed on my back, fortunate not to hit my head on the slate, unfortunate to fall onto the pile of dogshit. A spray of vomit landed on my teal 1989 power tie.

Sweet Perfect Hazel ran over to me, lying in the front hall sandwiched between her shit and my vomit, and started licking my face. Good girl.

The phone still rang on the bookcase next to me. I reached up and grabbed it.

“Hello?” I croaked.

“Are you okay?” my girlfriend asked, sixth sense on overdrive.

“Guess where I am,” I whispered.

“What’s going on?”

I explained the situation to her, my voice low to keep control. I thought I might cry. At first she was silent, and then I thought maybe she was crying, too. Soon I realized she was laughing and trying not to. Little high-pressure gasps of merriment pffted through the cordless phone.

“It’s not really very funny,” I said.

“Yes it is,” she shrieked, full on hoots of laughter now.

I was lying on my back on a pile of dogshit, with a puppy licking my vomit off the lapel of my charcoal suit. There was nothing to do but laugh along with her. We finished our conversation, but not until she retold the story to everyone within hearing range at the bar. I clicked off the phone and stood up. I stripped naked in the front hall, dropped my suit and tie and everything in a pile on the slate, and got in the shower. I left the pile of clothes in the foyer. I put Sweet Perfect Hazel on her leash and took her to the bar for a much-needed beer.

It’s worth noting that a year later, when we moved out of that gargantuan house, the landlords kept our entire security deposit. They said the house smelled. We didn’t argue.

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