Alison Berkley Margo: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Coloraod
So yesterday, I went to Land’s End – and I’m not talking about the preppy store where you can buy pique polo shirts and canvas tote bags.
I’m talking, like, literally. Ryan, Ron, Mimi and I rolled up onto the beach in Cabo San Lucas, and within 10 minutes I had a new houndstooth straw fedora on my head, a can of Pacifico in my hand, and a boat. The Margos are good like that. We don’t need to scout out every dang boat-taxi service on the beach or even spend three minutes thinking about what we want to do next. Seeing the arch at Cabo was on Mimi’s bucket list, so why beat around the bucket?
“Twelve dollars,” the guy behind the desk says in his masterful 10-word English. Everyone in Mexico speaks at least 10 words flawlessly. “Cheaper than Kmart,” they might say. Or “The price is right, ladies, just like the game show” or “Come on in – we have everything you need.” There’s always talk of promotions, time-shares, special price, free margaritas, special price, and so on and so forth.
There’s something about the chorus of their voices floating in the breeze as you walk buy that reminds me of a cartoon or a circus or an amusement park. They’re sort of there, in your peripheral vision, sticking their heads out and then fading into the background as you pass by, until the next one pops out, crooning those 10 perfectly rehearsed words with their nasal accents.
So when we roll up to the boat guy, we go, “How much?”
And he says, “Ten dollars per person.”
And we say, “Five.”
He says, “Eight.”
We say, “Five.”
He says, “Eight. And at least I no sell you time-share.”
That’s when he gets us. “Sold,” we say with a chuckle, and out the wallet comes.
In the next five minutes we’re lambasted with crinkly-looking men and women dressed in white pants and shirts who wander the beach until they look like raisins, their dark skin sucked dry of any moisture, so tightly wrapped around their faces it looks like it might start to crack and disintegrate right before our very eyes, hawking jewelry made from string, bottle openers shaped like fish, T-shirts that say things like “I’m sexy and I know it” or “Shut up and fish” and so on.
I do like the fedoras, though, so Mimi and I spend, like, a half hour making the poor guy pull every single hat out of the stack so we can examine it. Of course we both like the same one, the brown-and-white one that Ryan suggests would look better with a brown band. (So now the guy has to actually take out some glue to customize the thing for me and for sure earned his 20 bucks even though Mimi refused to buy anything once I got the brown-and-white one she liked, and he didn’t have any more, only black-and-white ones).
In the background there’s club music blasting and wasted, sunburned people staggering around and a DJ promoting a wet-T-shirt contest. There’s a huge Carnival ship in the bay that desecrates the view, as if it were built solely for that purpose. The sight of it spooks me, like it might run into something and kill everyone on board – just like what happened in Italy not too long ago. I mean, those things are just pushing the limits of Mother Nature in a very in-your-face way that makes me altogether uncomfortable.
Anyhoo, we pile into boat No. 7, which is touted as a “glass-bottom” boat. I’m skeptical when that consists of two little cloudy plastic viewing holes as big as a board game, but whatever. I know I’m not Jennifer Aniston (even though I promised to dress like her and try to act like her the whole time I am here, wearing loose-fitting clothes and cowboy hats and silver jewelry and aviator glasses, and wearing my hair down and doing yoga and getting super tan), and I know this isn’t my yacht.
There is a middle-aged blond woman on board who has an ear-piercing cackle and shattered red eyes and looks like she’s been partying the same way since she was about 15, her hair pulled back into a girlish ponytail, dressed in a little sundress.
Within the first five minutes, she starts telling Mimi her whole life story, like how her first husband went to jail and her second husband took her for everything she’s worth and her boyfriend (who sits on the other end of the boat as if trying to avoid her entirely) is a firefighter and if he doesn’t give her another beer she’s going to throw him overboard (cackle, cackle, cackle).
I’m like my mother, so just as I’m thinking, “I hate doing things with the public,” the boat pulls into the marina and drops all their drunk asses off, and all of a sudden we’re the only ones on the boat.
We get our own private tour, and within minutes we’re away from the booze saturation and the hordes of people cooking in the hot afternoon sun, the bow bobbing over the small rollers as we round the corner from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific Ocean, where the land ends in a spectacular cluster of rock that seems to be carved out of the earth as if by an artist’s hand, a masterful sculpture on a canvas of crashing waves, waters in almost every shade of blue, white sand beaches and a colony of barking sea lions who seem to welcome you and holler as you pass by, not unlike their Mexican counterparts on land.
As we crest the Pacific, the little dude driving the boat says, “Hawaii, 5,000 miles,” a phrase he undoubtedly says 100 times a day.
And we go, “Got enough gas?”
As if he’s never heard that one before.
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My first step onto the natural lake ice is tentative as I launch off on a thin, stainless-steel blade. Will the ice support me? Will I go plummeting through into a hypothermic bath?