At our second installment of these chronicles, there are 392,969 Covid-19 cases worldwide, and 17,154 deaths across the globe. In the US alone, there are now 46,168 cases and 582 deaths to date. So as we find our country in third place, behind only China and Italy in terms of impact, and Michigan’s governor issues a “stay home, stay safe” order, I will humbly continue my attempts at distraction.
When we were last chatting about our national, viral zeitgeist as seen through a more personal lens, I had left off in the throes of a somewhat welcome dilemma: should my spouse and I remain on the home-front, or bolt for sunnier shores? To flee, or not to flee?
Prior to walking through that final decision with you all, I reminded myself yesterday just how fortunate Teresa and I were to even contemplate going anywhere for anything. Indeed, there is a force in the universe whose centrality makes all things happen, legal and otherwise. And her name is Shelly.
It takes a village
Back in the 90’s, there was a gag going around, to the effect that Hillary Clinton had remarked, “It takes a village to watch my husband.” Kidding aside, my principal partner Jose’ and I, and by association, our spouses, are never too far from the watchful eyes of our remarkable assistant Shelly. She is chief, cook, bottle-washer, yeo(wo)man, sounding board, editor, tactician, institutional memory, therapist, conscience and dear friend. She minds the village, pretty much seven days a week.
If we have to rely on a pop-culture icon or two for comparison, she is equal parts Lillian Buyeff (Dora) from Perry Mason, and Annie Potts (Janine) from Ghostbusters; throw in some Wiggy from the Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm show for necessary silliness, and you’ve got the picture.
And speaking of the 90’s, Shelly first came to me in a circuitous fashion during that very era. Shelly had been filling in part-time for my office landlady, the recently widowed spouse of a beloved jurist, and when I mentioned that I might need some support staff help, Shelly just sort of happened. Though she had zero legal experience, her curiosity, tenacity, word-power and innate facility became quite obvious quite quickly. Alas, after logging a few years with me, fertility called Shelly back to home.
As fate and my own Shakespearean fumbles would have it, at a critical point in 2002, Shelly was asked, begged really, to come back and untangle what had become an intractable morass. As she had been close at hand helping out in politics during that time, for reasons still somewhat murky, she jumped right back in the fray, brought short order to long chaos and has now stood the watch with me and mine for a total of 21-plus mostly magnificent years.
I have not held a regular, W-2 job since walking out of a perfectly good prosecutor’s office to play music full-time 30 years ago. And while I have practiced law for nearly that entire span as well, and it has supported, enriched and entertained our families for decades, I can’t fathom attempting it without Shelly out on point. She and I anticipate each other, we speak without speaking, she gets it, and she has become a known and respected player in our little corner of the legal world. In the navy and other services, they say no man or woman is indispensable; this is not a theory I care to test, and that’s as much as I’m going to say about that.
Why South of the Border
So why the ode to Shelly? Because, before an attentive boutique practitioner flees the country, schedules must be painstakingly adjusted, planning and deadlines redressed, and you can’t even think about leaving rightfully needy clients in the hands of a mere mortal; you need a Shelly. And after all the preparation and toil, the inertia to depart was just too great to stick around. Shelly would in fact kill me, so that was that, and we were leaving for Mexico.
In anticipation of untold contingencies, Teresa stocked us up on Lysol wipes, hand sanitizers and masks, we threw what passes for wardrobe into luggage, including a rather exquisite collection of Hawaiian shirts and some lovely sun dresses, pocketed the passports, and boarded a direct Delta 737 bound for Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.
For those who have not been, Puerto Vallarta, or PV, is an amazing Pacific Coast town which originally dates back on the pre-Columbian calendar to 580 BC. Colonized by Hernan Cortes in 1524 (the Spaniard who brought us Montezuma’s Revenge), the town’s location, nestled in the center of the massive Banderas Bay, made it a waypoint for seafaring, smuggling and piracy. Into the 19th century, PV was a fishing, shipping and pearl-diving village, and serviced the larger mining towns of the surrounding Sierra Madre mountains.
By the time of the mid-20th century, PV began to draw a creative class of Americans, mostly writers and artists in search of a retreat from McCarthyism, among other -isms. A “Gringo Gulch” began to develop as an expatriate neighborhood on a hill overlooking El Centro, which Teresa and I scaled. Does this sound interesting, or even intriguing?
Steadily growing in the Yankee consciousness, 1963 saw PV burst into view when the crusty, iconoclastic director John Huston elected to shoot his film The Night of the Iguana, based on a Tennessee Williams play, in the immediate environ of Mismaloya. While the picture boasted the acting talents of Richard Burton, Debra Kerr, and Ava Gardner, all of whom fought incessantly with Huston, the big story was the indiscreet presence of Burton’s married lover, one Elizabeth Taylor. The couple had already been castigated by the Vatican for their “erotic vagrancy” which began during the filming of Cleopatra, and here they were, putting a relatively sleepy little fishing village on the map.
For extra legal points, it is noteworthy that Taylor’s divorce from husband Eddie Fisher, whom Liz had in turn stolen from Debbie Reynolds years earlier, was granted on March 6, 1964 in . . . Puerto Vallarta. And it is here our saucy story endeth. For now.