Scene from a Lunch in Ajijic

Act One, Scene two.

It’s a perfect sunny Tuesday afternoon in Ajijic. Church bells are ringing in the background. A Spanish guitar can be heard from a nearby plaza. An Indian woman and her daughter are carrying baskets with wooden kitchen spoons to sell. Three dogs chase each other on the street. Two friends meet for lunch to catch up. Friend numero-uno is known as Fred, friend number two is Ethel. They arrive at the restaurant at precisely the same time and walk in together. The table is set, drinks are ordered and conversation begins:

FRED: “How are you Ethel?”

ETHEL: “Me? Well, I’m doing well, Fred. Otis, my cat is sick but I think she’s on the mend.”

FRED: “Why did you name her Otis if she is a female cat?”

ETHEL: “Otis is a gender-neutral name isn’t it?”

FRED: “I have never met a woman named Otis.”

The waiter returns with drinks. A Bloody Mary on one side of the table and iced tea on the other.

FRED: “You see the thing with it is that this restaurant isn’t that good.”

ETHEL: “Oh, is that your Mexican point of view or your Gringo?”

FRED: Well first of all the chips and salsa aren’t that good.”

ETHEL: “Oh, I have always found them delightful.”

The chips and salsa arrive. Fred digs in devouring the chips & salsa and as the conversation continues he is spitting bits of chips onto the center of the table. Ethel moves her iced tea closer to her card-holding zone of the table.

FRED: “And look at this menu! They offer all kinds of gringo food, but it all comes out Mexican. Why can’t I get an American plate?”

ETHEL: “Well what do you want? I think the menu offers many options.”

FRED: I would like to order something that reminds me of home!”

ETHEL:  “Stop raising your voice. People are looking at us!” She said through a glare.

FRED: I don’t care. I have had enough. I don’t understand why that is so difficult!”

ETHEL: “Look, these people, these proud people have suffered their whole life trying to make ends meet and even worse, some of them don’t know what they were robbed of five centuries ago and if that wasn’t enough, the contemporary locals are in no hurry to change anything. You should put yourself in their shoes!”

FRED: “Ahhh, rubbish! All I want is a good lunch. How hard is that?”

ETHEL: “Patience and understanding is the key.”

Ethel tries to accommodate but the pre-lunch conversation begins to wane. After checking both phones, the diners return to the conversation. Ethel tries a different approach trying to lift Fred’s spirits.

ETHEL: “Maybe we should go down to the malecon for a stroll after lunch?”

FRED:  “I don’t know. Let’s see how I feel after our amazing lunch!” His response drips with sarcasm.

ETHEL: Starting to lose her patience says “You are always so negative. You are living in paradise! Smile for goodness sake!”

FRED: “I know, I know, but can they just make me a square meal?”

Ethel averts her eyes because she is too embarrassed with her lunch partner and needs to collect herself. She attempts to change the subject.

ETHEL: “Are you interested in the concert at Lake Chapala Society this Friday evening?”

FRED: “No Way! I am tired of people acting like someone else and getting paid for it.”

ETHEL: “But Fred, they are entertainers. Everyone that has ever gone into the entertainment business has started by imitating their heroes. They say that that is the greatest form of flattery.”

FRED: Rubbish!”

Lunch arrives. They have decided to split a plate. One Chicago-style hot dog with fries. Fred is a realbig-spender. The American traditional meal is over and it is time to pay the check. Fred insists on a five-percent tip (propina). Ethel is mortified. She pauses and carefully chooses her words.

ETHEL: “Fred, I have always supported you and your late wife, my best friend, but you need to know… that if you cannot get your head screwed on right and look around at what you have before you, then you will lose something else besides good American cuisine. You will lose me!”

The moment hung in the air with not even one mariachi band playing. Fred thought about it for a while and finally said: “You are right. Let’s go walk the malecon. I need my friend.”

For more information about Lake Chapala visit:

Michael Hemphill
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