Failures in sexy diplomacy: The U.S. meets Russia in Mexico

My Russian.

Question: When, exactly, is the time to tell someone that you secretly took a photo of them at the beach earlier that day and have it not sound creepy?

Answer: There is absolutely no time that it will not sound creepy.

I’m finally getting around to telling you about going back to Mexico.

My first trip to Puerto Vallarta was so much fun that I returned a year later with some of the same people; we even rented the same condo (and I had the same bedroom). One thing that would have been nice also to do again was bring my wallet with me. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Shortly after we all hopped out of the SUV that took us to the airport — thank you, Uber! — I reached for my wallet and … nothing. I had my passport in my front pocket, but my back pocket was empty.


I did not handle this development well. Instead, I essentially short-circuited, mere steps inside the entry to Terminal 4 — repeatedly checking my pockets and the spots in my carry-on where the wallet could/should be but was not. After the 15th or 16th time I patted down all my pockets, Smarmy Bastard finally said, “You can keep checking them, but that’s not going to make it materialize there.”

So. Many. Thoughts. No cash, not a single credit card. Had the wallet fallen out in the SUV — or on one of the many stops when the driver picked six of us up, house by house? Or was it at Casa Flor? Mr. Brooks had just gotten home from work an hour earlier at 7:30 a.m., so he shouldn’t have been fully asleep yet. If he could find it, we only live about 10 minutes from Sky Harbor, and …

… and he didn’t pick up his phone. I kept dialing, hoping that the ringing would roust him from sleep. I sent panicky texts, to no avail. To prevent a total meltdown, SB said he’d loan me money for the week, and I could pay him when we got back. Crisis averted, it was on to check-in, through security and a much-needed cocktail to counteract the stress that had overloaded my brain.*

* It turns out that I had left the wallet on the arm of the couch that I’d been sitting on while waiting for the car to arrive. When it pulled up to the front of the house, I jumped up and grabbed my luggage by the door … and overlooked the wallet. Mr. Brooks found it there two days later; we briefly considered FedEx-ing it to our condo, but ultimately discarded that plan because of the possibilities for things to go wrong, it being Mexico and all.

The first few days were … well, we had been discussing that our new lineup of condo guests was missing the Hot Mess quotient that had made the previous year memorable. And between the wallet and the waves, it became apparent that I was the most likely contender to be this year’s Hot Mess.

I am an awful swimmer, so when I get farther out in the water beyond about midwaist depth, I spend half my energy trying not to drown, and the other half trying not to panic about possibly drowning. One thing I did not know is that you shouldn’t turn your back on the ocean, so that waves can’t take you by surprise.

The first big wave took me by surprise, sending me face-first into the surf so hard that it knocked the baseball cap off my head and a few loose items out of my pockets — lip balm, and the pesos that SB had just loaned me minutes before. I righted myself and was furiously trying to gather the items — peso bills have a plastic coating, so they float! — when the second big wave finished me off.

I threw a game just to get this screen grab.

I threw a game just to get this screen grab.

I lost my cap and my dignity that day. Months later, I was playing the online game Solitaire Blitz in which as you clear columns of cards, a tiny treasure of sorts is revealed. But if you don’t clear all the columns in time, or run out of cards, a virtual wave comes along and wipes away your prizes. I had a tiny flashback and thought it was would be both terrifying and amazing if one time, the prize turned out to be a light tan baseball cap that ended up swept out to sea forever.

Screen shot 2013-07-21 at 5.23.47 PMLuckily, there was eye candy at the beach. Hot Jesus over there on the right was named Oscar, and he was on the beach in his harness and tiny swimsuit pretty much every day hustling his mescal bar. (Note to self: Next year go to mescal bar, if it is still open.)

And we saw the guy at the top of the post every day. “He’s perfect,” I told my cohorts. “Nice shoulders and arms — and he’s losing his hair, so he’s got a weak spot.”

He also turned out to be Russian, with a limited grasp on English or Spanish, which I discovered around Wednesday night when I ran into him at a bar. Emboldened by tequila, I decided to go up and talk to him (!) … only to run into a significant and frustrating language barrier.

It turns out that I need to be able to work my particular brand of woo magic with words, and relegating my vocabulary to a fourth-grade comprehension level effectively negates any game that I may have had. Eventually, at some point I decided to compliment his physique by showing him that I’d taken that photo of him and sent it to my personal trainer saying “I want shoulders like that.”

As soon as the words were coming out, I realized: Comprehension level, you idiot. The next day, when his friend who spoke fluent English saw me on the beach, he said, “Oh, you’re the paparazzi.” EFF YOU, Mischa, you’re just jealous.

The Bulgarian also speaks Russian and tried to teach me a few lines to say basically, “Sorry I am insane.” Instead, I ended up punching the words into Google Translate, holding up my iPad and playing it for The Russian when we ran into them again. “Oh, no, Sam,” he said, rubbing my shoulder. “Do not feel bad, I loved it.” And cue puppy-love crush in three … two … one … GO.

I ran into him again the last night we were in town. It turns out he has a longtime boyfriend who was not with him. “He likes to go to Thailand alone, and I can go off by myself too,” explained The Russian. Wait — is go off by myself code for something else? (Nefarious-ulterior-motive me: “Please, please, please.”) Ultimately it was not to be, however; when he declared his need to spend his last evening in PV “disco dancing,” I called off any halfhearted pursuit that had remained.

WHAT SAM WORE: 7-21-13
shirt072113 pants072113 converseshoe
The shirt: “I ♥ Science” T-shirt, from
The pants: Slim-cut cargo sweats from Uniqlo, New York.
The shoes: Custom All-Stars, created at

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