I was wandering around my favorite home away from home in Mexico when I saw it on the map. In the tiny tourist town that I vacation in, there was a new gym. "Couldn't be any worse than the one they have there now," I thought to myself. The last time I was in town I went to this filthy little hole in the wall that had some weights and a broken running machine.
It didn't immediately call attention to itself, as most of the time I have to put all of my concentration on navigating the extremely potholed dusty roads. And when I did find out where it was, I was gobsmacked. The gym was in a so-so neighborhood, but it looked like it cost a million dollars. Truly, it was a facility that would not be out of place in Beverly Hills. It looked like there were acres of tinted glass coupled with stainless steel trim, all done in the International style. You would be hard pressed to find a bigger fish out of water than this little architectural gem.
When I eventually found time to visit, I found that it was totally empty except for the pretty, not very bright cashier. And when I returned again, I found the same thing. Clearly, at 50 pesos a visit, it was going to be a very long time before this gym showed any kind of profit.
In circumstances like these, the probabilities are very high that it is a lavamatica, or front for too much drug money that is sloshing back and forth in some secret account. You will find many a luxurious place in the middle of nowhere, and that is the most logical explanation. The boys who are running the show can always show that there is lots of money coming through the business to make it look like it's making money, losing money or breaking even -- whatever is most advantageous to the Mexican tax man.
On my second full visit to the empty gym, I found that my car was parked across the street from a dodgy guy who looked like he had entirely too much free time on his hands. Now mind you, the Crapmobile is a scrofulous car. I say that if you touch it, you'll get AIDS. But I made a show of locking the car just to let the guy across the street know that I wasn't totally dumb.
I went inside and started my workout on one of the elliptical machines. Outside the giant plate glass window I had a clear view of five guys paying a visit to the concrete block casita next door. Two guys were on the lookout in two different directions while the other guys were waiting to go inside. Perfectly innocent activity, I am sure.
I had my forty or fifty minutes to complete my workout on the elliptical, and in that time the gym was suddenly flooded. There were a bunch of young guys just off the street who decided to come in and use some of the various machines around me. And there were even more people coming in over time, many teenagers with skateboards and even a young eight to ten year old boy. He was playing a version of handball with one of the skate punks, but everything in the gym was copacetic.
It was truly a family exercise, because oftentimes when one member of a family decides to do something, the whole family gets involved. Maybe there was a little macho involved, because the young guys saw how much endurance I had on the elliptical machine. But such family gatherings are always good times. I didn't know whether it was spontaneous or generated for my benefit, but I didn't care. Everybody in the gym was truly enjoying themselves.
As I went to the other side of the gym to work on machines for my upper body, I was really impressed with the youngest kid. He started out working on some of the same equipment I was intending to use, and in the process he taught me how to use some of the pieces of equipment that I couldn't figure out for myself. But when he started to work the punching bag, I was really impressed! The kid knew how to throw punches. I assume that one day he will be another De La Hoya or other great Mexican featherweight.
"Box!" I said. That means the same in English as well as Spanish. Then for good measure I said "Nino Peligro!" That translates into Danger Boy, which would be a good nickname for kid.
By this time, I was getting tired. I exited the building, went by the half finished boxing ring and past the sushi stand to get to my car. Imagine my surprise when I found that my drivers' side door was ajar. Obviously, the guy watching me across the street was a pro, and he just wanted to let me know that he was that good. Nothing stolen, mind you -- just a reminder of how ineffectual my security provisions had been.
A couple days later, I was driving to a local dinner theater with my wife. And as I was travelling down the dusty road I spied a fully manned police pickup truck following me. The cops had their bulletproof vests on. As I went into the theater grounds, the police followed me. Once they figured out that I was a tonto gringo and nothing more, they left. Obviously, the cops had the place under surveillance, and they thought that I was running drugs, not just running on the treadmill at the gym.
Such are the way things are in Mexico.