The Shipwreck Rose: Deadly Sins

We are in Mexico this week on a vacation twice canceled by Covid-19 and twice rescheduled by JetBlue, eating our way through the slothful days at a series of buffets and glossy “Asian” or “Italian” restaurants where young men with guitars make the Lou Reed song “Perfect Day” sound like a plaintive advertisement for the Yucatan Tourism Bureau:

Just a perfect day

Problems all left alone

Weekenders on our own

It’s such fun

Just a perfect day

You made me forget myself

I thought I was someone else

The Shipwreck Rose: Deadly Sins

Someone good

There are two kinds of people in this world: package-vacation people and independent-travel people. That’s not actually true. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who see the glass as half full, and those who see it as half empty? Those who hang the toilet roll end-over and those who hang the toilet roll end-under? Morning people, night people? Dog people, cat people? No, no. What I do find true is that we can divide the world into people who like novelty versus people who like routine. That is true.

I’m squarely in the novelty camp. I was born this way, completely insatiable for novelty, a glutton for new things, new experiences, new sights, new vistas, new tastes. I hate doing the same thing twice. (Which is why I can be counted on to have an existential crisis every single night at bedtime: Sleep? Again? Not again?)

Novelty-seeking is why I spend my spare hours deep-researching exotic trips I will never take to corners of the world I’ll never see; it is also why I feel permitted to thoroughly enjoy without shame what we anachronistically still think of as low culture (reality television, the Radio City Rockettes, all-inclusive vacations) as much as I enjoy per missable high culture (reading Leonid Tsypkin’s “Summer in Baden-Baden” by the adults-only infinity pool at the Grand Velas resort at Playa del Carmen).

Being a compulsive novelty-seeker is not the best at a buffet. I absolutely want to taste everything, and I will, even though I might no longer be able to fit into my new blue-gingham swimsuit.

I’m now sitting on our verandah as the sun comes up watching a black grackle peck apart a piece of toast left out here by my son yesterday morning as bird bait. This place, Grand Velas (which U.S. News and World Report called the best all-inclusive in Mexico), has a massive spa that I visited in the afternoon to have my body painted with honey harvested from on-site hives of indigenous western honey bees. After being painted with honey, I was plunged into a Jacuzzi bath scented with vanilla and the boiled bark of the chaka (gumbo-limbo tree) and then massaged while hypnotic spa music played on the sound system, voices chanting what sounded like “Oomm daddy-do, daddy-do, daddy sofa . . . Oomm daddy-do, daddy-do, daddy sofa,” over and over again. I’m not sure what the honey was for, but the therapist, Jasmine, told me she was my Mayan healer for the day as she waved incense and incanted words about the four elements, earth, fire, water, and air. I liked it.

The Grand Velas spa features a massive “dynamic pool” with bubble-bath beds, spouts and jets, and two knee-deep water tracks that you march up and down, in hot water and cold water, to increase circulation to your feet. JetBlue-ing off to resorts where you use six large white bath towels in one spa session is not, of course, ecologically sound, even if the honey and the chaka are locally harvested and even if you do have a semi-spiritual revelation during the massage that reconfirms the divinity of your corporeal person as a harmonic portion of the universal divine whole.

I told the kids years ago that we would have to stop doing things like this. In January of 2020, we crossed the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2 to visit friends in London, and that was supposed to be our last irresponsible vacation. We stood in our uncomfortable evening clothes in our stateroom, pausing before stepping out to a five-course dinner in the Britannia Restaurant to gaze up at the television as news broke of a strange new virus emerging from Wuhan.

Sloth, gluttony, greed — we are slowly checking the boxes on the list of the Seven Deadly Sins. This being a chaste family vacation, there has as yet been no Lust, although it’s possible I felt Wrath on the airplane journey down at the family of four seated behind us who wore their face masks on their chins for the two-hour wait at Gate 17 in John F. Kennedy Airport and kept them on their chins for the duration of the flight to Cancun International. I pointed out peevishly to Nettie and Teddy that this family also kept resting their sneakers on the soft upholstery of the airport and airplane seats, and that I’d seen the mom littering: She dropped a Kind Bar wrapper to the carpet and then stepped on the wrapper and ground her heel as if stepping on it would make it disappear.

At our table last night at Grand Velas’s fusion restaurant, Sen Lin — where we ate sashimi and pad thai and duck and soft-shell crab tempura, washed down with cocktails made from fresh-squeezed orange and pineapple — my daughter pointed out that I am too judgmental. I judge others too frequently and too harshly. My daughter is absolutely correct: I am too judgmental. “We are all sinners,” I told her, “but we weren’t raised in a barn.” (Pride? Check!)