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Letters to the Editor, Nextdoor

A Different Sort of Riveria

If you travel down to the state of Nayarit, Mexico, the last in that country to accept colonization, you will find several worlds. There are luxury resort hotels such as the Four Seasons Resort Punta Mita, gated and secure. There is the world that the elite magazines tout as well as sleek websites, celebrating the rebranded Riveria Nayarit, a 200 mile stretch of purported immaculate surf and sand from Puerto Vallarta as a starting point, to San Blas at the north end, with the surfing town of Sayulita in the heart of things.

For the most part, the people living and working in towns like Sayulita who are natives, are poor, living underneath buildings, almost always as a family, in what we would call hovels, or in half destroyed old buildings with their laundry hanging off make-shift balconies. The roads are not paved, just dirty old cobblestones, which the locals hose down in the morning to clean the soot, creating mud to transverse. Wild roosters, birds and monkeys screech all night long in the jungle above, and hundreds of stray dogs that roam the streets by day, bark all night as well, creating the most plaintive and loud symphony I’ve ever heard.

Some folks are surfing but most are not, as raw sewage is dumped into the ocean all day through a filthy stream that some local children play in and a stray donkey or horse enjoys. Trash is dumped in large green bags everywhere on the streets, then burnt by individuals who dump from their trucks directly on the side of the road, or dropped off at the dump, which burns trash several times daily, usually with copal incense to offset the smell.

Yet, I’ve never seen such happy people in all my travels, smiling, in the present, the here-and-now. Their Huichol art is exquisite, their music uplifting – folk art and street performers with songs and crafts from their indigenous roots, such as the tribe who come into town from high in the mountains above.

There are no homeless people here. Everyone works, young and old, selling what they have made, some up and down the beaches all day, some with small shops where they paint or sew or cook. Everyone seems to have a special niche, painting “Day of the Dead” skulls or corazon earrings and hundreds of other creations as well. The colors throughout the town are vibrant yellows and blues and reds; their faces are vibrant too and they always are talking to each other or to tourists in buoyant tones.

There are serious problems in a repurposed state like Nayarit, which is of course thrilled to get a piece of the tourist pie from other, once popular destinations now being shunned because of the crime and drug cartels. There is much that needs to be done, but seemingly not much being done to address their modern era dilemmas.

But I have also seen first-hand, the phenomenal joy in abundant creativity as a vital factor of daily life.

It has brought me back to my community and my work with new appreciation and vigor.


Monday January 8, 2016, Chinese New Year, Valley Ford Franklin School Road.


There are new beginnings and new endings too. But all is entwined, all is connected, decay inherent in all composite things.

Lambent auras speak to life and the sea.


Photo by Niki Scioli
Poem by Christine Scioli


SJ2 copyForty-five years ago I met Don Scioli (’71) at a party at Barry Hall. Thirty-five years ago I started a film and video production company with him and a year later I married him. He told our three children quizzing him in How I Met Your Mother mode that there was a cotton candy sky glowing behind me when I walked in the door. (Do note he was an English major, with a penchant for fiction.) The years between constituted random acts of rebellion and adventure for both of us that look a lot better in replay. Luckily the fates interceded. Or the saints – or some combination of both.
Though we moved to the San Francisco Bay Area thirty-two years ago, last month Don and I found ourselves outside Barry Hall, in the rain, waiting for Vonetta Jones who had become our saint of the moment, apparently in cahoots with St. Anthony.
We had traveled back to Philly to attend to Don’s ninety-eight year old mother. An uneventful flight and drive to our hotel in Malvern became disruptive when Don realized he had lost his wallet somewhere post rental car check in. We managed to buy two bottles of beer and rotisserie chicken minutes before the 10 o’clock deadline at Wegmans and nursed them both room temperature, as we began cancelling credit cards until way past our bedtime. Another big problem: without his license, Don couldn’t get back on the plane in just two days time.
In the morning, our daughter back on the left coast was enlisted to find and send his passport as identification backup, and we set off to visit his mom, buy her clothes, and clean out her closet and drawers, at her assisted living facility.
In transit, Don stopped at the gas station where we tanked up the evening before, inquiring if a wallet was turned in. When he returned to the car he told me the attendant said no go on the wallet, but that he must pray to St. Anthony three times. I remembered the rhyme from my childhood and said: “Dear St. Anthony please come around, something is lost and can’t be found” the requisite three times and promptly forgot about it.
Later that day, cleaning out mom’s drawers, I found two St. Anthony medals, one silver toned and one gold. Odd coincidence I thought. I left one for her and took one with me to bring back home, which sits here in my office as I write this recollection.
Back at the hotel after a long day, another rotisserie chicken and this time a cold bottle of conciliatory California chardonnay and a plate of game day veggies with ranch dip, we caught up with our daughter who reported the passport was in transit for a two-day delivery. We thought that was cutting it mighty close but her tracking info bode well.
Next day, more of the same in visiting and cleaning, but nothing in the mail to ensure a place on US Air flight # 434 for hubs the next day. We called back to the hotel front desk again and again – no passport.
Then, a phone call from our daughter: American Express had received a call from one St. Vonetta Jones of Philadelphia, PA, who had found Don’s wallet somewhere on Delaware Ave. and left her phone number with them and they promptly called us with said info. (Yes, DO NOT leave home without your American Express card!) Don called St. Anthony’s female counterpart circa 2014, she answered, and we arranged to meet her somewhere midway, near St. Joes, late in the day when she got off work.
And so we found ourselves hanging in front of Barry Hall, in the rain, remembering the meet cute, while we waited. Finally, St.”V” showed up in her old blue pickup truck and the pass off was completed. Don leaned in and gave her solid frame an intense hug. Everything was intact except the cash. At that point, we would have given A LOT of cash, more than the meager finder’s fee we gave her, for that California license.
Back at the hotel, many hours later, we decided to check out in advance of an early drive to the airport the next morning. Coincidentally, with the room bill, the front desk clerk noticed a late delivery package for us from California. The now unneeded passport had indeed arrived.
Apparently, St. Tony was working overtime!