Tuesday, May 26, 2009


...can sure wreak havoc with a simple brain like mine which, although inordinately clever, is also susceptible to distraction. Yesterday was Memorial Day, a day which, since 1865, has been set aside to commemorate the sacrifice of American soldiers who have given so much so that we can have ... so much.
Some people get all uppity about the solemnity of the occasion and need to write to newspaper op-ed pages in order to opine the sacrifices that they themselves make in order to show that they appreciate the sacrifice that someone else has made so that he can choose to do so.
I am also not solemn and holy enough on the Sixth of June or on Veterans' Day or on the Third of March, which is National Anthem Day.
I do not believe, however, that it can "tarnish the memory" of anyone's sacrifice to celebrate the freedoms that that sacrifice has secured.
And so, I do what I have been known to do at times -- like when my Beloved lost her job or when our cats died -- I go to Ixtapa Cantina on Route Six in Dartmouth.

Is what the sign said.
And I thought that I could have written that sign, with a snide little wink, saying, "Yeah, we're closed, because you cheap selfish xenophobic hayseeds have no sense of community, don't even own passports, and you had the nerve to not support us!"
I've heard what my neighbors say about Ixtapa. Over and over. In newspaper forums and in overheard conversations. Like how it's "just not as good as a real Mexican restaurant," like Taco Bell, they will suggest, for instance.

I've been to dives and hovels that none of these lightweights would ever dare venture near. I've eaten in places where the freshest food was in the bottle of pickled eggs behind the cash register. I've had to make instant oatmeal, peanut butter, and Spam serve three guys for two days. In rough seas.
I've also eaten meals on place settings that were worth more than my college tuition. Served by people who have served kings and celebrities. Meals that were prepared by Emeril Lagasse, by Wolfgang Puck. By my mother...
But a meal at Ixtapa had nothing to do with the food or the preparation of it. I looked forward to the Ixtapa smile and a ¿Cómo estás, amigos? A place where, if they didn't know your name, they greeted you warmly and made sure that you knew theirs. (I still don't know the names of the guys at some other local restaurants, and I think that I went to school with them.)
My first experience with restaurant Mexican food was a place called Dos Yanquis, which had opened on Thames Street in Newport in the late Seventies, one of five restaurants on the strip at the time, and one of the three restaurants on the street that did not also feature an appearance by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band at some point during the evening. Dos Yanquis (I still have their menu -- somewhere) led to my love of mariachi and guacamole. (I had always appreciated those smoldering dark-haired waitresses, ever since I was eleven and the local VHF station showed Mexican movies on Saturday mornings at six. Which reminds me: Maria Montez's birthday is in a couple of weeks. ¡Ay chihuahua!)
My first experience at Ixtapa was one of those "Hey, that place is new, let's stop in!" moments that can often turn out tragically miscast and inopportune. I was probably trying too hard to impress My Beloved by ordering extravagantly, so Ezekiel the host took to calling me compadre, and I was hooked.
Since my bout with Lyme, Mexican food has been a life-quality treat. As my GFR remains stable along with my creatinine levels, a bowl of sopa de albondigas or a simple-as-that baja chimichanga -- hold the tomatoes -- provides a modicum of normalcy in a diet that in very few ways resembles the one that I grew up with.
It was nice to have it so close to home. My Beloved and I will drive to their shop in Lunenburg or Lexington or even (gasp!) Woburn.


karie said...

Thanks for this heartfelt "memorial" to a place that meant a great deal to me, to us. I will miss those guys... Ezekial, Salvadore, Acelyn, Sylvia, Victor and Santiago - always so encouraging as I would try to wrap my awkward tongue around speaking their language.

(...and if you are reading this and contemplating any kind of negative comment about Ixtapa, in any way ...take a fast hike, comment on ANOTHER day.

If you wouldn't or couldn't support the place, at least have some basic RESPECT for what has passed, and for those who DID care about it.)

ThirdMate said...

There were things that I left out that weren't appropriate, but have been bothering me.
I missed Ixtapa's breakfasts the minute that Ezekiel told us they were stopping. And their coffee.

I also understand that SouthCoast Mexican food begins and ends with our "favorite" taqueria, No Problemo.

Whose protective supporters are the source of much of the trash talk aimed at Ixtapa on every menu board and online forum.

No, the food at Ixtapa wasn't the best Mexican food in the world (I know. Because I've had it. And No Problemo's burritos are very good!). But the over-the-top anti-Ixtapa venom that the Downtowners spewed was way off-base and only showed them for what they are: selfish frightened clan-children who resent anyone who wants to sit down with the grownups without incessantly mocking strangers who don't know the secret hipster handshake and special word of the day.

Chuck said...

Closed? What a shame. Hearing the name makes me think of good times with great friends. The image of my bride dancing off to the loo while wearing the birthday sombrero is still fresh in my mind.
We've been checking out places all around us trying to find one that felt like it was "ours". Hasn't happened yet. Sorry you lost one of yours. Woburn does have a merchant that I enjoy patronizing. And buying stuff from his store as well. Road trip?

Andrew Weiss said...

Ixtapa Woburn es muy bueno! Only a mile from the House on the Hill!

Wednesday night is mariachi request night, and the band loves it when you ask for something other than "La Bamba" or "Feliz Navidad."

karie said...

I don't know where Woburn is, but I think I heard how to say it on a blog... "WOO-bin" ;)

Another Ixtapa - Cool!

ThirdMate said...

Chuck has the right idea. The SouthCoast economy was never "healthy" to begin with, and is now hanging by a thread, and that's why businesses suffer.

Woburn, on the other hand...

ThirdMate said...

I got distracted. Chuck's "right idea" was "ROAD TRIP."

Andrew: If Acelyn sings on mariachi night, I am SO there. Incidentally, what's Ixtapa's pughuahua policy?

Andrew Weiss said...

I haven't asked. After the Beef Fajita Incident (and the many trips to the backyard, vet bill, and stern talking to from Maura), Oskie hasn't been allowed any Mexican food...no matter how earnestly he pleads with his big googly eyes.

Dr. Momentum said...

I am one fan of No Problemo who WILL NOT be joining any chorus of voices glad to see Ixtapa go. I loved their margaritas, their carne asada, their smiles as warm as the tortilla chips they served and I've got a number of fond memories from that place.

Unfortunately, when our offices moved to Fairhaven we stopped going. Our memories were so fond, the gang was looking forward to taking one last lunch there before a friend and coworker moves away to Texas.

I guess that won't happen now. :(

I was always happy with Ixtapa.

ThirdMate said...

Beautiful tribute, Doctor.

(And I'm sorry that once again Texas is gaining at our expense. Haven't they caused enough trouble?)