Friday, July 24, 2015

Rosarito Beach or Bust

Truth be told, or maybe I'm just lying, I'm going to try and break away from boring you with my home improvement projects.  I have enough for a book now, that's plenty.  I'll turn all those stories into a "how to" manual for the criminally insane.  I am also going to hopefully branch out and endeavor to bring you some travel stories, if I can ever get out of here.  The travel stories I have done so far have been very well received.

Yeah, I know, it's amazing.  Apparently you aren't the only one reading this blog.  There's other like minded people out there.  I'm not sure if that's good or bad.  It's good because I have a growing fan base, it's probably bad because it means there's a lot of pretty crazy people out there.  Good or bad, I'm going to keep on doing whatever it is I am doing and hopefully my readership will continue to grow.  There's got to be more crazy out there.  So tell a friend.  Let crazy abound.  And buy something on Amazon through my links.  That way I can make about twelve cents and you can keep reading this parabolic drivel. 

Since completing my 2015 offensive, I have nothing major on the improvement front to write about anyway.  The only thing I need to do over the next couple months is buck and split about three cords of firewood for this coming winter.  But that's got to wait another week or so until my little left toe, the one that's currently candy apple red and about the size of my big left toe, can fit in my boots.  Spiral fracture.  Door jam.  Little toe went perpendicular to the rest of my foot.  You know, it went left and the rest of my foot went straight.  If it didn't hurt so much it might have been funny.

I am utilizing this rare down time to get my second book together and of course continue to post idiotically entertaining stories.  For your delight.  Without my traveling shoes or work boots on, I'm gonna reach on back and pick up a few gems from the dusty streets of my past. 

This gem is going cover an inebriated weekend of debauchery at a villa in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, that I partook of with an old friend.  I haven't been there in decades, but Rosarito Beach, I will assume, was much more laid back in the mid 1980's than it is these days.  Ya, I just checked.  Back then it was a one horse town.  We're talking herd now.  And it looks like there's been a stampede.  It's probably a lot like the story of Cabo.

Back in the early1980's Cabo boasted dirt streets.  I know.  I walked on 'em a few times.  I recall a somewhat shady looking Mexican real estate salesman trying to sell us a condo or six back then.  Said they were going to deepen the port and cruise ships would soon be landing.  Said real estate in Cabo was gonna double.  Maybe triple.  Ground floor opportunity.  Get in now. 

Maybe it was the Tequila or maybe it was the fact the shady, sun-glassed slickster was sweating.  Profusely.  Of course, this I am certain had nothing to do with the 105 degree sweltering heat.  In the shade.  Cabo San Lucas was a laid back fishing village at the very end of the Baja peninsula.  Condos?  Cruise ships?  Cabo?   Nah.  Where's my Tequila?

Of course, Cabo now looks like Las Vegas.  They deepened the port and cruise ships dock all the time.  There's condos and resorts everywhere.  Sammy Hagar too.  There's even asphalt on the streets.

Sigh.  There's one that got away.

A hard drinker and pack a day smoker, my old pal Pat suffered a heart attack in his late forties and left us all way too soon.  I hadn't seen him for a couple years prior to his departure, I doubt there would have been anything I could have done anyway.  I was on my own sojourn at the time, which you can read about in "Late Night Letters to the Moon."   But that was then and this is now, and this is going to be a damn funny story.

My old pal Pat was of Guamanian descent, jet black hair, dark complexion, slight build and funny as hell.  He also had a great singing voice and the several bands he was a part of were quite good.  They gigged around the south bay area in California in the early 1970's and even auditioned for Bill Graham at the Fillmore in San Francisco.  They were good, but not quite that good, apparently.

Pat was a few years older than me and a lot of our crowd, which came in real handy when we were looking for beer, which was pretty much all the time.  We spent a lot of time in my high school years drinking beer and listening to fabulous music; The Hollies, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, CSN, James Taylor and Van Morrison among many others.  Harmonies, harmonies, harmonies.

Pat definitely had a gift for music and he was always the first one around with new releases.  Listening to vinyl records and drinking beer.  Laughing like hell.  That was my life in the suburbs of San Jose circa 1969-1972, the year I graduated.

That year was relatively wild.  Dear old Mom was transitioning a move to warmer climes in San Diego and was only home about four days a month.  Dear old Dad was by once in a while, but they had been divorced for years.  He had remarried.  Not his circus.  Not his clowns. 

Not really having a parental unit around for the entire year kinda turned our house into party central.  Hell, at one point in time we had three kegs of beer on ice in the bathtub, because what senior high school boy doesn't need cold beer on tap?  They lasted a few weeks.  Famed acid tests occurred.  Loud music and howls of laughter into the wee hours.

The cops came to our door a couple of times.  No big deal.  Turn it down.  We did.  We weren't all that rowdy, you know, hootin and hollering with shotguns and stuff.  Most of the time the problem was somebody, um, Pat, singing too loud at 4:00 in the morning after everybody else had passed out. 

He was also responsible for concocting the "coyote" pitch with me when I was 15 and in Senior League baseball.   The once and only coyote pitch occurred at the baseball field at Miller Junior High School in San Jose, CA, circa 1970.  For those of you familiar you know there was at least twenty feet behind home plate to the twenty foot high big, wide back stop.   A lot of grassy room to roam and graze.

The pitch was concocted by Pat and I over more than several beers.  I was a fairly decent pitcher back in my day, pretty decent fastball and a pretty wicked curve.   There was room for another pitch.  Why not?

The next day, a Saturday, I was a mildly hungover teenage boy.  Who wouldn't want me throwing a 70 MPH pellet near their 13 year old piano scholar's playing only two innings per game head?  Pat arrived at the field about the time I was starting to stretch and warm up.  He walked over, put both arms on the short field fence and started laughing.  I chuckled and kept tossing the ball back and forth with my catcher.  Not a word was exchanged.

Seventeen years later found me separated from my then wife and living in Grass Valley, CA.  Pat was living in Los Angeles at the time and he had rented a little studio unit for the weekend at an overall three-unit private villa down at Rosarito Beach, about 35 miles south of Tijuana.  In Mexico.

It wasn't difficult to coerce me into coming down, I needed to get out of Dodge anyway.  I flew into LAX, which I hate.  I'm not sure which I hate more, flying or LAX.  Could be a toss-up.  So it was double bad.  Good thing I drank back then.  Pat met me at the airport in his 1973 Ford Granada, which looked a lot like this.
He had named his chariot "Galactica", and while it was a comfortable La Bamba ride it was suffering from some sort of electrical malady.  Whenever he turned off the car we had to disconnect the battery, otherwise some electrical short would drain it and we'd need a jump.

"Battery Detail" quickly morphed into my responsibility for the weekend.  As soon as Pat would shut off  "Galactica" he would shout, "Battery!" and then pop the hood from under the dash.

 I would dutifully hop out of the shotgun seat, open the hood and take the wire off the negative terminal.  Then I'd close the hood and we'd go hunt for beer.  I mean, all that mechanical work can make a person thirsty. 

We left LAX and headed south, three hours later crossing the border and heading past the haphazardly strewn cardboard shacks of Tijuana, venturing deeper into the bowels of  Baja.  Ole!  We stopped at a mercado for cerveza, then checked into our palatial studio.  There was a bed and a sofa, perfect for a couple bachelors.  A couple six packs later we ventured into the one horse town for what else, a little Mexican dinner.  And more beer.

Pat was like so many other close friends that I have been fortunate enough to know in my lifetime.  We could be apart and not speak for years, but as soon as we reconnected it was as if we never skipped a beat.  Yeah, sure, there were a few more miles on the trail but sharing those experiences through the vision of beer made it all make more sense.  We were chumming together when we were first figuring it all out.  You know, life.  Those shared experiences create a bond that is timeless.

Another thing I will say about our drinking camaraderie.  We laughed a lot.  My God how we laughed.  I'm pretty funny, but Pat was hilarious.  He could get on a roll and have a room full of people on the floor, in tears, laughing their asses off.  The more we laughed the funnier he got.  It was almost torture.    

Saturday morning found us hanging out by the villa's pool, having a beer for breakfast.  I could tell this was going to be what our day would primarily consist of.  Beer.  Swim.  Beer.  Swim.  So on.  We'd probably have to make a beer run, but otherwise, our near term future was set.  At the time we were the only humans at the villa.  However, that peace and quiet did not last long.  Somewhere before noon an entourage of 20 to 25 folks from LA, including a few Bozos and a bevy of buxom beauties made our scene.  We had a made to order party, with wild bikinis and everything.

That afternoon proceeded to get off the hook crazy.  Muy barracho.  How do I know?  Because I don't remember, much.  I do remember, somewhat hazily, trying to pick up a Norwegian dolly that was with the LA entourage.  I was trying to pick her up by impressing her with my knowledge of a Norwegian pastry.  Bakery suave, Scandinavian style.  But since I returned to the room with Pat around midnight, I'm gonna assume that my endeavors were not successful.  Go figure. 

Shortly after we arrived in the room one of the Bozo's knocked on our door.  He was backed with a couple other Bozo's and they had the Mexican landlord in tow.  They were apparently missing one of their beauties and they thought we had something to do with it.  Things got a little heated and Pat had to just about tie me down after I lunged at one of the smart asses.  Somehow he managed to diplomatically diffuse the situation, another positive talent the man had, and the lynch mob moved on into the night. 

Sunday morning broke ominously.  Stale hops,ether alcohol and lynch mobs were permeating our perimeter.  The air and aura hovering about our existence was toxic and probably flammable.  I moseyed outside to the deck which overlooked the ocean while Pat slumbered the sleep of the dead.

The villa was pretty quiet after the wild wing ding the previous day and night.  There were a couple Bozo's passed out on a couple poolside chaises.  I was tempted to toss them in, but my resounding hangover prevailed.  A handful of aspirin, washed down with a cold Modelo, was on tap for breakfast.  It was good.

One of the Bozo's crew soon joined me for a morning Modelo.  They found their woman.  She had actually passed out on the deck where we were then sitting.  Hard to see in the dark with no lights.  He apologized for a couple of the idiots that he was running with.  They don't handle Tequila well he said.  I suggested maybe they not drink it.  He laughed.  We parted friends.

 Galactica had been running like a champ the entire trip.  Of course, we were all over the battery detail like a couple of AAMCO mechanics.  Pat was going to have the car in the shop on Monday, but that was another day and a country away.  We left the villa late morning and slowly meandered up the lovely Baja coast, then past the cardboard shanty town outskirts of Tijuana.  I haven't been there in years, but Tijuana used to be one of my favorite towns to drive in.  Tijuana and San Francisco, with a stick shift.  Now that's some fun.

Eventually we found our way onto the tarmac of the four hundred lane larger than ten football fields San Ysidro border crossing into the US.  OK, it's really only like fifteen lanes, but it seems like four hundred.  And it was packed.

Most of the time this spot on earth looks like the parking lot at Disney World or Versailles on a busy day.  It  looks like the 405 in Southern California at 5:00 PM every day.  And it can take up to four hours to get through when it all looks like this.  We were somewhere in the middle of this mess, surrounded by about six thousand idling cars, when Galactica finally decided to die.  Poof.  Gone.  No amount of cranking was bringing her back.

Thank God we had the foresight to bring along a couple beers.  They were lukewarm, but totally necessary at this particular point in time.  Snap.  Swizzle.  It wasn't like we needed to make a split second decision, I mean, nobody was going anywhere fast.   But we did need to figure something out.  And by the way, this was in the days before cellular.  We couldn't just app up and call the cavalry.  Nope. 

Thank God for beer. 

I had a plane to catch at LAX later that afternoon, so time was sort of of the essence.  But not really.  Since we had beer it was going to be pretty easy for me to persuade myself that this was not going to be an issue.  I'd make it or not.  Simple.  Where was that beer?

We finally decided I would walk across the border, call AAA, the California State Auto Association, order a tow truck and then walk back.  I probably should have called AA, the Alcoholics Anonymous, order some rehab and never look back.  But I didn't.  AAA all the way.  Pat would stay with Galactica and watch all our valuables.  I mean warm beer. 

It was a decent plan.  I swigged down another warm beer and was off.  I had to scramble through a veritable automobile maze, hundreds of cars, and fortunately I was able to see my destination about a half mile away.  The cars were moving several inches an hour, so it wasn't like I had to dodge anything quickly.   I was out of the auto zone within a few minutes and off to the pedestrian crossing.

There I found two lines, the short one was for US citizens, the one out the door and around the bend and back to shanty town was for Mexican nationals.  And whomever else.  Keep in mind, this was in the days before 911 and increased border security.  Most of the time all you had to do was flash your US ID and you were through.  But since my Irish and Scandinavian skin has a tendency to turn quite dark in summer, the guard had a few questions for me to make sure I actually spoke English.  And was who my ID said I was.

Once I was done pronouncing my name backwards I was through the turn style and quickly found a pay phone.  They were everywhere back then.  Once I got their number and gave them mine, AAA said they'd have someone down within the hour.  With that recon run done, there was nothing to do but go back and wait with Pat for the rescue.  Maybe have another warm beer.

Or a cold one.  Geez, I could do that, I thought.  I'm old enough.  And smart enough.  So I brought an ice cold six pack back with me.

I returned to find Galactica, and Pat, sitting in a sweltering sea of idling metal madnessNo power, no air conditioning.  And lots of exhaust fumes.  Which, after a while I found, provided a much better high than model air plane glue ever did.  Good thing I brought back ice cold beer to temper our accidental huffing high.  Always thinking.  So we sat, sweltered, laughed and drank our rapidly warming beer.  Waved at the passing cars.  Had conversations with many.  Bought a few psychedelic curios from the parking lot vendors.  Good times.

It was just about an hour after I called that over the massive expanse of idling cars we saw the tow truck coming south across the border.  Then it took him another hour to turn around and jockey up to us amidst the mass of manic metal.

The Mexican driver, who spoke a little English, was a forty something jovial fellow.  He smiled a lot.  Once Galactica was hooked up, we loaded up.  Pat, my Guamanian Bud, dark complexion, was sitting in the middle.  Me, with my dark, Irish Scandinavian tan on, I was sitting shot gun.  We looked like three Mexican nationals trying to hustle La Bamba, laden with blue and red cellophane bricks, across the border.

Pat and I had actually talked about the upcoming interaction.  I mean, it didn't look good.  In a  funny sort of way.  We had been thinking one of us should launch into an eloquent explanation of what transpired so that we wouldn't be strip searched and then held for trying to import an illegal tuna wagon.  We were also trying to avoid spending more than a few minutes wrapped up in border security.  I did have a plane to catch, although it was now doubtful I would make my original flight. 

When we finally got up to the border, the guard, smiling, walked up and said, "Well, well well, what do we have here?"

And before Pat or I could utter a sound, our ever so unpolished driver, with his ever so unpolished Mexican national accent says, "A Carrrrrr," pointing over his shoulder with his thumb.

Pat and I looked at each other.  "We're fucked," our eyes said.

"Secondary," shouted the guard without hesitation.  He was still sort of smiling and shaking his head.

No chance for rebuttal.  No opportunity to plead out case.  Our life, as we knew it, was over.

Fortunately these were not drug smoking, nor drug smuggling days for Pat or me.  These were alcohol infusion days.  We were not bringing back anything illegal.  Besides, who wants to smoke any of that lousy Mexican weed anyway?  OG Kush was then in them thar emerald green hills of Northern California.

We were led over to a secondary inspection area where drug and bomb sniffing dogs were running amok.  Barking and running amok.  When they were done running amok over there, they came and ran amok all over our vehicles.  To no avail.  Our three bottles of Tequila and couple of sweat shirts were well within our import perimeters.  Even Paco, our driver, was clean.

Thirty minutes later Paco got us to a mechanic in Imperial Beach.  He was able to band aid the beast and we were once again on our way.  Pat got me to LAX too late for my original flight, but I was able to book another without too much hassle.  Again, the days before 911.  I don't think I even needed an ID to get on the plane.

I had a bourbon on the rocks while I waited for the plane.  I needed something to get all that tequila and warm beer out of my system.  Fuel inject a little America into my system.  Read the sports section.  It was good.

My old pal Pat and I shared quite a few good times together.  He was a good man, there in a heartbeat if you ever needed any help.  There were a few times I can remember him being down, but most of the time he was a very positive and upbeat person.  And funny.  The main thing I cherish of our time together was the laughter.  And sometimes that laughter came from playing innocent jokes on unsuspecting folks.

I walked out to the mound to start the third inning.  We were comfortably up 4-0.  It was time.
An innocuous player came to the plate.  A violin player probably.

My catcher was hip.  I shook off the fastball.  No on the curve.  Another shake for the change up.  There was only one number left.  I nodded.

I looked off into the bleachers.  They were almost full.  Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters.  Players from the previous game.  Players from the next game.  Pat was standing near the back stop.  All eyes were on me for the first pitch of the inning.

I wound up, reared back and threw the ball about a hundred feet over the back stop and into the beyond, all while letting loose with a long and very loud howl, much like a coyote.  Aaaaaoooouuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu.

The coyote pitch.

Folks in the stands were more than a little bewildered, just the response we were looking for.

"What the hell was that?" barked the coach.

"Ball one, I think," said the umpire, looking over his shoulder, eying the backstop and wondering where the ball went.

I was trying to contain myself, but hopelessly giggling nonetheless.

My old pal Pat was bent over, in tears. 

Yeah, we laughed a lot.