He got home late in the afternoon on Tuesday, turned the
ignition key to "Ign" and sat for a moment, wondering about the
future and listening to the end of the song playing on the
She met him just inside the door, brought him up to the moment
on the days events on the home front. He talked about work then
settled in, checked his e-mail.
"Anything happening on the Internet?" He asked. She was IMing
on-line with a friend.
"Just some small talk and a couple good posts on Amigos, stuff
about the Escallera Nautica." She said, typing. "You remember
that this weekend is Memorial Day?"
"Let's do something."
They left early on Friday, cleared the border to Mexico at
Tijuana and drove down the toll road toward Ensenada. The road
wound atop tall cliffs that fell directly to the sea. The late
afternoon sun was bright, the sky clear and blue. Waves smashed
at the bases of the cliffs and spume feathered the volcanic
rocks there. Far below their elevation they watched seabirds
working the airwaves and an occasional panga, netting or hooking
fish for their future. Along the highway they were cautioned by
signs warning of earthquake slippages in the roadway and
wondered for the nth time how long it would be before they'd
drive into nothingness, off a road that had fallen hundreds of
feet into the ocean below.
They passed through the city, past the port, the pier, along the
waterfront. Horse-drawn carriages trotted tourists through town
in fading twilight. They passed small homespun taco stands,
more formal cafes and restaurants, the family-operated markets
and shops, major hotels, tourists everywhere. He braked for a
sorry mongrel, a female, teats well-suckled and sagging, ribs
protruding, giving life by giving of herself.
"Ah, Spring." He said. They laughed empathetically and
continued. He reached for her hand in the seat beside him,
shifting with his left across the console. Lights emerged,
twinkling as night wound shadowy tentacles through town. They
continued, remembering and sharing the many memories they'd
built together of this city, town back then, before the
California side of the border had swelled and when they had
lived to the south and been warmed there; when the boys were
young and freshness had flowed through their relationship, a
bubbling brook refreshing and rejuvenating everything in its
path. They left their country-western station from the north
and inherited Mexican romance radio with a sobbing, throbbing
beat. Sounds in 3/4 time.
The dusty busyness of Baja surrounded them along the roadsides
as they exited town and continued south. A breeze caused waves
in the fields of tall grasses on both sides of the road. Naked
earth and trash littered the gaps between asphalt and pasture.
Men and children on bikes peddled there. Overpacked busses,
luggage stacked behind and atop, akimbo, belched blackened
gasses into the air. Trucks roared, lurching as they geared up.
Loose chickens scattered across open fields and worked the edges
of the road, pecking seeds stirred by the passing commotion.
"It's sad that we Gringos see only the dirt and unattended
space." He said. "We mostly live in cities and expect
everything to be cement and homes, lawns and steel buildings and
businesses and pavement. That's not the way it is." He paused,
thinking. "Open dirt is acceptable here, expected, desired;
litter is not an imperfection, the norm is irregular and no
problem. Here there's so much open space and unfinishedness.
It's great. I feel relieved and free of a need for perfection."
They continued toward the south end of the bay.
Friends had a summer home hanging on the hillsides there, in a
rural development, one in an eclectic setting of houses
overlooking the bay, had offered to let them stay for their
visit. They unlocked and unpacked, opened a Dos Equis each,
checked the house out and made things operational. They
discussed their objectives. At the top of their list was
recovery from the past few months of turmoil at work and home.
"What'll we do now, pal?" She asks, poking him in the ribs. It
was 7 in the evening.
"Let's drive out to La Bufadora," He said, "I haven't been out
there for 20 years." And so they did.
It was late enough that the shops and food vendors had closed
but interesting anyway as there was so much change since he'd
been there. Before it had been a quiet and modest tourist
attraction, a few vendors, almost no shops. Now, though closed
and covered with iron bars and expanded metal doors, the shops
lined both sides of the road for a quarter mile before the
blowhole. There was not a person in sight and they drove the
length of shops, parked near the end and walked throughout the
momentary ghost town. She slipped her arm through his. They
walked through the deserted streets, discussing plans for the
few days they had alone and together with no outside
interruptions. This was certainly one road to possible recovery
he reflected as they ambled alone amongst the empty shops, arm
They left deserted Bufadora, stopped for dinner at a small
restaurant and were the only customers dining there; scallops,
vegetables, rice and two small bottles of water. They talked
quietly, wishing there were wines on the menu, paid and headed
back to their hillside home.
Together and for only a few moments before the chill settled
they sat on the patio overlooking the extended bay and the
lights of the city in the distance. The rural highway, a
quarter-mile down slope, echoed the sounds of humanity, the rush
of small and individual civilizations, almost colonies of ants,
busy with their unending tasks, but having no impact on the
couple sitting side by side, together above the din of evening.
Youngsters including men in the campground below were lighting
fireworks, shooting rockets into the air and boomers into the
sand, causing muffled explosions, a peaceful war along the
shores of the bay.
The coolness soon chased them inside. They sat together on a
couch in front of a Mexican brick fireplace, no fire needed,
reading and talking for a time, radio turning out more Mexican
romance, and then decided to watch a movie. There were no
signals broadcast to this remote point, but an ample supply of
movies had been captured on tape; they selected one and started
it, he poured her a small glass of Hornitos, her favorite,
himself a glass of vino blanco. They closed the evening warmly
with the movie and backrubs for each, a tradition of long
The bed was a standard double in size, a little smaller than was
their custom. He was a restless and light sleeper and worried.
"There are two beds, if we won't be comfortable." She said "Not
happening here." He said, and they spread unzipped sleeping bags
as both foundation and covering and went to sleep almost
During the night the size of the bed caused them more than the
accustomed contact and he found waking up with her hand in his,
ankles intertwined, pleasant events, it was so long since they'd
shared that degree of intimacy. They were facing each other
when their eyes opened. "Look at this fine mess you've made."
She said, referring to the sleeping bags spread atop the bed.
"It wasn't me, you bum, its' you that messed it up."
"Look!" she said, you've got it all twisted." She set the covers
straight. They laughed and lay looking out windows at a clear,
She lay abed for a time. He dressed, made coffee, threw open
the double doors and sat outside on the patio. The morning
breeze was cool but the sun reflected off the saltillo tiles and
was warming. He took in the scene below their borrowed home: a
shock and then scatterings of palms covered the distance with
brilliant greens glistening from the nights' moisture off the
azure of the bay. A small patch of bamboo splashed upward in
the distance. The configured down-slope of the hills coupled
with the palms and the sea reminded him of Gran Canaria, off the
north-west coast of Africa, where the two of them had passed
time together a quarter-century before.
From the patio the collection below offered a wide swatch of
earth and structure and stone. Red tiled and felt-covered
roofs, white flags flying in the north wind, an attic ventilator
rotating irregularly, stucco-covered and wooden or cinderblock
walls, red and brown earth; introduced gravel and the crisp
sound of slow-moving tires thereon, vibrant patches of pink, red
and orange bougainvillea and geranium cascading downward over
walls of dark lava, a yellow-breasted finch flitting against the
wind and taking refuge in the nearest palm next to where he was
seated; sparrows snapping up nuts he had placed at a distance on
the wall of the grounds; Mockingbirds, everpresent; crow with
beakful of baby sparrow chased in a life-to-death moment by new
parents; the bristle of fronds from the adjacent palm; the
Mexican "finish" of undoneness, brown road climbing steeply up
the green hillside of the point in the distance westward, the
guttural lug of the water truck making rounds, the raw and
unevenness of exposed earth, red and tan with ivy and iceplant
forming a tangential and irregular border, fences formed from
the long-dead bones of Cardon; shells and small cacti together
in a planter.
The wars continued, unending wars - bombs exploding in the
distance, fireworks on the beach below. He overlooked it all in
safety. In the evening and early morning when the fighting was
most intense, possibly fueled by cerveza and tequila even at an
early hour, it was startling, almost a localized war that was
building but supported only by rockets that soared upward into
the sky to explode and reverberate off the nearby mountains,
falling downward in irregular patterns, heavy draperies across
the green-laden landscape.
She poured coffee and pulled a chair beside him. They shared
the moment, she reading and he taking in the grandeur of the
scene before them.
"Let's go back to Bufadora today," she said. "I want to show you
In due time they headed there, by day this time, but only after
a shared breakfast of machaca and eggs con verdura from a local
By the time they arrived at Bufadora it was nearing noon. He
was amazed at the number of pedestrians and automobile traffic,
so different from the night before. Thousands of men, women and
children, Mexican and American, filled the single narrow street
they had driven unimpeded the night before, leading to the
blowhole. Cars were everywhere and myriad flag-waving
attendants were soliciting everyone to choose this lot or that
and press pesos into their palms for parking. Traffic cops blew
whistles and stopped the progress of automobiles along the
street, directing them to the lots. They parked and paid and
walked toward the shops.
The steel store doors of the hundreds of shops, so closed the
night before were now removed and unseen. Salespeople waved and
hailed them to view the wares of each tiny tienda and buy their
goods. An occasional automobile made an attempt at threading
through the throng of humanity, dogs, bikes, motorcycles. So
rich was the explosion of colors the mind was boggled. The
essence of foodstuffs wafted along the way, fresh tamales, corn,
beer, plastic cups filled with multicolored fresh fruit, tacos.
They walked the length of the bazaar down and back inspecting
shops that carried the goods they wanted, enameled plates. They
found them, engaged the owner, a woman in her 40's, told her
they were buyers and wanted best prices and then set about
picking plates from the many positioned on the walls of her
small shop, squashed amidst others. She cut them a good
discount based on quantity and they agreed. He fetched the
truck and wound slowly toward the shop amidst myriad pedestrians
while she paid the matron, who told them she'd been involved at
Bufadora for over twenty years, starting with a simple taco
stand. Delia was her name and it was nice to see that success
was available here. She had older twin girls and a younger
daughter, still in school she told them.
"She's not interested in boys' yet." She said.
Together they loaded truck with pottery, bid adieu to Delia, and
inched back toward home amidst mobs of pedestrians.
They were done buying their dishes by two that afternoon, drove
into and walked Lopez Mateos in Ensenada, had a late lunch and
were back at home for the night before five. There was no need
for dining out that evening, they'd shared a late lunch in town.
They watched the sun set and then picked another movie and
clustered on the couch with just the two of them in way too long
and a romantic movie was playing on the screen in front of them
and filling their minds and hearts.
The movie over, drying eyes and discussing the plans for
tomorrow. "Erendira?" he proposed. They had already discussed
what might be an interesting day trip off the highway to the
"Sure." She said.
Then it was off to bed.
In the midst of the dark night she felt the frame of the bed
shaking against the headboard, she's awake and not knowing why.
She's not aware what's happening. She listens, tries to
He's crying, asleep, it seems.
"Honey," she calls to him, shakes him. "Are you alright?"
"MMMMmmm?" He mumbles. "What?" he asks. He sits up, sobbing,
feeling his body shake and wretch under the stress. He looks at
the clock: it's four in the morning. "I saw a child,
abandoned." He tells her. Tears are streaming down his cheeks
into, out of beard, falling on chest and sleeping bag. He was
confused yet had no explanation, only a slight recollection of
his inability to help a defenseless situation in an unsolvable
dilemma. She sat up, held him as he tried to sort thoughts,
make sense out of unknowns.
"Don't know." He said after a time. "Don't know."
They sat for a time with her holding him, comforting him in his
confusion, wondering the significance of the dream, probably
never to be understood.
Morning was another day and his dream in background now and
Erendira up front and they left with the midmorning sun shining
warmly, with high clouds. They drove south and stopped at a
favorite hotel and restaurant at Santo Tomas for breakfast. The
campground across the narrow road was crawling with dirt bikers
and dune buggies, folks gearing up, perhaps for the Baja 500 the
coming weekend. Spirits were high. They paid and continued to
As they left the junction of the highway and the Erendira road,
a major tractor-trailer had overturned, minutes before, was
laying on its side hanging over a ravine and thousands of cases
of canned drinks were scattered across the landscape. He pulled
over and asked if they could help. No one was injured, there
was nothing to be done, and they continued toward the beach.
The road to Erendira leaves the highway paved and arrives as
dirt about ten miles later, at the village, having passed
through an agricultural community with electricity and many
riverbed wells and pumps. They followed the yellow markers of
recently installed underground telephone conduit, imagining how
happy the villagers were with the recent addition of
infrastructure. The road followed a narrow canyon lined with
sycamores, desert shrubs, yucca and century. As they approached
the coast they noticed a few unusual pine trees, nestled along
the cliffs near the road, not common in this area, they thought.
"We should check out these camps as another potential for M's
BBBB get-togethers." He said.
They swung south at the village to check out Malibu Beach.
Nice, not spectacular, but it gave them an opportunity to shut
off the engine and stand on the bluff overlooking the breakers
of the Pacific in a place they had never been, might never be
again, and remember they were alone and that the clock was
ticking, bells about to ring announcing the dawn of another
workday and life or death.
"I love you." He said, offering, giving a kiss.
"Love you too." She took his hand.
The road from Erendira north was populated with campgrounds,
many single- and multiple-family sites, some supported and
others not, snuggled along low dunes and bluffs that hugged the
shore and providing easy access to the sandy beaches
interspersing the rocky shoreline. The road was clear and
intended for two-wheel drive with a few high-center moments,
passable either way. They passed camps large enough to be
listed on the map: Puerto San Isidro, El Distiladera, Punta
Cabra, others unmentioned, Half-Moon Bay, Las Playitas, Tampico,
then a spare fish camp at La Calavera.
Shortly they turned inland and the return leg to the highway,
still miles distant, the road climbing, winding through steep
hillside passes and threading down into the inland valleys that
connected eventually with the paved highway 1.
It was a nice day, warm, and their windows were down, A/C on low
and no reception on the radio to speak of. They were alone and
happy to be and the dirt road continued and they were content
together. He was thinking that when they were alone together it
was less stressful than more competitive social scenes. Why?
Not a clue, but he was WAY outgoing, she more conservative.
They bounced over decomposed granite through a small valley of
gently rolling hills and, rounding a turn, encountered the tiny
Ejido of Nativo del Valle, a collection of a few simple houses
and families well into the outback, some 15 miles from the road.
A man was standing near the road, looked at them as they passed,
motionless. They stopped the truck and asked in Spanish if he
needed a ride. He did. He was carrying a large metal pot with
lid and his jacket. It was Sunday.
He climbed into the back seat and sat the pot on the seat beside
him. They asked where he was headed and he explained he was
going to Maneadero to visit his wife and children. He was
carrying fresh mussels in his pot for their Sunday dinner.
Under question, he said that he'd lived in the Ejido for the
last fifteen years. They were known in that area for growing
hops or barley, for beer. Apparently he visited his family
every Sunday then returned home that night, a distance of some
25 miles one-way, much of which was by dirt road.
At Santo Tomas they stopped and bought two sodas and a beer and
continued north. It was late in the day and shadows were
forming and the sunlight easing and the marine layer building
along the coast. Colors were returning to the landscape. The
three of them continued from Santo Tomas along the pavement,
seeming smooth after miles of dirt, north into Maneadero. Their
friend with the muscles in his pot indicated where they could
drop him. They asked if he didn't want a ride up the road to
his home and family. They were hoping for greater insight into
understanding Mexico and lifestyles there, but he was content to
be left at the side of the road. Perhaps he was humiliated at
his accoutrements? They hoped that was not the case because he
had, in many ways, what they had been searching for a
substantial part of their lives. He climbed out of the back
seat, thanked them and was off with no further apparent thought,
home for the Sunday meal.
They returned to the casa. It was late afternoon and they were
leaving the next morning, going back to the border and work and
a whole other existence the rules of which did not apply on the
southern side of the great divide.
They sat in the failing sunshine for a last time on the patio,
radio working in the living room, enjoying the scene below. The
Mexican part of the weekend had left the day before, Sunday, as
it was not a holiday for them. Few Americans remained. The
wars on the beach had ended. The shops and restaurants were
either closed or empty. Tranquility reigned. She read, he
jotted notes on a single sheet of paper he had taken from a
As the evening was on them, he asked if they wanted to eat
something. They ended up driving once again to Bufadora where
they ate at Celia's, overlooking the craggy coastline of the
southern side of the point and the many homes there. They were
almost alone surrounded with a group of families too young to
have children the age of theirs. Babies tottered between
tables, offering happy distractions to conversations. Food was
acceptable, the service friendly but inattentive and untrained.
"American expectations," he said, referring to the waiter, "who
cares?" But they were aware, nevertheless.
They ordered a single plate of Camorones Mojo de Ajo. The
entrée was preceded by a simple salad with a unique cilantro
dressing and creative lentil soup and was served with sautéed
vegetables smothered in Mexican Cheese and Spanish rice. On
exit, the town was empty once again. Ashes to ashes, he
thought. Time here is almost over.
They drove the miles back to the home without talking. They
were thinking about the trip, their future and how to regain a
degree of happiness they perhaps had let slip somewhat from its
They had lived such a varied and passionate lifestyle for so
many years, had traveled the parts of the world they cared to,
lived there, loved there, borne children there. They had
accomplished what they wanted together and individually. Maybe,
now, it was time for a change.
During their dining evenings she had consistently produced a
paper, 8.5x11 in size. On the first night it was blank. She
laid it on the table between them. "What will we do for our
house in Baja?" She asked.
He was surprised and just looked at her for a moment. He pulled
the mechanical pencil from the pocket of his Hawaiian shirt and
drew a beach and shoreline, then a single line that represented
the leading, seaward edge of their home.
"What are you doing?" She asked.
"Positioning the house." He said.
"Just draw the arrangement of rooms."
"Can't do that without knowing the direction of the prevailing
winds and the position of the sun." He said.
She smiled gently at him, laughed. He looked up at her,
questioning. They realized they had such unique attitudes
toward issues, even after so many years together, that they
approached many things from different angles. They laughed and
he continued to orient their imagined home on a beach at Bahia
de Los Angeles, just so, early sun and appropriate ventilation,
and they were off into a planning process that entertained them
for so many segments of their trip.
And then it was time to head back to another home. They closed
the facilities they had opened just days before and cleaned
house, packed. And they were off, north for the frontier,
always north it seemed, and the unknowns that lay lurking there,
possible impediments to their personal progress. It was always
a steep climb, going north, with the wind in their faces and
pressing shirts against chests and breasts and directing them
south toward their shared loves, the remote beaches and sands
and stones of their peaceful peninsula.
In their truck, and for the final time on this landed voyage
across so many moments of reality and imagination, he griped her
hand, slipped his fingers amidst hers. They realized the
importance of the small vacation they had just shared and the
"How is it we get so uptight? He asked.
"Don't know," she demurred, knowing.
"Could we live forever in Baja? He asked. "I don't think so.
Not forever, we'd want to go home from time to time. But across
seasons? Yes. Several months here and there, in simple homes."
He said. "I can see us regaining what we once had by spending
time here with just us and those who choose to join in."
And down now wound the day, into evening and then night. Those
two were working into the contentment and a lifestyle that would
be modified to remove the issues that had led them astray with
aspirations of complete fulfillment and expectations of absolute
successes. They were now down to the realities of the moment.
They knew that the issue was to capture for a point in time that
which they really wanted, to sacrifice, in part at least, their
early dreams of grand mansions and mighty lifestyles. They knew
now that they were actually closer to each other amongst the
simplicities of Baja.
They had been away for just a few days but that was all it had
taken to begin repair of the relationship that had been so
impacted by the stress of their daily life in another world.
They knew they could be happy with the lesser demands of Baja, a
simple house on a quiet beach, food caught daily at little cost,
lack of electricity or telephone, a serious reduction from the
stress of northern work and social lives. For certain there
would still be problems, heavy weather, from time to time. But
they knew from prior experiences that these would pull them
together rather than drive them apart.
"Isn't it funny that we had to leave home to find home?" He
They both recognized that love was an ingredient of the warm
wind that blew from the north. Together they continued into a
shared unknown, but just for a short while . . .