Monday, June 14, 2004


Went to Mexico this weekend - down to Baja as I have done for years. I love Baja and the Baja fever that I get the minute I cross the border. It used to be a much more foreign place than it is now. My friend the fabulous Christina and I drove down on Friday night. We left about 9 and hit the border at 11pm. I don't love driving into Mexico when it's dark because I always get lost in Tijuana, but Christina just followed the road and we ended up on the toll road to Rosarito Beach. I tried to pay close attention for next time I go.

We were headed to Los Gaviotas, a walled and gated housing development south of Rosarito and just north of Puerto Nuevo, home of the historically inexpensive lobster dinner - more on that later. I had never been to Los Gaviotas, but a friend of Leisa's owns several houses there and he was letting us use one for FREE. I love free and when you add it to a weekend in Mexico there's no way I'm passing that up. When we got to the house it was almost midnight, but I could hear music coming from inside and entered to find Leisa and Sharon nursing a most excellent buzz. They had gone to dinner at Calafia where the food sucks, but it's charming, and then headed out to Papas and Beer, because Sharon had never been. They already had photos of Leisa with a Papas and Beer sticker on her butt riding a mechanical bull. Can you say una mas margarita?

Christina and I unloaded the car, as usual I brought too much, like I didn't really need to bring my own bed, but you never know when you go to Mexico and I am a bit of the princess and the pea when it comes to mattresses. We whipped up a couple more pitchers of margaritas and turned up the stereo despite the request of a woman a couple doors down who was there with her four year old, to keep it down. Leisa had left her kids at home which is why she was enjoying a big old buzz and getting noisy. Woohoo!

Finally got to bed about 2am and slept until 10 - bliss!!! Christina had brought lots of food leftover from a party last week so we feasted for breakfast and I got started on my first Bloody mary then began the process that is tanning in my world in preparation for going to the beach. First I tie my hair up and then I dry loofah my whole body, next I use a sea salt scrub in the shower to remove even more layers of skin. After I rinse all of that off I lube up my ankles, knees and elbows and then I apply the self tanning lotiion which takes about 20 minutes to dry. Only then can I apply #30 sunscreen from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, put my bathing suit on, and head down to the beach where I proceed to turn a golden color in an hour or so.

The weather was beautiful, about 75 degrees so that it was warm in the sun, not too hot. Christina was already down there because she has a natural gorgeous Ban D'soleil tan and never burns. At least not in the angry, bright red way that my white girl skin chars under direct sunlight. It was a bit of a trek from the house down the hill and around the bluff to the stairs to the beach. Along the way I noticed that most of the people at Los Gaviotas are white. In fact, there is not a lot of difference between Los Gaviotas and Monarch Bay or The Beach Club in Malibu - both enclaves of well off white folk who don't want to share their beach time with the rabble.

When I got down to the small, crescent shaped beach all of the palapas were taken so this white girl had to sit her slowly bronzing butt down in direct sunlight, risking scorching and skin cancer, but I was on my second Bloody Mary, so I threw caution to the wind. Plus, it's not like I had options. Directly behind where we were laying were a group of twentysomethings and I eavesdropped on their conversation which sounded a lot like dialogue from the O.C., only more content free. I wondered if me and my friends sounded like that back in the day. I also wondered why all these twentysomething boys were FAT! What is up with that - men are not supposed to look like that until their 20th high school reunion. Maybe it was the beer, maybe it's that they came of age in the time of video games so they aren't physically active, but for whatever reason they were out there cavorting around like little Pillsbury doughboys in bathing suits that hung way too low. I was glad I had moved from buzzed to drunk because it was kind of icky.

Eventually I had to go to the bathroom which meant a trek back the way I came and I almost waited too long so I kind of had to run. I won't pee in the ocean. Heck I won't pee in a gas station bathroom. I need to be "home" where ever that might be - I have restroom shyness unless my backteeth are floating. Since we'd come all that way Christina and I decided to take some beer back down with us. I had been maintaining medicinal levels of alcohol in my bloodstream all day so it was nice to slow down a bit - though the beer went down like water so I'm not sure that chugging a cold beer counts as "powering down".

As golden hour came around 'bout 5:30 we headed back to take showers and get ready for dinner. The shower head in my bathroom was really high, hanging on the wall at about 8 feet, but the water sprayed from it in a circle. If I stood directly under it the water cascaded around me, not on me, so I kind of had to run in little drunken circles to wash my hair and scrub off the sand that was imbedded in the layers of sunscreen and self tanning cream. In the process I swallowed quite a bit of the water. In Mexico, this can be a problem.

We headed out for lobster dinner in Puerto Nuevo - back in the day there used to be only one restaurant where everyone would go and you could lobster dinner for about $8. This included beans, rice and salad and Abuelita was in the kitchen cooking. That was at the first Ortega's and it was about 25 years ago. Now there are 2 Ortega's and about 30 other restaurants in town where you can go get lobster dinner, only now you pay $20.00, though you still get the beans and rice and soup or salad. There are tons of tchochke stands on the streets and in many ways it reminds me of what old Tijuana or Nogales were like before American corporations came in to capitalize on the overflow of Americans into border towns.

But I didn't get to wander around and explore any of it because in the middle of dinner I was hit with a bout of Tourista that caused sweat to break out on my upper lip. I needed to go home. I needed to do that immediately and thank God my girls were okay with that because I was way too sick to be in public. I ran, hunched over, to the car as they laughed and teased me. I have never been happier to get home on a Saturday night in my life! I continued drinking because, well, I was enjoying myself and there's nothing like a cold, icy margarita to distract you from cramps and bowel sounds that are just all wrong. I was exhausted too because I'm not a big drinker and when you drink all day in the sun it can really wipe you out.

The next morning I skipped breakfast poured another bloody and headed back to the beach sans self tanner. As it was a bit overcast, the waves were flat and most of our fellow white people were leaving, Christina had gotten a palapa for us to hang out under. As she cleaned the area she accidentally threw out the beer and grapes that one of our neighbors was having for breakfast, but you know he really shouldn't have just left them sitting there.

Christina went exploring and found a bunch of tide pools teaming with hermit crabs and anemones. We couldn't tell who was eating who, or if the two creatures have a compatible relationship, but it was fun to hover overhead and watch the crabs dance along the surfaces and get involved in faux fights. The beaches in Baja are wonderful and wild and, if you surf there is no place better. The sets just keep on coming in beautiful symmetrical rhythmic pulses - although this day was a slow one for waveriding. All along the beach are rocks and stones that have been rounded and softened, lending their crumbs to make up the sandy beach. I love these rocks. They are beautiful colors when they're wet and when they roll in the white foam of the waves they make a sound like applause.

I can spend hours wandering around, bent at the waist trying to find that color or surface that appeals to me. I always come home with the most beautiful stones and this weekend was no exception. Christina found a sea sponge and the vertebrae of a large sea animal, probably a porpoise because there are tons of them in the water there and you can watch them body surfing and playing in the waves every day.

Too soon it was getting to be late afternoon which meant we had to go home. I was now completely relaxed and my stomach had calmed down and we were going to have to go over the border. I have done this numerous times in the past and it has taken hours, or I was riding in a car that got diverted to secondary - not fun, not fun, not fun. We were lucky in that it only took us an hour to get over the border, but the commerce that goes on between the lanes of cars edging their way back to the U.S. can be unnerving.

Vendors walk between the lines of automobiles peering in windows beseeching you to buy their Spongebob Squarepants piggy banks, woven blankets featuring an Aztec God with his virgin sacrifice, bloody Jesus on a cross with puncture wounds that show seepage. They all have badges dangling from their shirts or pants and most wear a grey smock as a uniform - I guess they have to have permits now. The police patrol the lines of idling vehicles on little Honda motorcycles that are not much more powerful than a mo-ped. I wonder if they are there to oversee the vendors or to watch the people in the non-moving vehicles. Scuttling around the traffic are the beggars; Indian women with their babies and small children who stand there looking starving and helpless holding out plastic cups and begging for change. It is impossible to look at these little children, born into poverty and probably hungry and not feel anything for them.

As we get closer to the actual border crossing cops with dogs move around cars sniffing for what? drugs? bombs? There is a big sign with pictures of members of the Arrelano-Felix Organization who are still at large. Twenty five percent of all the Cocaine that enters the United States comes in at this border crossing. And even though I no longer have any reason to be concerned - I'm not carrying suitcases filled with drugs over the border, I always get nervous crossing.

I love Mexico and one day I will live there. Although there is poverty and corruption and Tourista - it is one of the most beautiful countries I've ever been to, and the Mexican people are really lovely. Once again I've gotten out my flash cards from my numerous attempts to learn Spanish because I want to be able to speak the language I love so much. I feel so lucky that it is close enough for me to get to for a weekend trip, but I am sad to see how America is leaking into the border towns and now there are McDonald's and Carl Jr. popping up amidst the taco stands. Every state is different in Mexico, much like here. Baja is beautiful in a ragged and wild way, and the light and the ocean are different there. I relax and sleep there in a way I never do at home.


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