February 21, 2005

Flesh and Blood Needs

After a long and wonderful journey I am back in Hood River. My remaining days in Baja were extremely pleasant. The haunting rains of yore never returned, so we enjoyed day after day of blessed sunshine. The wind continued to be a bit of a disappointment, though I managed to get in a kiteboarding session on Wednesday. Though short in length, the session was amazingly productive. I was making turns and linking my reaches together, and the white-knuckle terror with which I have typically approached kiteboarding gave way to a sensation of raw, unadulterated fun.

As promised, I got my stitches taken out on Thursday. Dan, a veternarian from Fargo, had to come over and take the stitches out of Wayne’s recently-spayed terrier, so after he doctored up the dog he went to work on the back of my head. The dog had to be held down by some gorgeous women, but I only needed to be muzzled. Yup, I got my stitches removed by a North Dakota vet. That’s the way things are done in Baja.

Ultimately, the wind was lousy enough that I only missed two days of kiteboarding because of my injury. That being the case, I’m almost glad it happened. For one, I now know that I’ve got my obligatory kitemare out of the way. For another, Motoshi and I now have matching scars. Most importantly, it really set the mental stage for my trip. The whole time I was in Baja I was simply thankful to be alive. To be alive in such an exotic place, surrounded by friends and neat people, was icing on the cake. The fact that I got to do some kiteboarding was total butter.

I still cringe when I think of that time I reached back to feel the back of my head, and found my fingers disappearing into a deep, slippery gash. For how bad it was, I’m glad that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. If the fin was a few inches lower I would have had a slice through the back of my neck. A few inches higher and I may have been knocked unconscious. I consider myself very fortunate, and I know that there are better people in the world who have been dealt worse hands.

Anyways. Geez. There was so much to this trip that I can barely figure out what to recount. How to begin?

Randomly, of course! Where rhetorical flourish is absent and coherence is discouraged!

There was Luciano, Knox’s hot date one evening, who is an 85-year-young lady from Austria whose family lost everything to the Nazis during World War II. In any given night, Luciano will get up on stage and sing karaoke, dance the macarena, drink you under the table, and hit on 24-year-old guys. This I know.

Out in the ocean there were jellyfish and urchins and rays and dolphins and whales. Real stinkin’ whales, the biggest animals on the planet, who will jump completely out of the water because it’s the only way humans can comprehend how magnificant a creature they are.

Then there was this narcoleptic dog who would trot beside you, sit down to scratch his ear, stretch and fall asleep, all in the course of about two minutes.

Then there was this mountain town. During the gold rush it was home to 20,000 people, but now it holds a handful of families and a museum of pianos.

The food in Los Barriles was delicious. I frequented a particular taco stand where every time some people would sit down to eat, a gorgeous rooster would pop through the fence to peck for scraps.

After our kiteboarding session on Wednesday, I drove a dune buggy with Alaska license plates into town to grab some ballenas of Pacifico. Ballena means whale in Spanish, and ballenas is the classy Mexican equivalent for 40s in America. We didn’t have a bottle opener, so Jim figured out a way to pop open our beers on the barbed wire fence.

I had never even ridden in a dune buggy before going to Baja. Driving a dune buggy is a lot like driving an old Volkswagen Beetle, only rustier. You park it on the sidewalk in front of the grocery store, against traffic, next to the four-wheelers and motor bikes.

After two weeks in Mexico, the thing that I missed the most about America was folk music, bluegrass and Johnny Cash. Boot Liquor Radio describes it as American Roots Music for Saddle-Weary Drunkards. There’s elegance in that.