Unlike Fiesta San Jose, (which just recently concluded) when it is best to get outta town, Semana Santos is best spentby the author, anywayin town. So Howie and I went fishing. It was not exactly IN town, but five minutes away, from my common launch site, Playa Pallmilla.
The moon was a day past full and still visible as the eastern horizon began to turn salmon. The wind was slight and the swells were almost non-existent. We fished for five hours and got nada. Not even a strike. It might be the bright nights, someone suggested.
Spring is moving on to summer and it is beginning to get hot. By eight that morning the sun was already a force. The gentle breeze ceased, the ocean turned slick. About ten oclock we went for a little swim. Outside of Howie hooking the bottom, that was all the action we had.
But it is always nice to get Howie out fishing. He spins great fishing stories about when he was a spry lad growing up on Long Island--fishing for bluefish with hand lines from a rowboat; fishing for stripers in the reeds at 3:30 in the morning; going out with his uncle, with his friends; going clamming; spending summers in Vermont on Lake Champlain, where they would row across the lake and drink in New York where the drinking age was 18.
Howie is a little older than me, and has been around. I told him the other day he was looking a lot like a skinny Don Ameche. A spreading grin squeezed his eyes tight, and said that was a first. He is about six foot three and goes, at the most, 170 pounds. He has curly blond, thinning hair, a big honker of a nose, big hands with long artistic fingers, and contemplative pale blue eyes.
Howie has a physics degree from Yale but never put it to use. He moved to New York City to play music. He has played CBGBs. "Shit yeah, I played all those clubs, man," he tells me in his regular bebop vernacular. He lived the Life. And hes got tales. Somehow, in all his meanderings he got waylaid in Mexico, where in 1983, he met his wife-to-be, Norma, who was singing in a club. Together, theyve played all over Mexico. For the last four or five years they have been living and playing in San Jose and their salsa-style jazz is much in demand. Howie plays the piano, alto and tenor sax, and does the arrangements, and Norma sings and plays hand percussion instruments. They always seem to be able to find a conga player to round out a trio. This year they have Julian, a Cuban, who can do it all.
Howie and I went fishing on his first day off in weeks. We talked about music, books, wandering, woman, and all the things two guys talk about in a little 14-foot boat on the high seas. We smoked a couple cigars and drank a couple Pacifico ballenas. A couple whales surfaced near us while we were out not catching fish. One was 50 meters from the boat, making great breathing noises and spouting spray as it rolled atop the water, prompting gleeful barks from Zelda. The other whale, the bigger of the two, kept its distance at, maybe, 150 meters, but paralleled us for 15 or 20 minutes, staying under water for long periods, giving us the great big beautiful tail standing straight up out of the water as it dove for the depths.
So, we came back with no fish in the fish sack, but this is San Jose, and even on Easter Sunday there is fish to be had. At a private house we scored some fresh marlin. Forty pesos a kilo/$2.25US/pound. Marlin steaks on the grill, teriyaki marinade over local mesquite charcoal, Howies famous chili potatoes, some ice-cold Dos Equis, a couple of tequilas damn! again, it was another fine day of fishing in San Jose del Cabo.
No Zelda's diary this week.
PALO ESCOPETA, BAJA MEXICO--The other day, Julian came to see me. He had shaved his head. Gone was his wild, unruly, unkempt reddish-blonde mane that more or less epitomized him. Julian is a big man. His head is really big. His head even looks big on him. It is not a handsome head. Whereas his appearance had always evoked a certain amount of fear, he has now added the element of psychosis.
Julian told me he had just discovered a whale skeleton out in the desert. He wanted to know how to publish his discovery, having heard from someone that there is big money in publishing archeological discoveries. A PhD, I told him, was probably something that he would need to attract the Smithsonian. Undeterred, he still thought there was money to be made. In any case, he offered to bring me out to the site.
I love tramping around the Baja with Julian, and not just because he can carry everything. Out in the wilderness, he is in his element. He is familiar with the surrounding arroyos and knows where all the hot springs are. He has discovered Indian petroglyphs tucked back in the mountain hinterlands. He knows the best hunting grounds for prehistoric shark teeth, giant fossilized clams and coral, and Indian artifacts. He will spend all day with a screwdriver, poking around the hillsides. So when his offer came along I was eager to join him.
There were four of usme, Julian, a Canadian woman friend of his whose acquaintance he recently came upon, (Julian, you see, is a bit of a womanizer), and Paco, who upon learning that we couldn't go fishing, opted for a trek through the desert. We drove out of town on a well-traveled, heavily-washboarded dirt road for a little over a half hour. I was somewhat familiar with the area having hunted for sharks teeth in the same arroyo a couple years ago. I remembered it as being packed with fossilized marine life. I pulled the van off the road and we clamored into the brush, after Julilan and his long strides.
After a half-hour of switchbacks down the arroyos steep and crumbly slope, we were at the arroyos sandy floor where we walked some more. All along the way the sedimentary nature of the land was evident, as past ocean floors could be seen in the steep canyon walls. Prehistoric coral reefs were displayed as areas of solid black against the prevalent light chalky stone. Half way up a minor tributary arroyo Julian stood proudly atop his discovery. It was a bone-white arching fossil, four feet long, lying mostly in rock, which he and a friend found protruding from the earth. Even with a cursory inspection, it was obvious that to excavate this would be a serious undertaking. Images of archeological digs cordoned off into tiny squares came to mind; hired labor with dental picks and air bulbs hunched in the unforgiving sun. Was it a whale bone? Looked like it could be.
We spent the rest of the morning poking around and sifting through the zillions of fossils. On the opposite side of the arroyo I found a fossilized bone. I called over Julian, who confirmed it. Sorting around it, we found other bone fragments. The main piece was some sort of hipbone as characterized by the intact ball joint. Julian noted the location, intending to return to it later.
While slowly working our way back to the van, I found a sharks tooth. I am always surprised when I find one. For such an ornate and sought after relic, they are just lying around the desert in plain sight. The impressive sharks tooth that Julian wears around his neck is an inch long and an inch at its base, and he, too, found it just lying atop the ground.
We returned to town mid-afternoon, in the mid-day heat. I suggested to Julian that we go for a quick swim in the ocean and we agreed to meet in an hour. Next time I saw him was in the plaza. It was seven oclock.
"Where were you, man?" I asked him. "I knocked on your door. You dont live there anymore?"
"Hey, man, I had to move. I couldnt afford the rent. Im living across the street at the whore house," he told me, grinning, his big head shining. "Hey, Im meeting these two women over at the Tropicana, man. Come join us for beers. Theyre killer chicks, man." Julian, fully charged by a four-hour siesta yeah, I got time for a beer.