Posted January 11, 1997, SAN FELIPE, BAJA CALIFORNIA NORTE--
N
ew Year’s Eve celebration in San Felipe.

"Tonight the whole world parties"—the agent in charge at the Mexican Immigration Office in San Felipe, Baja California Norte.

He held in his hand a machine that sent electricity through people. It was a service he offered to those who wished to demonstrate their machismo. He was a little Mexican, clean-shaven, older, smartly dressed in a white shirt with a bolo, an olive green double- breasted jacket, and some sort of lizard or snakeskin boots. Even with the boots and the extra large black formal Stetson cowboy hat, he was almost invisible in the crowded Miramar Bar which was full of big Americans. It was New Year’s Eve. It was still early, 8 o’clock. Maybe the Miramar was his first stop on what he hoped to be a long and prosperous start to the New Year.

Over at a corner table sitting by himself was a man with a full leg cast. Perhaps he had been there a while, it was hard to tell. A couple local Mexicans were good-naturedly giving him a hard time about something to which he was responding by putting up his fists, bobbing and weaving, being a boxer. He wore glasses that he either peered over or through, depending on what he was looking at. The man with the box of electricity made his way through the crowd. The box was the size of a lunch pail from which two cords exited, each with a metal grip at the end, much like a jump rope. He stopped in front of the disabled American, introducing himself and offering the challenge. The American readily accepted the challenge and prepared himself. The little Mexican dialed up the juice. The American grimaced, made a show of his great duress, and when the little Mexican grunted his approval, handed the grips over to his two tableside grief-givers.

Electricity first flowed through one, then the other. Shrieks and bulging eyeballs.

The American again requested to be tested. This time, he rolled up his sleeves, removed his watch, straightened his baseball hat and grabbed the ends of the cords. He nodded. His teeth were bared. The little Mexican turned the dial. Ozone filled the air. The American sat stone-faced. The little Mexican nudged the dial a bit higher. The American let out a howl. He pointed to the dial to show his superior grit. There was some nodding and grunting. As a final show of good sportsmanship the little Mexican suggested they all three hold hands and share together an electrocution, with the outside two each holding a cord end. All squealed and jerked about in a show of camaraderie. The American offered the little Mexican some dollar bills. The little Mexican felt the American’s biceps. The American nodded. The little Mexican stood, looked the crowd over and made his way slowly and regally to the door. The night was still young and showing promise.

Peter’s diary
12/31/97--Once again, chose the wrong hotel. There were cheaper, better hotels from which to choose. The El Rancho Motor Hotel in Calexico. The shower dripped moderately hot water. A broken window. No phone. The night was cold and the owner of the hotel claimed to have no extra blankets, so I slept in my sleeping bag on my bed.

Crossed the border and, as always, was amazed at what the Mexican countryside had to offer up. To the east, an estuary as far as the eye could see. I can only imagine what this area looked like before the US sucked up the Colorado River. To the west mountains, including the Baja’s tallest peak, Picacho del Diablo at over 10,000 feet. I realized I could have crossed the border last night, but refrained from beating up myself rushing about- it was a close call either way.

San Felipe is a cute little tourist town. Three blocks of a bustling marketplace. Plenty of hotels and RV accommodations. There are miles of public beach but at this time of year the water is freezing cold. No one is swimming. The water is also a murky silty almost slate color. During the day there is sun and heat, if that is what people came for.

I’m staying for a couple nights at Ruben’s- a nice little RV "park" accommodating about two dozen vehicles. Each space has a palapa on stilts with a picnic table underneath. My palapa overlooks the water. It if weren’t right in town it would be a very acceptable place to spend some time.

Last night was New Year’s Eve. The town was amazingly quiet until midnight. Fireworks everywhere. Revelry. Mostly it was Americans. While riding my bike around, it seemed most of the locals were partying at home. Lots of loud music emanating throughout the neighborhoods. The local policia has a sobriety check point set up on the one way.

Today I am heading south along the coast to Bahía San Luis Ganzaga. Half the people tell me it can’t be done in a vehicle like my van. We shall see.

Zelda’s diary
Finally, the window is open. I am out there! In. Out. The air. Checking out the air.

Nothing could be greater. Cows. Let me at them! Where are the cows?! Everything is back to normal. Bring it on!

The car has stopped. We’re taking stuff out of the car. We’re staying. All right! Get to lie down in the shade. Walk around. Sniff things. Cool smells. Very different smells. I remember these smells from before. Oh, oh…dogs. Wild dogs. Fast dogs. Gotta smell ‘em. Get smelled. They can be ornery dogs. Gotta be careful. I always have the car to escape into.

What’s going on? Noise. Loud noises. Boom. Pow. Don’t like this a bit. All night long. People yelling and screaming. No way I’m leaving the car. I’m sitting right up here in Peter’s seat. He can sleep up there. Up the stairs under the stars where all the noise is. Man, I don’t like this one bit. Pow! Bang! Whistles! Kaboom! God of Dogs protect me. Peter must be nuts being out there. I’ll just hide here and sleep tomorrow.

Quiet. Back to normal again. Hanging out. In the shade. In the sun. Checking out the smells. Life is grand.

Previous dispatch
Next dispatch