LEISURE LETTER 49: FINDING LA PAZ BY THE SEA - PART 1
I’m sure I live in La Paz now, which is fine. Estoy Bien – that’s what I told the federales when they approached me on the empty street late at night, five of them inside the pickup truck looking to take me in. Those boys probably figured I was lost, or some troublemaker, or even one of the yacht club borrachos who strayed too far from the marina, none of which was all that far from the truth. . . . But I wasn’t really any of these things. I was just a guy making his way toward The Cathedral, the bells of midnight sounding in the deep; for by the church stood the hotel – aptly named La Catedral – the room with a view and the rooftop pool to swim in.
By then everyone had left on a half-empty jet for Tijuana, with the exception of my friend and steward, Tecate Jack, whose fine suggestion it was to remain in Baja just a few days longer. The photoshoot was over, you see, Yacco and his models had fled for LA; finally we could take it easy . . . decompress.
“I’ll have corporate wire us some more dough,” Jack winked. That was his way, and money was no issue, of course – the Dragons on Floor 109 happen to slumber on a pot of gold. It was the heat I was more worried about. In La Paz the sun burns with the vigor of an auto de fe. And that’s just what old Lizard Jack wanted, at the end of day. He lives for the tan – that’s what they say.
There was the heat, yes, and still more serious was my heart, my poor broken heart, whose ruin I sought in vain to mend with a thin needle and a thick-spun thread of the softest, rose colored yarn. It was a difficult job . . . the sewing. Slow, sedulous, requiring the patience of a surgeon, or a caterpillar with dreams of butterfly. As fate would have it my heart would heal in time. All good hearts do.
And the reason for its convulsive breakage? The pain inside my chest? Hmmm. . . . Had I enough power it might require ten lives to describe. Perhaps the mysteries of the heart are better off left unexpressed. Given the constraints of this corporeal world, and time, I will merely attempt to lay down an account of what happened so far out on the peninsula, so very close to the sea whose name is Cortez.
Things got their start far north, in Southern California. It was late Monday, soon after the sun had set, when I parked my car at the Beach Road Train Station, which was empty for the most part. One or two spectral forms drifted through the darkening night, and a heavy, sultry purple vapor hung low over the entire bay, from Nixon’s house to the harbor, and probably much further. Stepping out of the vehicle, I could already taste the salt in the air, prepared with traces of sea-life and kelp. I love that taste.
This evening it was my good fortune to procure one half of “the talent” – an LA model arriving on the 8pm from Union Station, and deliver him to the Pelican Hotel in Southside. Tomorrow there would be an early flight from Tijuana to La Paz International, a mere two hour’s glide along the skinny extended arm of the Baja California peninsula. This flight I could not afford to miss.
I waited. The train was late, allowing for a short walk and a moment’s reflection:
From station to station we drive, compelled by velocities unspoken in the language of space, time, causality. Pause. I am watching the night-moths orbit the murky orange light of the lamppost – the light, the light. That is where I would like to be. I will drive South, I will drive, I will drive. Like a bird I strive for the solar beneficence of strange southern lands; by the compulsion of gravity I am compelled to the center of the Earth, where the sun burns with a brilliance and ferocity far surpassing the imagination of any nuclear physicist, academic, warlord, business magnate and sundry man of affairs. Such power would drive him mad. I drive . . . I drive. Let this sun dissolve me.
The red lights are flashing now; the bell of annunciation rings. Here the trance collapses. There is a light emerging in the distance, a little sunrise down the tracks. The great big toy train has arrived at the last outpost, carrying along with it our photoshoot model, one half of “the talent” from LA.
The train rolls to a slow stop, emitting fire, steam, delirious heat. The doors slide open, letting loose the talent, bag in hand; and with a slow, imperious gait, he walks slowly, imperiously toward me. Tall, dark, devilishly handsome, with several homemade tattoos . . . You know the deal.
“You must be Yacco’s guy,” I said in a friendly manner. “My car’s that way,” I pointed.
He rolled his eyes, glared, and brushed past me without saying a word. Only in LA will you find talent with this kind of gall. It was revolting, but I didn’t really care. Being such fast friends, we drove to a restaurant close by. I ordered the mahi mahi and he ordered the sting ray. There were some dancehall reggae hits playing on the juke and we drank margaritas and watched the surf movies playing on the broken tele. His margarita was too sweet and he didn’t like the stingray, so we left.
We then drove to the Pelican Motel. “You stay here tonight,” I told him. “Be ready at 6am!” He merely glared, turning on heel and walking toward reception. I was glad to be rid of him. May the Gods have mercy on reception, I whispered to myself.
It took what felt like 3 hours to get through the airport in Tijuana. We must have walked five miles, one checkpoint after another; papers here, papers there, papers papers everywhere. Finally the gate appeared, with the name La Paz written over it in warm electric lights. There was myself, Tecate Jack, the eminent photographer Yacco Montí, and the Talent – that male model from LA and his counterpart, a spirited young lady with an aptitude for all manner of adventure. We had one drink and got out of there.
All I recall was opening my eyes and the plane had already landed. The shades were drawn, and I was a little bit chilly. I shook off the sleep, unstrapped the belt and collected my bag. Then we did the single file to the rear exit stairs. The delicious smell of jet fuel baking on the tarmac gave me goosebumps. And my happy heart went on beating with enthusiasm. But nothing could prepare me for what happened next. Stepping onto the stairway I was suddenly keeled over by a shaft of light so hot and bright I nearly fainted on the spot. I righted myself, clasping the rail and gasping for breath. I had to blink my eyes several times to adjust. Once acclimated, I took a careful look all around me. The first thing I saw was the Sun, the mighty Sun, circled about by these great big birds of prey like black moths circling gas lamps when everyone in the world is asleep except for me.
To be continued...