Friday, February 11, 2011

Ten Years Ago Today

For some unknown reason last night, I pulled out our Rocky Point Journal from ten years ago.  I looked up what we did ten years ago today.  It was a special day and I read the entire entry to Susun as she fell asleep.  Tha day's entry has been haunting me all night.  This morning Susun said she really loved hearing that story.  It's long and it's going to take forever to transcribe it from the printed pages.  However, I'd like to give that day's story some enduring legs.  No one's ever going to see it buried in a ringer binder in our archives.  At least a few DFs and LBRs will get a chance to read it here.

As usual for our 2001 Journal journal, the entry is simply titled with the month, day and year: "February 11, 2001."

We coordinated our signals with Tim Saturday at sunset and kept an eye on the little clock all through the night.  We got up about 6:15 to make sure we would be ready for his arrival.  He seemed a few minutes late but the Red Rocket can definitely make up for lost time on the washboards of the Cholla Road.  I've never enjoyed such a perfect vehicle for washboards.  The Red Rocket can do 70 mph on the washboards and  you really don't feel like an endangered species.  They've changed all the roads around near Cholla and there were some new berms and roads just since Thursday evening.  So we got lost trying to find the right "two track" to the base of Competition Hill and that further delayed our appointment with the sunrise.  Just as we topped out on the base approach dune, I caught a glimpse of the top of the sun in Tim's rear view mirror and called, "ALTO!"  We piled out of the Toyota and took pictures and sang Happy Birthday and gave a Rimrock salute to our Buddy, Tim.

Then Tim hunkered down and shot the Rocket to the top of the dune and in two winks we were drinking hot coffee with a wonderful view of Cholla Bay, the Pinacates and the sleepy little city of Rocky Point.  We milled around and made forgettable small talk.  I repeated the story of Godfrey Sykes and how he stood on the top of his head on the top of Santa Clara Peak and other goofy anecdotes from Skyes wonderful life.  We all laughed again about the Laguna Del Mar scam just as we had laughed about it Thursday night.  And then we skittered down the dune and hustled off to the bakery that one arm guy runs in Old Port.  We bought Tim his favorite pastries and then returned to an RV park where everyone was just beginning to fire up their generators and drink coffee and smoke cigarettes, walk dogs, scratch their navels and generally looks like sleepy Americans standing around near a beach.

The weather Sunday was the best we have had yet since our arrival here January 11th.  Some friends had planned to visit Sunday but they listened to too much BS from airhead weather people on Phoenix TV and blew off their trip because of "The Big Storm."  As so often happens when people actually BELIEVE weather forecasts, there was no such BIG STORM and the weather was perfect.  The moral of this sermon is to plan your trip and just go.  Don't worry about the weather.  Bad weather always gives you better stories anyway and good weather is just a nice bonus.  In this case we missed our friends and they missed one of the best weekends of the new year.  Such is life.

Susun and I hustled up our morning chores and then headed out to spend 100 pesos for some beer, shark, tortillas and water.  It was surprisingly busy at the Fish Market. Lots of wealthy Americans werer buying great big shrimp by the bushel basket full.  The vendors were happy.We decided to make it the morning we would feature Victor and Jose so we took a lot of digital pictures of them and had them write out their full names so we could get the spelling correct.

When you drive up to the fish market, vendors will jump into the street and practically block your car's path to try to pester you into buying their shrimp.  They always carry the largest shrimp they can find and have mastered a particular technique of squeezing it is just the right way to make it look alive.  The shrimp arcs up and back and looks like it is wriggling in their hand.  We call it "The Squeeze."  We figure the shrimp guys get up each morning and double check their "squeeze" technique to make sure they still have the "right stuff" before heading out to do battle for American dollars.  I suspect they teach "The Squeeze" in the schools and all able-bodied Peñascan men know and appreciate each other's "Squeeze" technique.  I've tried it and I sure can't get it right.  Anyway, we bought a couple of pounds of shark and shared some pecans with our buddies, Victor and Jose, and headed back to camp.

I hadn't been paddling since last Sunday and really needed some sort of excuse to get back into the water again.  There were no dolphins around to provide the best excuse and so time passed.  Finally, I used the Plan B "fallback" excuse: a shrimp boat.  From time to time, shrimp boats will sit at anchor some distance from the mouth of the harbor.  They do this for a variety of reasons too detailed to recount here.  So, I had my eye on one of them and decided to go for it.  On this trip I decided to carry the two-way radio so I could talk to Susun and keep her posted.  We set our watches and agreed to listen every 15 minutes.  I paddled straight out for about a half mile and then checked the tidal influence.  The tide had moved me about 3/8th mile laterally during the half mile paddle out.  So I pointed toward San Felipe and after about 40 minutes I came alongside of the Carranza.  The Carranza is one of the older style shrimp boats, very classic lines and a battered, rusty hull with old worn rigging and tired looking nets hanging over a deck strewn with the flotsam fishermen need to ply their trade.  There were six Mexicans hanging out on the aft railing drinking Tecates and giving me a real blank stare like shrimp guys always do when some stupid American comes paddling up in a funky boat filled with air.  Most of the shrimp guys I have had the pleasure to visit aren't exactly rude but they are pretty darn close to it.  Most shrimp guys have a mean and sea-hardened look to them.  They almost never smile and most of the time they just grunt like some primitive sea creature that learned to walk upright and breathe air instead of water.  I'm always a little hesitant to approach a shrimp boat but it's good for a decent adrenalin buzz and so I keep being drawn to them like a moth to the fatal flame.

None of these guys spoke any English at all and, as you know, my Spanish sucks.  But I gave it the good old college try and somehow we were actually communicating.  At least we all thought we were. They let me take their pictures and much to my amazement, they offered me a canned Tecate beer!  Beer to a fisherman at sea is one of the most valuable commodities known to mankind and I was amazed and profusely thankful.  In fact, they all got a belly laugh out of my attempts to be profusely thankful.

The crew was quite curious about my blue waterproof bag and wondered what it was used for.  I showed them my radio and hailed Susun and we carried on a lively little conversation and the crew was thoroughly amused.They wondered how much my boat would cost.  I asked them how long they would be out for and they told me 7 days.  They were just sitting at anchor waiting for the tide to turn and for the time to be right for catching shrimp.

By and by, I decided to hit the road, so to speak, but they motioned me back.  I didn't have a clue why they wanted me to paddle back and I hoped it wasn't so they could gaff my little inflatable and get a REAL laugh!  But NO!  Lo and behold, one of the crew had gone down into their larder and came back with TEN POUNDS of fish fillets from their own food stash!  Well, I was shocked and really tried hard to be thankful and we gingerly worked to get the fish stowed in the blue bag.  They each introduced themselves by first name and proudly pointed out their captain and smiled and waved and treated me nicer than any shrimp guys have ever treated me.  It was touching.  So I waved and paddled off.  By this time the afternoon breeze had picked up considerably and the tidal forces had changed and the sea was working overtime to carry me far, far from Palmar. It took quite a long time and a lot more work than I desired to expend to paddle back to Palmar.  Even though the Carranza was anchored a little more than a mile offshore, I figure I had to paddle more than 3 miles to get to and from the boat.

Upon my return there was a general hustle and hubbub to get down to Tim's Big Birthday Party.  I was the last arrival there and had already missed the lighting of the candles and the cutting of the cake.  Mini bought a wonderfully done cream cake and it was decorated beautifully.  She did a special hand made card and went around the park having all of Tim's friends sign the card.  Anna's little "restaurant" was filled with about 20-25 people (who's counting?) enjoying cake and tequila and beer and friendship.  RG sat around with a bizarre snile on his face.  I figured he was dreaming about his road grader.  The Aussie wore a Route 66 T-shirt.  I couldn't hear people say much of anything because the acoustics in that place were terrible.  But we all did spend some time plotting a fish fry using all the booty from the shrimp guys.  It was a fun and memorable time.

It's an unspoken but well known reality of this lifestyle that such moments are rare and special and are never to be replicated again.  The circumstances and chemistry and people and places and the ebb and flow and mix of all the permutations and combinations which permeate transient retiree roosting places preclude repeats.  Everyone knows they are enjoying a "one of a kind" experience in an event such as Tim's Birthday Party.  Hell, he could easily be dead next year this time.  But we all party on.  Who knows WHO will be here or there or anywhere next year this time?  And so it's the unspoken rule that no one mention the uniqueness and rarity of this or any other such magical moment.  We just all enjoy it and savor it and go home and go to sleep and wonder what tomorrow will bring.

--------------------end of 2001 Journal Entry------------

It was Tim's last birthday party.  He was dead less than six weeks later.

Enjoy every day with Many Cheers!  jp

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