Jonathan Roldan came to the rescue for me many years ago when I needed a Baja columnist and an editor. While many people would love to be the “WON Baja Editor,” the fact is, it’s a lot of work and responsibility. Jonathan now shares the column duties with Gary Graham, alternating each week. And you have to admit his style of writing is entertaining, and it truly reflects his love of Baja and its people. As I told him, just write what you know, and let it fly. Let me worry about the newspaper’s fish reports.
Remember Fred Hoctor? The late Baja Editor drove people crazy with his humorous columns. His predecessor Tom Miller’s Baja column was mingled with fishing reports. I started doing Baja reports, Fred took them over to make a few extra bucks, and that’s how the first steady reporting from Baja in WON came about. That was before the internet and cell phones. It was faxes, land phones and probably pigeons. Knowing Fred, he probably did use pigeons.
But I never confuse fishing reports with columns. Two different animals. Both are necessary to the weekly product, and now our website. And that’s what I told Jonathan years ago. Just write it. And he does, often in the middle of the night after he’s done getting people to the pangas, preparing their catch, managing the details of his restaurant bar and filleting the anglers’ catches, A million details. I’ve seen him in action. Crazy.
As the owner of a sportfishing operation in La Paz and a bar by the same name that overlooks the malecon and the sandy edge of La Paz Bay, the column works pretty well for Jonathan. As an one hotel owner in Baja said to me, “He should pay you guys for writing that column.” Not because it’s a lousy effort, the fellow said, but because it’s a lot of free publicity.
True. But frankly, I don’t worry about that conflict of interest. This isn’t the New York Times. It’s more like radio or TV in terms of advertorial. How many radio and TV “news/sports” personalities use their celebrity to sell products? Roldan’s product is Baja, the colorful sunrise, the joy of being in Baja, sweating over a edge of a panga in the summer, pulling against a big tuna at the 88 Fathom Curve. Then celebrating the catch as the day fades, enjoying a blended margarita and fish tacos with friends.
Several years ago Jonathan found a perfect partner in business and life in his wife, Jill. In the winter, they are on the road at the western states fishing shows, and 99 percent of the people they meet and greet are fantastic. But the issues with Mexico trying to be more than a third world country at the mercy of drug cartels have put them at ground zero of the conflict.
Read Jonathan’s column on the previous page, then realize it was posted nowhere but on our website wonews.com as a blog. He had hoped the column would not go up until after he was done with his final road show, at Salt Lake City this past weekend. Frankly, he was worried. What would the reaction be?
But it has all been favorable. As I knew it would.
“I was worried about backlash on that last column,” said Jonathan on Monday as he made his way back from Salt Lake City, destination their home in La Paz. “I'm getting flooded with e-mails. I think I hit a chord or something, Pat. And it hasn't even been published yet in the paper. Crazy.”
Alas, Jonathan said they had another incident on the last day of the show.
“Three guys came up to Jill while she was on the side of the booth. Very confrontational. They got in her face and asked loudly so everyone could hear... if their heads would be cut off if they came to fish with us. Very straight-faced she said, no, but she could arrange to have their heads cut off, but since things like that don't happen in La Paz, it would take some extra effort to find someone to do it, and of course, there would be an extra charge for the extra service to have their heads cut off.”
“There was silence among all three,” said Jonathan. “They didn't know what to say. Then they started to bust up laughing. Then they walked away down the aisle, still laughing.” Vintage Jill, I would say.
And it’s a little strange to say, that’s a story that good ‘old Fred Hoctor would have loved for a new “Baja Ha Ha” book. With people, you just never know. It’s been a long show season. My take here is that while some people who say stupid things to strangers could be considered just rude or drunk, they mostly a little afraid of life in general. The world seems very small and unforgiving right now. But is it, really? Or is it the instant access we have to rumors and bad news. As a journalist who grew up hearing “bad new sells. ” We should care,a ndbe informed, but I think it’s also time to start thinking about yellowfin tuna and cold margaritas.