Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Thursday, November 09, 2017
I didn’t know that
Friday, December 08, 2017
A better fish fillet

Yea, but they’re not on the ’net, man
I’m as guilty as anyone.

I don’t think I’m quite a “slave” to social media, but yeah, it peeks it’s obtrusive face into my life more than I would like to admit.

I’m not one of those people who’s constantly buried with my nose in my smartphone. My thumbs aren’t constantly tapping out messages. I don’t need to “like” or “friend” everyone on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp or all the others. Thank you, I have enough clutter.


But, they do have a time and place.

And one of them is when I go to a new place or plan to make reservations. Or when I’m on a rare vacation.

Darn, I hit those review websites like Trip Advisor, Yelp and Google pretty hard.

Half-a-dozen screens open on my laptop! Do they have three stars? Five stars? How many reviews do they have? Someone didn’t like their service? Beds too hard? Drinks too small? Noisy kids in the pool? Overcooked food? No Wi-Fi?

Compare. Compare. Compare.

Sometimes the information superhighway is just overloaded with too darned much info. Boggles the brain.

Hey, everyone gets a bad review every now and then. Even the best. Not everyone likes Santa Claus, the Pope or the Dali Lama. Not everyone liked the “Sound of Music,” or thinks that Disneyland is the “happiest place on Earth.” So, a bad review now and then won’t deter me.

But, a whole bunch of bad reviews is a different animal. Danger. Danger.

A whole lot of good reviews surely helps.

But sometimes, it helps to just push yourself away from the screen and keyboard. Especially in Baja. Wake up and smell the salt air…the desert…the beans and rice, as it were. Go all in. Taste the salsa!

Use a bit of common sense. A dash of adventure. Open your eyes, ears and senses.

If it looks good…feels good…other people are there…chances are it IS good. Even if it’s not listed on some webpage.

Some of the best places will never show up on any social media review board. You’ll never read on the Internet about the friendly service, the cozy room, the tasty margarita or the best taco you’ll ever have.

The owners and managers themselves aren’t checking their reviews every day and wringing their hands about a bad write-up or counting their good comments proudly.

A lot of the best out there don’t know. Or care.

I once offered to write a review in a magazine I worked for of a little-known, family-owned hotel that sat at the end of a gravel road on pristine stretch of beach. The hotel had been in the family for three generations.

I told the owner it would help bring lots of business. I would also post it on the Internet on several blogs that I wrote. It would be super!

The owner smiled and said, “Gracias, that is very kind. But no thank you. We have enough business and we like it that way. We don’t want to be so busy. Just tell your friends you had a good time. That’s enough.”

I had never met someone who didn’t want MORE publicity. Even free publicity at that!

As his wife explained to me later that more people meant more upkeep, more maintenance, more workers, bigger parking lot, bigger kitchen…more strangers, more amenities, blah, blah, blah…

I got it. There was something to that.

And they were right. Bigger is not always better.

Over the years, I’ve found in Baja that some of the best places are down that dirt or gravel road. They’re not listed. You’ll never find if they are rated at two stars or five stars.

You’ll find them behind two palm trees and a rickety fence with hand-painted letters. And a sign pointing toward the beach.

They have six rooms and little cantina and Mama Maria makes breakfast every morning. Papa Carlos will show you to your room overlooking the beach. Son Danny laughingly chases the chicken out from behind the bar and makes a mean tequila sunrise. The happy family dog takes handouts.

You’ll find another place under a light post on a street corner surrounded by plastic chairs and a line of folks waiting for a fresh, sizzling carne asada taco.

Luz takes the orders and makes change with a smile. Older brother Julio handles the grill like a Benihana chef and flirts with the neighbor girls. Tacos are a buck. Bottles of Coke or orange soda are in the plastic ice chest. Help yourself and tell Luz.

You’ll find another place three blocks from the neon strip and the booming discos. It’s wedged between a dress shop and a travel agency. The menus are plastic like the chairs and tablecloth and utensils.

The “napkins” are a roll of paper towels.

But Vincente the waiter is also the owner. He promises you the best lobster burrito you’ve ever had. And he’s right! Fifty pesos? About three bucks. Are you kidding me? Keep the change, Vincente!

You ask your taxi driver, Chuy, about a good tour company to take you around town. He tells you he’ll take you and the family to all the best places and be your personal driver. Fifty bucks for the whole day. You take a chance. What the heck. All in.

He takes you to his favorite restaurants where they treat you like family. He directs you to some great deals on shopping and tells you if they’re charging too much. Chuy jumps right into the bargaining to buy that sarape and silver bracelet you think you need. Money and laughs exchange hands.

He drives you to the best beach and wanders away for a few hours so you have some private time with the family. Barbecued shrimp on a stick? Coming right up!

He takes you to the old cathedral and town square and you listen to local musicians play guitar to the pigeons and doves.

None of these people or places will ever be listed on the Internet. You’ll never be able to write a review about them or give them any “stars.”

But, you’ll never forget the smiles and experiences either.

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