So, there I was standing at the counter in our booth at the recent Fred Hall Fishing and Boating Show in San Diego at the old fairgrounds about two weeks ago. Doing the usual thing.
Yakking with old fishing friends and clients. Answering questions for prospective new folks interested in fishing with us here in La Paz.
After three months of shows and almost 20 years at this, you kinda think you’ve heard a lot of different questions. I was having a casual chat with a couple of “Baja rat” guys…old timers who had great stories to trade. Flip flops…faded favorite fishing t-shirt…ballcap with salt stains on it…you know the type!
Guys like that don’t need our services. They’ve seen and done it all already. Guys like THAT start services like mine!
So, up walks a young couple. Very nice. They wanted to do some fishing but were seemed more intent on whether there were nice spas to have massages.
The Baja guys moved politely aside so they could let me do my spiel. They smiled and listened as I did my best to respond. I gave the couple some of our brochures…a DVD…and told them we’d love to see them.
Then, a young family walks up. Again, good questions…if you had a family.
“Did all the hotels we work with have air-conditioning?”
“Will there be a kiddie pool?”
“Is the water safe to drink?”
My Baja guys suppressed some grins. Again they listened.
Two new guys then walked up.
“How dusty is Baja?” (compared to what?)
“What’s the hottest months?” (One of them didn’t like heat. Might be better to go to Alaska.)
Again, I did my best. I could tell the Baja guys really really really wanted to chime in, but they let me struggle. I could see them rolling their eyes. I think they were enjoying the entertainment.
Over the next half-hour or so, they heard me field questions like:
“Is it possible to get a mani-pedi (manicure-pedicure)?”
“We’re coming for 4 days, will there be laundry service?”
“How good is the room service?”
“How hot is Mexican salsa?”
“Do you think I should use a lot of sunscreen if I come to Baja?”
“Do they have nude or topless beaches in La Paz?” (True question!)
“We heard Mexican toilet paper is rough, should we bring our own?”
“Are the Mexican police tough on tourists who bring their own pot to smoke?” (Not kidding!)
“What if I don’t want to catch big fish, can I just catch small fish?”
“I hear Mexican ice is bad. How can I drink my blended margaritas?”
After awhile there was a break in the action. I just looked at the two Baja guys and shrugged. They busted a laugh.
“Dude…THAT’s the kind of questions you have to answer?” guffawed one of them.
“All day and every day, my friends, “ I sighed with a shrug and grin of resignation.
“Back in the day, all you needed was beer, gas and be pointed towards the ocean to fish! And if you had two-out-of-three, you were grateful!” With that they high-fived me, laughed and moved down the aisle.
Yes, that’s the kind of questions we answer…all the time!
But, it got me thinking about my predecessors here at Western Outdoor News who wrote this column before me. Going back decades.
Ray Cannon. Fred Hoctor. Gene Kira. And can’t forget Tom Miller either. If you don’t know them, Google their names. Lots of Baja history there.
Grizzly, crusty, brilliant award-winning writers and authors. And all of them amazing storytellers and wordsmiths.
They didn’t just write about Baja. Heck, these guys put Baja on the map. Before there were “Baja Rats,” there were guys like these who frontiered the whole idea of undiscovered beaches; acres of breaking fish; incredible landscapes and wonderful people.
They didn’t just go rumbling down some Mexican road. These guys ran around Baja when there were only burro trails and they hewed their own paths out of the unforgiving Baja rock, sand and sun.
No ice. No gas stations. Minimal water. No such thing as air-conditioning.
Busted axles, blown radiators and punctured tires gave their lives in the course of seeing one more undiscovered cove…one more stretch of fish-filled water…the view over the next rise…and yes, even a virgin palapa-roofed cantina or two. They fired our imaginations with their literary articulation.
Some of their books and stories are still used as Baja Bible’s by the rest of us who followed.
I’ve been fortunate to have had a leg on each side of the transition. I saw the remants of the old Baja. And, I’m obviously part of the new Baja as well.
And, I wonder what those guys would have thought and what they would have written about.
How would those guys have handled subjects like deep tissue aromatherapy massages…booze cruises…swimming with dolphins…day care for tourist kids…sushi bars…internet cafes and time-share sales offices.
I never got to meet Ray or Tom. In my rookie years of outdoor writing, before he passed away, Fred Hoctor would call me and comment about something I wrote. He was what you might call an “old cuss.”
The phone call would usually start with, “Hey dumbass. I read your column…” Not even a hello. But, I always knew it was him. Good to hear from ya, Fred…
I like to think that all these great guys would spit, smirk, chuckle and toss a few invectives around hearing and seeing how much Baja has changed. They’d probably have a thing or two to say about my writing as well.
But, I hope I could still get a high-five from them. They left big footprints in the sand. Even if that beach now has condos on it.