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Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Thursday, December 20, 2018
Can’t have too much
Friday, February 01, 2019
When fishing isn’t so a-peel-ing

One Star
It was my first Christmas in Baja almost 25 years ago.

It wasn’t where I really wanted to be. At least, not at that time of the year. Not really at that particular point in my life either. But there I was.

Sitting on my beat-up plastic ice chest. In the dark. In the moonlight on a chilly desert evening that was doing it’s best to creep through my thin sweatshirt and grungy army surplus pants.

I was in Baja. Kind of in the middle of nowhere. At night just off a lonely stretch of road not far outside a small fishermen’s pueblo.

Pretty much outta gas, outta money and out’ve prospects. And almost outta batteries in my flashlight. Great. Just great.

When morning hit, all I knew was that I’d be headed down the road to somewhere that only tomorrow knew.

Obviously, I also knew that I wasn’t going to be coming home for Christmas. Because well… for the time being my mini-van was home. Right here. Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that I’d be in Mexico for Christmas.

Pulled off the shoulder on an empty highway.

My Christmas “dinner” that night was a sumptuous feast of canned chicken soup cooked on my single burner camp stove. Washed down with the last warm Coke I had sloshing in the melted ice water of my cooler.

And tonite, like many nights lately, I’d be hunkered in my old mini-van. Living large.

I unrolled my sleeping bag and shook it to make sure no critters had crawled in. The winter nights are cold, windy and clear in the desert.

Sleeping in the van stretched out among my gear wasn’t luxury. It was a necessity.

“Come to sunny Mexico!” say the brochures. “It’ll be fun!” they said. “It’ll be WARM!” they said. Someone screwed that up. Mostly me. Plans had gone catawompus… left of center.

This sure was a different Christmas.

No gifts. No family or friends. No Christmas parades or shopping. I would have been grateful for a cold turkey sandwich let alone a hot plate of mom’s roasted bird covered with gravy.

I used to bitch about hearing Christmas carols for weeks before Christmas. And the endless Christmas TV shows. And now it would be great to hear even one corny Rudolph song. One Frosty. One RUM-Pa-Pum-Pum little drummer boy.

Where are you Charlie Brown? I know how you felt when no one liked your little tree.

No cell phones back then. I couldn’t even call anyone to let them know where I was or how I was doing. Those were my “knucklehead days.” They weren’t talking to me much back then anyway.

I really didn’t need to hear, “I told you so…”

But still…

No gaudy Christmas lights. Nothing except a few lights coming from the hardscrabble little pueblo I had passed about a mile back down the road.

Just another typical dusty cluster of concrete block homes set in the saddle of some low hills. Mini-trucks that probably never had hubcaps and a rider-less kid’s bike left against a fence, probably when someone got called for dinner.

Just like me. Stuck in the middle of nowhere and not really going anywhere either. At least not this Christmas night.

Especially in the dark, a colorless Baja landscape except for the faded wind-scoured Coca Cola and Tecate signs someone painted a generation ago against a wall.

And some tired political graffiti about voting for somesuch guy who promised to change all this.

“I’m YOUR guy! Juntos por el Futuro!” (I’m YOUR guy! Together for the future!)

Right. Politicians and promises never change. No matter the country.

I had passed through the little place earlier, but decided it would be better to pull off the road outside of town. No sense causing a stir with a strange van parked on their road with an even stranger guy sleeping inside.

From my distance, there was surely no sense that it was Christmas. No colored lights. Surely no music or semblance of a holiday. Just me singing the blues in my own head.

No other lights except the stars on a clear dark cold night. The kind of stars you can see when there’s no other lights. And shooting stars too.

And one shooting slowly over that little town.

And a goofy thought.

About another town. Many, many years ago.

In the middle of nowhere. No lights. Maybe some non-descript block houses not unlike these.

Folks inside just going about their lives. Simple dinners over. Maybe going to sleep. Just another day. Snuff out the candle or lamp. Another night. Nothing changes.

Including the night sky. The same sky. The exact same stars.

Yeah. It’s the same night sky. Gotta be. Thousands of years. They don’t change.

Tried to wrap my tired brain around that one.

Maybe the only ones who took notice were some guys on the nightshift watching their animals. Guys like me, trying to fend off the cold.

Who looked up. Just like I was doing. Because there was really no place else to look.

The story says they saw something up there.

And maybe these same stars saw something as well. Down here. In a desert town. Middle of nowhere.

Somehow there was a promise that night. A hope? Maybe not graffiti’d on a wall. But something happened that night.

And these same stars were there. Back then.

And maybe some guys hanging on a windswept desert hill saw something up there too.

So say the stories.

Or maybe they were just tired and ate some cheap chicken soup.

That part wasn’t in the stories.

But it was getting colder and the wind was coming up. I climbed into my van and into my sleeping bag.

And, for some reason, Christmas wasn’t so bad or lonely anymore.


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