Tuesday, June 2, 1998
SAN JOSE DEL CABO, MX, POSTED JUNE 2, 1998--The sun was a large, eerie, red orb, a couple degrees risen from the horizon, when the first dorado struck. It was exceptionally large and powerful, and put on a fine show of acrobatics as Paco strained to tame it. As the fluorescent fish appeared boatside, the captain began to flail his wooden club, striking the fish haphazardly on its head, nose, back, wherever it was afforded. My eyes widened at the futility of the endeavor. After several minutes the captain had successfully knocked the lure loose from the dorado and it slipped back down into the deep blue waters of the Sea of Cortez from whence it came. Captain Felipe had forgotten the gaff. We returned to shore to find one.
That is how the day started. After four years I had finally succumbed to the temptation of hiring a local panga for a day of serious fishing. For four years I had witnessed incompetent tourists return to shore with a panga full of tuna, dorado, sierra, and the occasional wahoo or marlin. Every year I have shared the water with goofy-looking sunburned gringos, in their white shorts, collared T-shirts, baseball-type hats, as they stood around waiting for something to happen, being ferried about in 22-foot, blue and white fiberglass pangas. For four years, Roberto, or Bobby as he is known locally, has been trying to get me to rent one of his pangas; telling me, "You will catch fish." Lately, left to my own devices, I had not been catching many fish. My time in San Jose del Cabo was waning. I had one week left. I wanted one last blast of hot fishing. I wanted a wahoo. I wanted a boat full of tuna. Bobby tempted me with a good price and I bit. Paco agreed to split the cost. Paco was looking for a marlin.
Now with a rusted gaff onboard, we returned to the briny. Twenty minutes out my reel began to sing. I grabbed it and began to crank. Another large dorado skied. The line continued to burn off my reel unimpeded. Captain Felipe, convinced of my false bravado, grabbed the rod from me and began to reel in a now-empty line. In slang Spanish I was severely chastised. I knew what I saw: a reel that refused to operate correctly. I regrabbed the pole and demonstrated how the reel had malfunctioned. "Chingas," he said repeatedly. I further demonstrated, by disassembling the reel, that the reel had a crank arm transplanted from an entirely different reel, a bigger reel; the spindle was too small for the hole in the crank arm. The crank simply spun. It was impossible that the reel had ever even remotely worked. Two dorados lost.
Four days previous I had made arrangements with Bobby. He had four days to secure live bait for our outing. We departed sans live bait. After the dorado debacles we spent the next hour speeding to Cabo San Lucas to buy five live baits at two dollars each, and another hour speeding back to where we started. Two hours of prime-time fishing wasted. A tank of gas.
We fished the same area Paco and I always fish. We were promised a trip into marlin waters, where my little 14-foot aluminum boat was afraid to travel. But we now had neither gas nor time. Paco’s and my displeasure was disrupted briefly when we both hooked dorados, a double, a gas in any circumstance. The rest of the morning was spent daydreaming as the panga bobbed along in the calm waters, and we drank cold Pacificos from big ballena bottles.
When we arrived back at the beach, Bobby was in the midst of convincing an unlikely tourist to rent a panga. He whispered to us, "Talk it up what a great time you had." The gaunt, white tourist looked our way. "How many?" "Two nice dorados." "Only two?" "We had our chances." That was the best we could do. The tourist left a down payment.
We related our experience to Bobby. "Chinga…Puta madre…" He felt bad for us. The lost fish were the captain’s fault, but the absence of live bait was Bobby’s. He told us a fisherman had died the night before and that all the fishermen were at the funeral, including the bait men. He was good.
He then wanted a ride to his house, fifteen minutes away. Along the way he mentioned how good a couple cold cocos frios (cold coconut milk from the coconut) would taste. We stopped and bought a couple. Two for 25 pesos. (Go figure.) I dug in my pockets and found fifteen pesos. Bobby had no money. I told the coco frios guy that I’d be back later with his ten pesos. Bobby told me next year, he would do right by me. Next year. That’s along time for promises to remain intact in the mayhem of Bobby’s world.
Note: There will be no Zelda’s Diary this time. Zelda is in a bit of a funk. She does nothing all day except lie around. She hardly even wants to go for a ride. It seems she has become disillusioned with her periodic Internet dispatches. She asks herself, what’s the purpose? Who cares about what an eight-year old dog does with her private life? She rides around looking for cows. Big deal, she says. Who cares?! What makes her think any other dog finds her life remotely interesting? The fact that most dogs simply stay home, guard the house, go for leashed walks, bark at the mailman, eat bad food and get fat, does not seem to motivate her any longer.
The whole thing seems to have proven to her, that, while she thought she had a great idea in making available to the general dog populace accounts of her travels, she was never able to really get any dog to "show her the bones." She had these great aspirations of being able to travel Australia, using this Mexican adventure as a springboard, but, unless something unexpected happens, this might be her last Travels With Zelda operation. And, frankly, it has her depressed. Maybe it’s the heat, but I doubt it. At this point, all she wants to do is head north, back home, and chase squirrels. Totally understandable.
In any case, she thanks all the dogs that followed her travels and adventures. She also regrets and apologizes for not being able to answer all the email that she received. (While most dogs have access to the computer all day when the humans are out, Zelda does not get nearly enough time with the laptop. Besides, she is a terrible typist and it takes her forever to write anything. True, her nails could be trimmed, but mostly it’s her paws that are the problem. Even with a spell check she is hopeless.) She only hopes that in some small way she was able to bring a little entertainment to the dog masses and especially to her dog friends.
I went out and played 17 the other day. At Cabo Real, host of last year’s PGA Senior Slam tournament. $165/round. I had played the front nine two years ago, when my friend, Alex, was the assistant pro. After a year hiatus, Alex was back. He again was kind enough to offer me a game.
Now, I’m not much of a golfer. Used to golf, when I was a dentist…of course. These days, when I get an afternoon free, I’d rather fish. But playing golf at Cabo Real is not just another round of golf. It’s like being in a park. In a sea of brown desert and stark mountains the sudden greens, purples, pinks, and yellows surround the course make it an oasis. Cabo Real is simply a beautiful tract of land. Its elegantly manicured fairways and exotic landscapes are mesmerizing. Alex secured for us a cart and for me a complete set of Lynx clubs. On the cart was a cooler of ice and spring water. We set off on the back nine.
The tee at 10 set the tone. An elevated tee, 500 yards, and the Sea of Cortez as a picturesque backdrop as any golfer could ever hope for. I immediately sliced my drive onto the fairway of 18. Alex drove his ball 200 plus yards, playing his natural fade perfectly. It was mid-afternoon. It was hot. There were a surprising number of golfers on the course.
The back nine is the easier of the nines. I lost three or four balls. But on a course with these kinds of green fees, one does not have to go far into the rough or search it thoroughly to find "lost" balls. I quickly found three or four balls. I birdied 15, the signature hole—158 yards, a par three (one of four) that skirts along the ocean—Cabo Real suites--each with a private swimming pool and complimentary telescope--to the right, waves breaking over an off-shore reef, and the smell of the sea. Most of the day, with no one breathing down our necks, I was able to play two balls. After the back nine we played one and two and ran into a bottleneck at three. We went back and played 13-18 again. This time around I bogeyed 15.
It might be possible, having regular access to Cabo Real, for golf to put a serious divot into my fishing time. Zooming around in carts, smacking balls around professionally groomed grounds, early mornings--dewless in the dry desert heat, the chance to feel the sweet ping of a perfectly hit drive, watching the ball fly over a cactus-filled arroyo, softly landing on a green oasis, and silently rolling to a stop. The green fees would, of course, have to be somehow dealt with.
All over the world, probably ever since Alexander the Great, visitors and tourists have misrepresented the land from which they hale. Cabo Real’s clubhouse clientele does nothing to correct the image of all Americans being rich. It’s like walking into Barneys. Alex related this account: "This morning I was working the counter of the clubhouse. A guy came in, not much older than me, (late-20’s.) He paid his green fee, bought a hundred-dollar pair of shoes, bought a glove for $20, nine sleeves of balls at $20 a sleeve, and rented a set of clubs and a cart. After playing five holes he returned to the clubhouse saying he didn’t feel like playing any more and asked me if I wanted the rest of the balls—seven sleeves. Man, that guy must be doing something right."
Otherwise, life at the old hotel, not much going on. I’m getting ready to head home, a month later than planned. I would love to dive Punta Pescadero one more time, but it ain’t gonna happen. I hope to get out one more time in Prez Ja, now that I know where the dorados hang. I’ve got some work to do before I leave, but I should be outta here early the 3rd. If everything goes as planned I will be accompanied by a passenger to help me drive the 23 hours of Mex1, the Baja Highway. Paco is having a housewarming party the 2nd, and a second driver should negate the late night.