Cabo '98

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Hanging out at the Iguana.
Peter Kohlsaat
Thursday, January 29, 1998

SAN JOSE DEL CABO, MEXICO (SUPER BOWL SUNDAY) -- Given the chaos that surrounds a full hotel, as has been Hotel Posada Señor Mañana lately, it is understandable that Zelda would prefer a nice quiet bar in which to watch the Super Bowl. We ambled down the street to the Iguana. At the Iguana’s horseshoe-shaped bar sat a half-dozen grizzled gringos, nursing Pacificos, watching the TV elevated at the bar’s open end. It was dark and cool. Inflated plastic Bud frogs holding yellow Bud bottles hung from the ceiling. Chairs and tables were positioned around a monolithic big-screen TV that was holding court on the dining floor below. There was no one paying homage. There were two other televisions bidding for the attention of the rest of the Iguana’s clientele. All total, maybe twenty people were watching the Super Bowl at the Iguana, which suited the dog just fine.

We found a table to ourselves with a couple tall stools. I ordered a Pacifico and settled back to watch the hype. The dog surveyed the room. There was a black and white beagle-like dog sitting on the floor near the bar with a collar on. She was leashed to one of the stools. She was quiet and humbled. A couple minutes later the resident bar dog cruised in. He was a handsome, older white lab whose retained youthful bounce was still much in evidence. Scars around his nose and head indicated a life lived with zest. He saw Zelda and let out a couple serious deep-throated bays. Zelda reacted with proper impunity and the white lab saunter out, his familiarity with the bar preventing him from lifting his leg before leaving.

In order to get another perspective of Super Bowl Sunday in Mexico, I suggested we go across the street to the Tropicana. Zelda would have none of it. It was not a dog’s kind of place; much too upscale, and on this day of celebration, much too crowded. She assured me she would be fine at the Iguana. I drained my sweating Pacifico and crossed the street.

The dog was right. The Tropicana was packed. Green and yellow was everywhere. The predominately West Coast crowd was rooting vibrantly for Denver. The Green Bay fans coolly and proudly stood their ground. Behind the bar, the normally placid Alejandro was playing to the mob scene. With no knowledge at all of American football he reacted with heightened animation at obvious big plays, raising his arms over his head or slapping his forehead with mock disgust. His yellow cheese-head hat, much to small for his giant head, left no doubt as to where his allegiance lay. Four-dollar vodka drinks and six-dollar margaritas inflated his glee. I bellied up to the bar between a GB couple, in full regalia, and an overweight generic football fan wearing a sweatshirt and short shorts. Both were drinking 15-peso draught Tecates. A louder-than-average American was taunting some GB fans at a table behind him-- putting his finger dramatically up his nose. He was heard to tell no one in particular that he had $300 on the game—Denver and some points.

The Tropicana had four large televisions, high up in each corner of the restaurant. The place was SRO. Waiters and waitresses scurried through the tangled mass, trays of food held high, gyroscopically maintained. The loud American at the end of the bar was joking with Alejandro. Alejandro was laughing with great mirth. Alejandro had no idea what this guy was talking
Alejandro Alejandro
about--he speaks only the most rudimentary English. I wandered down to the loud American. Assured of his big payday, he was now haughtily smoking a Cuban cigar purchased from behind the bar. He said he was having such a good time he might stay another month. He was especially enjoying the golf. He had just played Palmilla, (where last year’s Senior Slam was played.) $145 green fee. He ranked it number three among the world’s finest courses. I asked him how he played and he indignantly asked me if I didn’t want to hear the other courses he had played. I told him I was here to fish. He told me he was a fisherman; from Seattle. Fished steelhead. I told him I fish steelhead in Minnesota. He told me there weren’t any steelhead in Minnesota. He told me he was going to Russia to fish salmon. He was blowing smoke everywhere. He wanted to rent my shore-casting fishing pole, offering me $25 with a $100 deposit. I told him a fishing pole is a pretty personal thing. He was offended. He turned to the table behind us and put his finger up his nose and moved it around. He offered to buy me a Cuban cigar. I told him I had to go, my dog was across the street at the Iguana and I’d already been gone too long.
Inside the Iguana it had grown darker, sunlight no longer streamed in from the street. Televisions glowed from
Here's the Bud Girl! Here's the Bud Girl!
selected locations. The dog was where I left her, in her stool at the corner table beneath one of the TV’s. She greeted me with her waging tail. At the next table a gingo, looked over and grinned. "The Bud Girls were here. They loved your dog. They were feeding her popcorn and making a big fuss over her," he said.

The Bud Girls were curvaceous, raven-haired, employees of the local Budweiser distributor, hired for special occasions to promote Bud and its Mexican sister, Corona. Each Bud Girl has somehow squeezed herself into a white lycra "dress" the size of a sweat sock, that sports the red, white, and black Budweiser trademark. Last year, the Iguana was bursting at the seams with raucous gringos who came out of the woodwork to watch the big game. The Bud Girls were there. They had their hands full. Tonight they seemingly had only Zelda to attend to.

I looked at Zelda with narrowed eyes. She sat in her stool, at the table, gently panting, looking nowhere in particular. She was smiling. I can always tell.

Zelda’s diary

Whoa…finally starting to relax. This place! Humans everywhere! Strange humans. I didn’t like it. I liked the beach. All that room. For the first couple days at this new place all I did is follow Peter around. Right behind him. Wherever he went. All these humans comin’ up to me. Comin’ at me. The first night some human put her face right up to mine. I bit her. Right on the nose. Sorry, but I didn’t like it. Didn’t like all these people. At night. Makin’ noise. Sneakin’ up on me.

But now it’s better. Don’t mind all these humans. In fact, love ‘em. They feed me. I just gotta give ‘em the subtle beggin’ act. You know…"Here I am. Right here. Just hangin’ out. Lyin’ over here out of the way. Just in case, like you have any extra food, or anything. Here I am." Big brown eyes. Make ‘em look sad. Big sad brown eyes. Works every time.

And they got cats here. First couple days, I chased ‘em whenever I saw ‘em. Loved to see them shoot up the nearest tree. Had to show ‘em who was boss.

Now, you know I kinda like cats. Ain’t bad. Don’t do nothin’ ‘cept sleep and sneak around. So, now I ignore ‘em. Every now and then gotta make a little run at ‘em, but for the most part they just don’t matter.

The other day Peter and I drove in the car and went to a place I remember from before. Long trail down to the water. Just followed it like always. Peter likes to have me out front, to scout. At the bottom I have this rock I always crawl under to get out of the sun. Peter always goes out to the water and disappears. Don’t know where he goes to. Can’t see him or smell him. Then some time later he just pops back out of the water. Where does he go?! It’s all pretty strange. Water is pretty strange.

Peter's diary

Hotel living. Clean towels. Clean sheets…People everywhere. Weird people. Loud people. People stealing your beer out of the refrigerator. All the burners on the stove being utilized at once. The same tired conversations wafting through the night air: where they ate, how much it cost, where they went and how they got there, shopping tips, cute little boutiques discovered, they took the bus here, talked to a local there, got a good deal, got a bad deal.

But I have my little room, set away from the main chaos. And I can be as standoff-ish as I need be to discourage discourse. I go about my business, slip in and out of the hotel, see my friends, do what I do with as few people nosing around as possible. Life is good. I’m getting tan.

In the winter, the water around the Los Cabos area is chilly. Not cold, mind you, but after a couple hours in the water the heat will have been sufficiently sucked from your body. It is also the best time to dive-- free-dive, that is. Without tanks.

The winter winds are usually from the north and once you get around the corner, somewhere between Los Frailes and Punta Gorda on the Sea of Cortez, the wind is not usually an issue. More important, the swells are not coming in from the Pacific yet, which can be brutal. So the time to dive is now. I’ve been four times and each time I have been able to bring fish to the table. Groupers mostly. I did, however, spear a very nice pompano the other day. It all helps.

Things have gotten expensive here in San Jose. In just a year, the price of beer at the bar has gone up 50%. The price of a six-pack went from 30 pesos to 39 pesos. Shrimp at the fish market has gone from 60 pesos per kilo to 125 pesos per kilo. Of course the value of the peso has slipped from 7.2 pesos/US dollar to 8 pesos/US dollar. If things are expensive for the tourists, the local residents must be suffering to a much greater extent.

And maybe it’s just my imagination, but I think everyone is crankier. The cars are driving faster and the traffic is more unforgiving. There are a couple new traffic lights in town, which only complicates traffic behavior--red lights now meaning proceed with caution, (or is that what the green lights mean?)

The clock in the tower of the police station still faithfully rings on the quarter hour telling the insomniac how long they’ve been awake. The hands, however, never change from 10:35. There are some new shops, some new restaurants, new banks. The building boom continues. It won’t be long before the 25-mile corridor between San Jose and Cabo San Lucas will be solid with hotels and condominiums.

Despite at the above I am glad to be here. Most of my friends are still here. Jay and Marj are here at the hotel, Howie and Norma are still playing there music about town, Enrique is still an accountant and living with his son, Enrique, at the same house as last year. Jimi is gone, where to no one knows; rumors are circulating of "problemas." Julien is still full of bluster and big ideas-- a waiter/kayak instructor/tour guide/jewelry maker/full-time lady’s man. Marco still runs the fish market and cuts me a deal every now and then. The people running the taco stands near the hotel still remember my face. Berta, at the bakery still remembers what I order every morning for my morning sweet roll.

It’s nice to be back. And it’s just as hard as it ever was to talk myself to stay in and do the work that has to be done. Some things never change.

The website of cartoonist Peter Kohlsaat
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