Paving the road to nowhere, one word at a time.

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Location: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

American born, living in Mexico since 1992.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hurricane El

When the heat finally stays, with no air at all but just a hot nothing that resembles breath as though millions of blown-up balloons have been undone all at once and you are seemingly forced to inhale the staleness of it, you often reach the conclusion that Baja is broken. It happens in August or September, every year, when the breeze refuses to break the heat, and it can last a week. You wonder if maybe there is a meteorological wrench of some type in a weatherman’s toolbox, that somehow someone forgot to tighten a bolt here or there. You stand at the door and stare out at Baja and the sense of helplessness sinks in.

The sky, once blue or maybe cloudy, is a gray and brown on cyan as watercolors poorly mixed and muddied. A man pushes an ice cream cart, bell ringing with every bump, and he is quick and the cart is light or maybe even dry. Dogs don’t bark and children don’t play, people aren’t walking and even cars are only occasional. No one can change it. We wait and we pace and wonder about it. We wonder why it is so hot we can’t even sweat.

Then the sun finally sets, but the heat stays inside of these cinderblock walls. People begin to wander outside. The dogs awaken and frolic, but it is still hot. The relief is perceived, not real. Tomorrow will be the same, and so will the day after that. At least the Santa Ana winds bring movement, but this still and dry purgatory – however temporary – brings more of the same. And then things happen, unexplained, as though the good weather had to settle down for anything else extraordinary.

* * * *

It comes from nowhere - from a history I barely remember and passed through a time in my life that took far too long to finally forget, my past and the journey from there to here, like the cosmos, is filled with black holes and supernovas and everything in-between. I killed many brain cells along the way, spent many drunken nights erasing my first marriage from memory and other memories took some friendly fire from those battles with the demons inside. I have been at peace for quite some time now. I have tried not to look too far back because it is a lot like looking into the sun.

"You need to get a facebook," El wrote.

I don’t know how El found me. I woke up the other morning and checked my email and there she was. In High School she was a saucy little tease with a big chest and deep brown eyes. She was fun. I remember her at my house one afternoon, I think it was my birthday. We were going to have a party, perhaps. I was seventeen. My father threw a bible at her. It missed. The details aren’t there, apparently hit by flak several years ago. I think it had something to do with her inability to make onion dip, but I can’t be sure.

"El," I wrote back, "I won’t be getting a facebook any time soon. It’s nice that you found me, but there are others that I would just as soon not hear from. Yes, you may pass along my email address to Doug and Jeff, but no one else. Not Freddy, I would rather not discuss why I prefer no contact with him. Thank you in advance for respecting my privacy."

She wrote back again, something about people caring about me. I laughed. After thirty years or so, I question it. I think that people are curious about me. I would be curious about someone like me. I generally wish people well, but after thirty years it’s difficult to wrap one’s head around caring. It would lead me to wonder that where, twenty or twenty-five years ago, someone was at if they cared. And, that simply isn’t fair to anyone.

* * * *

There are dominoes being slapped around on the kitchen table at the moment, apparently the Wii isn’t so interesting anymore. Guitar Hero can only be so entertaining. Besides, Anna ruined it for me when she invented the perfect band name: Facebook Jesus. I resigned. I’ll never do better than that.

Guitar Hero is a game where you use plastic instruments wired (or, rather, wirelessly wired) to the game console and you play along with the songs. Juan had to have it, he bought it within a week of being here. Anna took to the drums and Juan likes the guitar while I played the bass. Facebook Jesus cleared the board. Now the drum set and the plastic guitars and microphone (oh, yes, there’s even a microphone) clutter the living room and gather dust.

Now they are playing dominoes which costs hundreds of dollars less (we’re talking peanuts versus caviar) and, apparently, has the same appeal. I spend my spare change on books and computer equipment and alcohol and cigarettes. I reckon there are dangers in all such expenditures. I haven’t played dominoes in a long time. I played with my grandmother when she was alive. I would give anything to spend the afternoon playing dominoes with my grandmother again.

* * * *

El sent me her facebook link and gave me her password and invited me to log in so I could see everyone. She’s such a trusting soul. Lucky for El, I’m trustworthy. I logged in to her account. Apparently my high school friends have all found Jesus. I mentioned this to Anna and she laughed. And, obviously, became instantly inspired. I exchanged emails with Doug, who is apparently awaiting a liver transplant. He found his faith again. That, and Alcoholics Anonymous. Good for him. I hope he finds a liver soon.

And Jeff. Jeff was the last person I would have guessed would have found religion to be something he needed or wanted. But he did. And he has it, some sort of faith. So do I. I believe in good scotch. So far as God goes, I have no idea what She’s up to, but I wish Her good luck. I’m certain She’ll let me know if She needs my help.

Apparently, even Freddy found Jesus. Freddy broke one of only a handful of rules that you don’t break in a friendship. But it was a doozy. I won’t mention it. I wish him the best of luck in spite of the fact I really don’t want to communicate with him. As I say, I’ve spent years beating my own memories out of my head, I don’t want some of them anymore.

And now, Todd. Todd and me went to school together, played on the same Little League team together, and then I get an email from him. He married his high school sweetheart, and they are still married. He took over his father’s business, making machines that package things. It’s funny to think that I could work at his factory. I bet he makes machines that apply closures to bottles, among other types of machines. I never mentioned that I would possibly know that. I only brought up that I have a bracelet that was his as a child and that I can’t even remember how I wound up with it.

An aside: Such a small wrist!

I’ll mail it to him, next time I go over to the United States of America. My last memory of Todd was his attempt to cram a 351 Cleveland engine into a Ford Maverick in high school. It didn’t fit. He made it fit. Sometimes we make things fit.

* * * *

There is a hurricane in the Pacific making its way slowly up toward Baja, and I am willing it to arrive faster. They have named the hurricane Jimena, because all storms must be named and personalized, because history demands some sort of a personal attachment to such events. I think of Jimena in two respects; both as what could be relief (deadly, perhaps, but relief none-the-less) and remembrance (storms blow in as does our past, over and over again). Jimena defines my life, right here and right now, and this heat stops her influence at the moment.

The dominoes have stopped, the sound of ivory-like tiles are no longer slapped onto the kitchen table. Everyone has gone for some midnight tacos. I want a hurricane, and I want it now. This can never be said enough: Sometimes we make things fit. This is what happens.


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