Amraah Bouganvilleas

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

I had not seen much of Jonathan for quite some time since I left the coastal regions of Washington State about 2001. Raven favors the desert uplands where she scavenges for carrion doing her kind of clean up eating also berries and seeds from the Joshua tree and pinyon pines. Family member, Jay inhabits the sierra forest where she dominates with her raucous call and bold ways.

But, Jonathan is a coastal bird soaring above the waves from dawn to dusk, congregating in flocks on the beaches also scavenging. There is a certain squat and plumpy waddling majesty to these winged ones padding with webbed feet on the sandbars at shore’s edge.

With grave attention to the speed limit in order to make the most of the efficiency of the engine, I rolled down #5 from the Pemex station to San Felipe in search of a bank or some way to turn my American cash into pesos. No dinero, no gas!

It was a quite a trip to nurse the gas tanks seeking to discover just what it would take to once again work off only the front tank and a driving range of about 120 miles. It seemed that the switch from front to rear under the dashboard was not working and even though I rode with the switch to the rear until it coughed in protest, I believe that I was rolling on the front tank all the way.

The Universe and I made it until I found a medical center just outside San Felipe where I knew somehow there were English speakers who would be able to direct me to the bank.

There is only one bank in San Felipe and when I parked on the narrow street and walked over to the bank, there were long lines of waiting people outside and many others congesting the lobby awaiting service. I put my name on the list for “personal service only” to discover a little later that it was necessary to have a Mexican address to open an account that would have facilitated me to use a card. However, the friendly gentleman directed me down the street to a currency exchange where a sweet and obviously knowledgeable woman gave me the pesos needed to buy gas along with some hint to the equivalency of pesos to dollars.

Then figure out how to calculate the price of gas in pesos at 14.76 per dollar and the amount of gas measured in liters rather than gallons. I settled for 14 liters (about 3 ½ gallons) for one of those 200 peso bills with some clattering change in my hand left over. Once more there was enough gas to at least explore the town.

I was perplexed that the ocean was to the east but it would take another day or so to finally get it that I had found my way down Baja and not on the road to mainland Mexico.

Nevertheless, I found myself touring the little town at a very slow speed until on a short trip up the wrong way of a one way stone paved street, as I turned into a slot to turn around i spied a large clear sign that read: free wifi. Just what I was seeking because I had been out of touch with the cyber world for about 2 ½ weeks as I was finally making it across the border out of the US.

I pulled out the waiting computer, assembled the wires and gadgets, pens and my notebook, the pouch finally filled with sufficient Mexican currency, and took myself inside the place to be greeted by a friendly young man, Rene, who waited tables. He showed me to a table by the windows, I ordered coffee, used the code he gave me and voila! I am on line ready to get up to date on all the thank you notes I needed to write.

After breakfast and a couple hours on the net, I left and took myself all about on the streets of the town. The area closest to the beach is rowed in small colorful mercado, stores selling the traditional hats, belts and wallets along with other touristy stuff. Rockadile, a volleyball club, sported cartoon crocodiles in various beachy games painted large along the street side. In the mix was the bank and other more formal businesses well dotted with hole-in-the-wall small stores hung with bright clothing, and other wares. I cruised through the town up one street and down the other looking at the assortment of vacant lots next to walled cement houses with small doors on the streets and somewhere garages in behind. Many of these places were two stories piled like children’s blocks one on top of the other with balconies above the walls with potted plants, palms and thorny Bougainvillea bright pink and red flowering bushes in profusion spilling over the wooden railings.

If we wish to compare the townscapes we are used to with these quite different places, our somewhat more orderly sense might be assaulted by the torrent of strangely built houses, the multi-story hotel structures, the brick painted gates, the iron work on the windows and a chaos of dusty roads without curbs or real pavement.

But to do so would be to miss the flavor and the passion of these wonderful city streets. Sure, there is plenty of dirt, dust and piles of trash, people doggedly walk about in well worn clothing, when people smile their Spanish greetings, their teeth are often blacked and pocked but their hearts are open and blazing. They attend to their ordinary work with a simple, humble stance and when I greet them with my halting ‘muy poquito Espanole” and a smile, they brighten and return their rapid Spanish greetings to me.

It all works because the human spirit is within waiting for the connections. I am warmed and I feel acknowledged and quite safe.

That first night in town I drove a little up the highway north until I spotted a sign leaning over the bank that said, “Food for birds.” I drove down the next open space and asked the man there, a gardener with a thriving nursery business, if I might park outside his gate to sleep. His smile said yes. I knew I was in the right place as there were flitting and diving birds everywhere. So the old lady bunked out before his iron fence dreaming through the night.