As I See It: Thriving Away Again in Margaritaville
May 17, 2010 Victor Rozek
My wife doesn’t do well without coffee. So as we’re standing in the airport security line at 6 a.m., caffeine deprived and bleary-eyed, she is not a carefree camper. When she spots a woman with a fresh cup, she pounces on her like a hockey goalie on a slow puck, and demands to know, “Where did you get that?” The woman says there is a vendor right next to the security gate. I must have been slow to react. With the impatience of Nixon shoving Zigler, she dispatches me to fetch coffee.
“Mocha grande with four extra shots,” she instructs. Four extra shots? I make my way to the coffee vendor, order a simple cup for myself and the high octane contraption for my wife. Then I get the bill. “Hold on,” I say, “I’ll have to get a co-signer.”
We’re on our way to Loreto, Mexico, once a sleepy fishing village on the western side of the Sea of Cortez, but now invaded by hordes of pale-skinned outlanders vigorously competing for that coveted melanoma diagnosis. We inch our way toward the security gate and when we finally get there the guard tells us that coffee presents a grave security threat and cannot be taken beyond this point. “But you must have seen me buy it,” I protest, “the stand is right next to you.”
My lamentations cannot penetrate his granite heart, and now we have a dilemma. I’ve got a significant investment in coffee here, and I’m not about to toss it in the garbage. Besides, the guard is only 6’2″ and 220 pounds; there’s no way he’s getting the coffee away from my wife. We are banished from the line. “Do we have to go back to the end of the line after we finish our coffee?” I ask. “Yeah,” says the guard. “But don’t worry, this line will be gone in an hour.”
“Great,” I say, “so will our plane.”
Well, actually, no. The plane is late. Now the wife is jacked up with four shots of coffee–make that four extra shots–and nothing to do. She settles for digging through her carry on. “Damn,” she says, “I broke my sunglasses.” Not surprising. My wife’s packing strategy is to exert maximum downward pressure on the stuff already in the bag in order to get more stuff in. Cheap plastic stands no chance. I have a sudden foreboding. She packed my sunglasses, too. When I find them they are also cracked. Great. We’ll be squinting into the earthly equivalent of a solar flare.
The flying torture chamber that passes for a commercial airliner finally lands and we board, heading for Los Angeles then on to Mexico. In its cost-cutting frenzy, the airline has jettisoned two non-essentials: comfort and sanitation. The seats don’t recline and the restroom has no sink. Ah, progress. But they’ve found a way to assuage the discomfort: free booze. Beer and wine are distributed, and a refill is encouraged. Hey, who needs sinks? A stewardess with remarkable mahogany skin, assisted by a pale steward, inch the beverage cart forward. Absurdly, I think of McCartney:
Ebony and Ivory
A little buzz helps with what happens next. This very day the Mexican government (which like God works in mysterious ways) decides to use new visitor/immigration forms. Ordinarily not a problem, except these are entirely in Spanish. I glance at mine briefly and not finding the word “cerveza” anywhere I am stumped. Ah, but here comes the beverage cart again. The stewardess translates but threatens to withhold further beer until we finish filling out our cards. We follow along dutifully.
Maintaining your alcohol level is becoming essential when traveling by air. Half tanked, we deplane in Mexico and are herded to immigration where a bored agent asks: “What is your final destination?” “Loreto,” I say. “What part?” he asks. “Is there more than one?” I reply. Turns out there is, and I’ve been in Mexico less than 10 minutes before insulting someone.
Loreto is nothing if not hot, dry, and dusty. They’ve had periods of drought lasting up to eight years. Rattlesnakes seem to like it, and a few other hardy species like goats and mules that can thrive on spiny vegetation with the nutritional value of shoe leather. But a tough, determined people settled here and thrived–without sunglasses. Most turned to the Sea of Cortez for sustenance. Nursery to a variety of whales and a vast array of sea creatures including dolphins, jacks, tunas, marlins, turtles, sea lions, and docile 50-foot whale sharks, the sea provides food, livelihood, and the opportunity to cool off.
If the ocean sustains aquatic life, infrequent rains allow humans to dwell here. Loreto is flanked by mountains, and when the occasional hurricane or tropical storm drops 20 inches of rain in 48 hours, the water table replenishes, toads appear by the thousands, and arroyos run full and angry. In the canyons, there are places where streams trickle above ground forming oases of palms that shelter birds and thirsty wildlife. Surprising that a place that looks lifeless from the air supports everything from hummingbirds to humpbacks.
Five miles down the road is a vast development toward which we are heading. The Resort at Loreto Bay was a great idea gone terribly wrong. Admired by city planners, environmental advocates, and travel writers, the resort aspired to become a “sustainable community.” It featured brightly colored faux-adobe homes, adorned with palm trees and bougainvillaea, complete with kayaking lagoons and the mandatory golf course (an arrogant extravagance in the desert). But they promised more than they could deliver. Many buildings stand partially completed and streets are in disrepair. Lots of the trees have died, but litigation promises to live on.
Friends of ours wisely purchased a lot adjacent to the golf course that was not officially part of the development, and built a truly wonderful home. They also acquired a small boat that, the following morning, we take to an island some 11 miles offshore. On the way, we encounter a pod of several hundred dolphins arcing out of the water, pacing a 90 horsepower Mercury engine with ease. The island has white sand beaches and azure waters whose temperature is 8 degrees higher than the ambient temperature back home. Octopus, angels, trumpet fish, and sergeant majors cruise these waters. The beer and the watermelon in the cooler are cold, the salsa is hot. Sensory overload.
Our friends also have a kitten that they found abandoned on a city street, mewing up a storm. Barely two weeks old, it fits in the palm of my hand and we take turns feeding, cleaning, and comforting it. It loves to nuzzle under my chin and has the habit of extending a tiny paw, planting its claws firmly in my lower lip, and doing kitty chin-ups. It also has the habit of peeing on me regularly. My wife and my friends think this is funny.
The week passes all too quickly and once again a bored civil servant is inspecting our bags. Apparently we pose no serious threat to the Republic and are allowed to return home. “Welcome home, Mr. Rozek, the nation missed you.” Nah, nobody said that, but I wish they had.
So, if you’ve read this far, you may be wondering why in the world I wrote this for an IT site. The reason was articulated in an article posted on CBN.com and is precisely this: “According to a 2005 survey, most Americans–including children–spend at least nine hours a day watching TV, surfing the Web, or talking on their cell phones. Of those hours, one-third of the time is spent using two or more of those media at once.”
We urgently need a break. Our technology cup is full. We drink from it daily, and it both nourishes and exhausts us.
As austerely beautiful as our surroundings were in Loreto; as grand as the weather was, and as gracious as our friends have been, one of the things my wife and I enjoyed most about our vacation is that it was a sabbatical from technology. A week of being off duty. A week of being unreachable. A week during which life was not dominated by screens and keyboards. No computers, no Internet, no cell phones, no emails, no messages, no BlackBerry, no iPod, no TV. Just time to rediscover who we were and how we were without the siren call of technology.
If just the thought of being away from technology gives you the shakes, take that as a sign that you’re long overdue for a technology-free getaway. Just don’t try to sneak coffee past security, and keep your sunglasses with you at all times.