Natividade Part 1

Different shades of blue. Of course, they were. Every soldier at the airport had a uniform that was a slightly different shade of Royal Blue. Jerry guessed it depended on who was doing their laundry and how much bleach they used. Of course each of the “Federales” carried matching automatic weapons.  He wondered if they had the correct ammunition or if the guns were for show only.  Ahh, Mexico! He loved it! Always just slightly askew like the light switches in the hotels or the strange unfinished structures that lined the coastal highway. Jerry had never been to the airport in Ensenada. In fact he never even knew there was one. Not that he knew much about the fishing town other than they had a large tuna fleet anchored at the embarcadero and of course there was Hussong’s Cantina. Hussong’s, was the favored Ensenda watering hole for dirt-bikers, weekend Gringo partiers , turistas, hookers and escaping California surfers like himself. At 21, tall, lean and tan with shaggy sun-kissed brown hair he fit the patron profile well. Hussong’s was a rustic bar at the edge of town, It had been a mandatory destination in this part of Baja for decades. Jerry had been coming down here since he was 15 to surf and drink. Most of his first drinking experiences had been here or at a few dozen other bars, strip-clubs, restaurants and hotels along the coast or in TJ.  He’d become familiar with many in the last 6 years having made frequent trips with his friends and brothers. The Mexican bar owners were happy to let anyone in who could purchase a drink. Since the cost was significantly less than  back in California many groups of young travelers both male and female could be encountered doing the same. A memorable night had been spent with a young woman at the Grande Rosarito Beach Hotel where the best suite overlooking the Ocean had cost just $40.

Jerry remembered his first drink in Baja at the age of 15 when he went into a steak house after surfing with his older brother Kelly. Kelly was only a year and a half older but was significantly more worldly. Jerry was the “good” boy, over-achiever at school and sports and 3″ taller than Kelly. Kelly was the rebel and habitual truant. Equally tanned, more muscular with curly blonde ringlets and gray-blue eyes, women loved his bad boy ways. Kelly rarely bothered with school and had spent many of those delinquent days exploring Northern Baja with his equally feral friends. Jerry, the rule follower and straight A student had only begun getting high a few months after their mother had died. He saw no more reason to over-achieve since the person he had been trying to impress was gone. Jerry had been surprised when Kelly ordered beer for them all including their younger brother Brendan who was only 14 but already as big as both older boys. Brendan followed a similar lifestyle to Kelly but was not as regularly absent. He was known as a quiet but dangerous fighter and highly regarded in any size surf. The Mexican waiter hadn’t batted an eye but returned promptly with a cold beer for each of them at the table. The steaks had been tough and chewy but the beers were strong and cold so they’d had a few rounds and walked out with a good buzz. Afterwards Kelly led them back into his VW bug. They jumped in and zoomed off down the rough winding coastal road to the next adventure with Black Sabbath blasting and a freshly lit joint. That had been 6 years before.

This time there were 8 of them. Jerry, his brother Kelly and 6 others. It was their good friend Mike’s 28th birthday and he had gathered some of his favorite misfits for this “all inclusive” surf trip to Isla Natividade. $300 each for a week on the very small island about 20 miles off the coast of Guerrero Negro. The price was right and they just needed to bring boards, wetsuits, alcohol and anything else they required besides the 2 meals the local fisherman would be providing daily. According to Mike they would be flying to Natividade on an old DC-3 military transport plane from the airport here in Ensenada. The radial-engine Douglas airplanes had been flying cargo all over the world since World War II and were the mostly highly produced aircraft ever. Still, that hadn’t made these things for more than 30 years and it was Mexico after all.

Mike was originally from New England and although he’d been in San Diego for the last 14 years he still carried the attitude and confrontational ways of his original coast. Mike was shorter than the two brothers but made up for it with impressive strength and considerable wrestling skills. He rarely backed away from a fight and would frequently get into heated debates over trivial philosophical issues. His long straight hair often gained women’s attention and his lack of discrimination made him perhaps the most frequently bedded member of the group. Mike waved and grinned conspiratorially at the Federale in the slightly lighter blue uniform as they drove through the gate. The guard never cracked a smile himself but stood at attention grim faced holding his automatic weapon out in front of him. Maybe it was Mike’s long blonde streaked hair or the surfboards strapped to the roof of the dilapidated 1970 Fleetwood that rubbed him wrong or maybe he just hated all Gringos. Jerry surmised it was more likely the latter. Mike navigated the big car onto the Tarmac. Another Federale a little ways down along the edge of the pavement waved them into a parking spot near some other vehicles. Mike nodded acknowledgement as he pulled in. Once again the soldier only glowered back and returned back to his place by the gate. “There it is” Mike chuckled seeing the large DC-3 tail dragger parked 20 yards away. “That’s our ride!” The other 3 passengers leaned forward to see an olive drab twin-engine plane surrounded by a half dozen Mexicans in overalls. “Woo-hoo!” said Blake who along with Kelly and Jerry had driven with Mike in the Cadillac. Blake had been a cook at the Mexican restaurant along with Mike when Jerry first began working there at 16. Kelly and Brendan were already there as busboys. Blake was 25 now and a waiter. He had arrived in L Jolla from South Florida, crossing the country to cook at another restaurant with his good friend Dave Shiplet who had made the crossing before him. He had gone to the Ringling School of Art back in Sarasota and had acquired a slightly more cultivated taste in music and Art than the straight metal popular in La Jolla at the time. Music from The Clash, Talking Heads, English Beat, Sid Vicious and others blasted behind the line during his restaurant shifts providing something of a music appreciation lesson for the more provincial employees. His short roundish stature, tousled brown hair, sharp wit and perpetual grin gave him an impish charm. “Do sum Blow!” He chortled as all 4 stepped out of the Caddy.

The other car in the convoy that had made the hour and a half drive from La Jolla pulled up next to them. Ken Sproul was driving the Gold and white Centurion. He looked over with his elbow resting on the window sill as Blake handed him a freshly opened Pacifico beer. “Neuman had to puke just as we were crossing the border.” Ken said with a wry grin. Kenny was the tallest member of the group at 6’5″. Tall and lanky with curly brown hair he could have almost been another one of Jerry’s brothers. The same Anglo-Irish look but more heavily boned, he was a 10 year undergrad at UCSD. Apparently he had not quite been able to settle on any particular specialty. At 10 years undergrad  he was some sort of unofficial record holder there. It probably didn’t hurt that his father was a tenured professor. He and Mike had gone to high school together and then college. He was generally quiet and intellectual, but was always up for a new adventure. Ken stepped out with beer in hand along with the 3 passengers of the large Buick. Jim Neuman the oldest member of the group stepped out of the rear driver side door. At 30 he had tightly curled black hair he wore in a short afro style. His grin and tanned face spoke of many wild adventures. “‘Sup Homos?!” He laughed downing his beer. Jim or “Neuman” as he was known to the group was about 6 feet and 210 lbs. with a developing beer belly. He wasn’t particularly athletic and was known for being the wildest member present. Like a harmless perpetual adolescent he would often surprise fellow revelers with some completely unanticipated misstep or prank like the time he got his car high-centered on 2 cement parking barriers. Luckily it was smaller car and the 4 revelers had been able to lift it off. Next to Jim getting our of the back seat passenger side was John Soutar. John was slightly taller than Neuman at 6’1″ but significantly leaner. John and Jerry were the same age and had gone to Junior-High and High School together. They were from opposite sides of town but were both surfers and aspiring artists. John had bushy blonde hair and striking blue-green eyes but seemed perpetually stoned. Jerry could never be sure if he was in fact always stoned or if that was just his normal demeanor. To be sure he got high like the rest of them, but there were those Jerry knew like his brothers who were high more often than sober. John had a twin brother David and a younger brother Garvin who was also an artist. Jerry had created a comic book with the 2 brothers which they had distributed on campus. When the Vice-Principal found out who was responsible for the booklet filled with stories about sex, drugs, music and surfing they had each been suspended for 3 days.  No one was too concerned and had spent their suspension surfing every day and hanging out at the beach. The 3 Soutar brothers were similar to Jerry and his two brothers Kelly and Brendan. All 3 surfed and hung out together as friends. Both groups knew each other from traveling in the same circles and breaks in the small town. The last to get out of the car was Jim Neery aka “Neery.” “Neery” had been in the front passenger side of the Centurion. He was built similarly to “Neuman” but with blonde curly hair. He was 29 but more athletic than “the other” Jim. He was also quite a bit more serious. Neery was just finishing up his Architectural degree at UCSD and was married. He was the most rational and mature member of the group and was often called upon to bail out different friends from difficult situations much to his bride’s chagrin. Jerry marveled that he had even come along on such an ill-advised adventure at all with this group, but was glad for his company in case something should go South. “Let’s go Fatso!” Blake said looking at each reveler in turn as he began handing out another round of beers from the cooler now sitting between the two cars. They all toasted Mike and the upcoming adventure drinking the Pacificos down in unison.

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