A MAR VISTA STORY
Originally Published the Week of Dec. 19, 2016 in Western Outdoor News
Juan Carlos’ old pickup had seen better days. Gears strained up the low incline to his home. It was hard to tell what color it used to be. What wasn’t covered in dents, scratches and dings, the rust and corrosion had claimed. The dust of Baja owned the rest.
He always said, his truck looked exactly like him. . . a truck owned by a hardworking hand-to-mouth handyman.
He said a silent prayerful “Gracias a Dios” (Thanks, Lord) to himself as it bounced and rattled along up the hill. At least he had a truck. A true luxury where most people still walked, biked or took a bus.
And moreso, it ran. Gratefully, on half-bald mismatched tires and no shocks, it ran. Just like him. Slow and steady. Not built for speed.
From here to there. And back again. Without it, there was no work.
The tires scratched to find purchase on the loose gravel and powdery dust leading to his home in Mar Vista. It was December and it was already getting dark.
In the cracked rearview mirror, pinpoint lights of La Paz were already blinking. The black glass of the bay still mirrored what was left of a pink Baja sunset.
The ricos (rich people) would pay much for a view like his, he smiled to himself.
But, he wasn’t one of the ricos. In fact, despite the name of Mar Vista, it was just a notch or two above a shanty town. Above the city. Outside the city. On a set of bare low scrubby hills.
No streetlights or curbs. No running water. Dirt or concrete floors and propane lights. Just houses cobbled together with whatever was available. By people doing the best they could. With whatever they could.
Like Juan Carlos.
He had spent an exhausting day hauling some big appliance boxes and other cartons from a warehouse, but quit early. The boss said it was OK and paid him cash. He would take the last of the boxes to the dump in the morning.
Tonite was Noche Buena. Christmas Eve. And he was going home to his wife, Celine and his little boy, Armando.
And with his money, he had bought some fresh hot pork tamales and steaming pot of pozole soup. Their savory aroma nearly made his stomach rumble as loud as the truck’s ancient transmission.
A small bottle of wine for his Celine and a can of Coke for his Armando lay on the seat next to him. Cradled in a depression on the seat where the springs had given out and the cloth was wearing thin.
No matter. Tonite, life was good. The best that he could do. With whatever he could.
Sadly, he lamented no presents. But as his good Celine often reminded them, God had already given them the best gift of each other. God had surely given him a wonderful wise woman!
Reaching home, he parked; dusted himself off and gingerly reached back in for the food with both hands. He bumped the metal door closed with his back hip and it slammed on its squeaky hinges.
Armando dashed out of the home and wrapped his arms around Juan Carlos faded jeans almost tripping him. “Papi! Papi! I can smell tamales!”
“Espere! Espere! Cuidate, mijo! Wait. Be careful, my son!” said Celine laughingly at the door as she greeted her husband still dragging the happy little boy into the warm room.
No glaring propane light tonite.
With no electricity, candles lit the room. No scrimping for Christmas. Celine had every candle warming their little home seemingly…just for them, thought Juan Carlos.
They all laughed when he told them that people spend lots of money in fancy restaurants to eat by candlelight.
“We have no money, but we have many candles!”
And what a feast, they had. Celine had found some desert flowers in a water glass for the table. On plastic chairs and plastic table cloth and plastic dishes, they ate slowly. Savoring every bite.
Celine told him the masa for the tamales was especially good. The wine was even better. Little Armando burped a big “Coke burp” that made them all laugh.
Enjoying the moment as families do. They held hands at the end with a small prayer to the Baby Jesus. Then to bed with happy tummies.
Mattresses on wooden pallets. One room. Blankets pulled tight against the breezy Baja night. But first a Christmas kiss to everyone and candles blown out to the silent darkness of the night. Somewhere a dog barked. Somewhere the wind carried the faint music of a radio up the hill.
It was Christmas. Juan Carlos and Celine would sleep a little later. Celine touched Juan’s cheek tenderly as she snuggled next to him.
As he started to doze he had a thought. Gracias a Dios.
He would wake up a little early and slip back to his truck. With the big boxes, he would make Armando a…he would make Armando…uh…
A submarine… No, a time machine… Maybe a fort! Maybe all three. Yes, that’s it.
Vamos a ver. We’ll see in the morning. He smiled. He could hear Celine’s breathing as she slept. Armando turned under his covers.
Juan Carlos’ own eyes got heavy as his full tummy. Gracias a Dios. Contentos. Content. Doing the best they could with whatever they could.
That’s my story. Feliz Navidad, a todos. Que Dios les bendiga. Merry Christmas everyone. May God bless you.
That’s my story
Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004. Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico www.tailhunter-international.com. They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront. If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is: email@example.com
Or drop by the restaurant to say hi. It’s right on the La Paz waterfront!
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