Finding the Emerald City

I grew up in a time BC (Before Cable). Our TV had rabbit ears and only five stations: the three major networks, PBS, and the local station that played all the cool reruns after school. I really do mean the cool shows, Star Trek (the original with Kirk and Spock, et al), The Munsters, The Addams Family, Batman, Perry Mason (my personal favorite), The Flintstones, and so many more. It was a time when you could set your schedule by the television. I knew that every Sunday after my bath, I could settle in with Marlon Perkins and his sidekickJim, in Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, followed by The Wonderful World of Disney. The Grinch would climb down your chimney every Christmas and try to steal the joy of the season, and I would cry like a baby every time the entire town pitched in to save George Bailey from certain ruin.

Each year around Halloween you could find me curled up with my dad, who was big, cuddly, and hairy, like a very brave Cowardly Lion, to watch The Wizard of Oz. Every year he protected me from the Wicked Witch and her even wickeder flying monkeys. The Wizard of Oz and the Yellow Brick Road have been a recurring theme in my life. While studying Journalism/Advertising in college, I used Tilex to save the Yellow Brick Road from obscurity, mold, and mildew. After graduating from college I moved to San Francisco. I dubbed it my Opal City because of they way it glowed iridescent pink and green and milky white in the sunset. For many years it was my personal Emerald City, I didn’t find the Wizard, but I did discover my true passion and my place in the world. In my travels, I often feel like I am once again following a Yellow Brick Road, once again looking for my Emerald City, meeting fellow seekers, and encountering harrowing obstacles.

I’m a jungle bunny, I know this about myself. So why I’m traveling in dry, desert Baja is a great mystery to me. Every time I leave one location I am hoping to find my Emerald City a bit further down the line.

Leaving Campo René and Punta Abreojos I picked up a scarecrow who was hitching a ride to San Ignacio. Ricky told me he was sixty, but I’m pretty sure I misunderstood because he appeared to be closer to eighty. Maybe it was his bent and crooked body, maybe it was his sun-lined face, or maybe it was his one-tooth smile. I don’t often pick up hitchhikers, but when I do stop it seems like a good idea. When my Spanish dries up and I have nothing more to say I begin to second-guess my decision.

Ricky and I had a very nice chat. I learned all about his family and his life in La Bocana, a town that is even more remote than Punta Abreojos. I think he also told me about his property in San Ignacio, but my Spanish just isn’t that great, and between his toothlessnes and heavy accent I just didn’t get it. Once my brain filled to capacity I fell silent for a spell, he asked me if I was sad. I imagine he would consider a life without a spouse and children a very sad life, indeed. I told him a white lie, I told him I had to concentrate on driving.

The drive was blessedly short, and before I could misunderstand another word he said we were parked in front of the market on the outskirts of San Ignacio. He introduced me to his buddies who were selling fish from their coolers in front of the market. He urged me to buy the talón, suggesting a nice batch of talón ceviche. In addition to the talón, I purchased all the ceviche fixings from the market. What I really wanted was a bottle of tequila, but something about Ricky made me shy about striding out of the store with a big bottle of booze.

After stocking taking care of market business, I drove Ricky into San Ignacio Centro. I think he was getting tired of speaking proper Spanish, because by the time I dropped him off I could not understand one word that he was mumbling. I got the idea that he invited himself back to my camp for beer and ceviche, but I couldn’t be positive. Either way, I never saw him again, but my new friend, the fishmonger, asked after him when I returned for more talón.

Unlike the Wizard of Oz, my Scarecrow took me directly to my Emerald City. San Ignacio is a date palm oasis, a beautiful green oasis in a sea of prickly brown desert.


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