I was kicked back in my Lazy Boy, cable remote in my hand and the other four lined on the table beside me. The first snowflakes of the season were whipping horizontally past the window as I clicked through the channels on the TV with a screen the size of the one at the drive in we visited when my wife and I were dating. I had already exhausted the nine on-air choices and was working on the 88 offered on cable. Along about channel 36 I saw something that looked interesting, two men hiding in a bush, looking through binoculars and whispering. I paused for a few seconds to see what it was all about. Turned out to be a BBC program on bird watching; and I thought fishing shows on PBS were boring.
I hit the end of cable choices, switched remotes and went to the satellite dish where over 200 choices were waiting. Had to be something worth watching in all those choices. Along about channel 52 the surround system roared and a pickup truck bounded over sand moguls and clawed up a mountainside, spewing rocks and cacti from beneath it's four spinning wheels. Cut to the next scene, a guy in a NASCAR pit crew suit pointing to the battery and saying, "Get yourself a Die Hard, the battery that tamed Baja." The die was cast, I too had to tame Baja, but how was I going to break the news to the little woman who had promised to love, honor and adjust my vertical hold.
"Let's load up the motorhome, lock this place up and head for where the weather is warm, the water clear, beaches are clean and fresh seafood is everywhere," I suggested.
"And where would that be?" she asked as she eyed me suspiciously over the top of her TV Guide.
"Well, the place I had in mind is a long peninsula with lots of beautiful beaches and palm trees."
"Florida!" She shouted in excitement, dropping the TV guide as she reached for a Diet Coke.
"Well, not exactly Florida," I replied. A bit further west then that.
"Texas is west of Florida but it's hardly a peninsula."
"I had something a bit further west than that in mind, more like Baja," I replied.
"Baja! There's nothing in that place except snakes, scorpions and Parnelli Jones."
"Well, Parnelli Jones has been dead for fifteen years and there's a lot more there than rocks and sand," I replied hopefully, trying to direct the subject away from her first two objections. "You can dig clams at low tide, catch ten pound fish from the beach and buy shrimp right off the boat."
"But we can't just jump up and run off to some place like that, we aren't young and restless any more. What about all our children? We might have to eat awful things like they did on Survivor."
"We haven't seen any of our kids in six months. They probably wouldn't even notice if we were gone for three or four months. The only thing we would miss is digging our way out of snow banks all winter. Besides, you like Mexican food."
"I don't know," she said. "We don't speak Spanish and what about the dog?"
"The dog died three years ago and most everyone in Baja speaks English." I could see her opposition fading away.
Then she played her trump card, "But, they don't have TV there. Ashley and Dianne are both pregnant and Sandra has Ridge locked in a dungeon in the basement and Victor is about to regain control of Jabot." Then she went for the cheap shot, "You won't even know if Dallas gets to the Super Bowl, much less wins it."
That last one was really a low blow but I stumbled onward. "I know it will be tough but it will give us a chance to really enjoy our marriage."
"You don't enjoy our marriage?" she asked in a cold voice.
Oops, blunder number one, never mention anything that sounds even slightly like you are unhappy in your marriage. I tried to tap dance away from that pitfall. "I mean we can enjoy it more."
"I know what you meant but I'll let it go for now," she said.
I knew there was no way we could kick the TV habit cold turkey; perhaps there was a 12-step program for the TV addicted. I thought about it for a bit and decided to try to taper off. I turned off the big screen, hid the remotes in my sock drawer and brought an old 13" B&W TV with aluminum foil wrapped around the rabbit ears down from the attic. I remember when we bought it, Bonanza was just coming on. Dan Blocker's head was only in inch high on the screen. Had to be that small to leave room for the hat. It got three of the local stations pretty well, two more had only the sound and the tuner didn't even go high enough for the others.
Since there was nothing worthwhile on the little TV, we had time to get the motorhome loaded, winterize the house, stop the mail and call the kids. You could almost detect excitement in their voices as they said, "Call us when you get home."
"Bienvenidas!" shouted the border guard as he waved us through without stopping. We were actually in Baja! We had the strangest feeling that we were leaving something behind as we traveled southward toward Ensenada. You could almost feel the TV signals getting weaker in the air as we got further from the border. Then an almost uncontrollable urge swept over me, screaming for me to swing the motorhome around and race back to the land of TV. Only through sheer willpower was I able to keep going.
The neon sign at the motel as we reached Ensenada flashed, "Color TV, Color TV, Color TV". As if my hands were no longer attached to my body, they swung the wheel and we careened into the parking lot. Cash on the counter, grab the key, race to the room. Not even time to hit the bathroom, we were TV junkies who had to have our TV fix.
We lay on the bed like zombies as the TV warmed up and an image appeared. It was the Gong Show with Spanish voices dubbed in. Jamie Farr sounded like Rickie Ricardo. Like two patients in a mental ward being zapped by a jillion volts, we were shocked back into sanity. Sweat rolled down our faces as we struggled back to the motorhome and headed southward again. We were cured! We had beaten the monster. No more TV monkey on our backs! We were free!
We meandered southward, content to relish in beauty of the glowing ball of sun sinking into the Pacific at the end of the day instead watching Dan Rather blather and caring not whether Dallas had won or lost. Home was where the day ended and the sun shining in our faces was our alarm clock. Christmas dinner was a potluck with fellow snowbirds at Ship Wreck Cove, named for the rusting hulk perched on the rocks. Instead of a turkey, there was a twenty-pound dorado roasted over mesquite coals.
I let my beard grow and one morning while admiring it in the mirror, I mentioned that I was beginning to look like Ernest Hemmingway. My wife brought me back to reality when told me to wrap the tablecloth around my head and I'd look like Yasser Arafat.
When hundred-degree days came to the tip of Baja, we headed back north. We were tanned, feeling better than we had in years and speaking Spanish like a tourist. As we made our way through the traffic zoo at the border where you creep forward an inch at a time until you finally come fact to face with a border guard. He asked all the usual questions like where we were born, how long had we been in Mexico and if we had any strange plants or white powder aboard.
"The only thing I stick in my nose is my finger," I told him. He didn't show the slightest appreciation for my humor but let us go. When we crossed back into the land of TV, I was wearing a "Save the Whales" T-shirt, jeans cut off at the knees and huaraches without socks. Suddenly we realized what we had been missing all this time and up ahead was the answer to our prayers. We lurched to a stop in the parking lot and ran inside, gasping for double meat, triple cheese, bacon Whoppers with biggie fries and chocolate shakes.
Links to other Baja stories:
When Pigs Fly
The Cow That Ate Baja
The Baja Bunch
The Baja Van
Los Cabos [Free Book]
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