It was April 1994 and I was in the final throws of a wrestling match with a thesis I was writing. I had already taken one incomplete on it and had finished all my other coursework. This thesis was the only thing yet standing between me and graduation from college. I was working daily on it and fretting about it when I wasn't working on it. I had turned it in at the end of Winter quarter, having taken one incomplete already. I believed I was done, but my advisor told me it needed to be better. I told her to give me a C and let me be finished already. She said she'd give me another incomplete and we could continue working on it. I hated her for that then. I thank her everyday for that now.
At any rate, my parents, thinking I would be done with school by April, invited me to go to Phoenix with them to visit my Aunt and Uncle. By the time it came to leave, I was so filled with angst because I believed I shouldn't take any time off from finishing this goddamned thesis and getting on with my life already. But my parents, bless them, convincd me to put down the paper, exchange my reading glasses for sunglasses, pack light and skip town. So I did.
As I throw my mind back to that trip, the part that stands out the most is our side trip to Puerto Penasco, Mexico, a sleepy little fishing town trying to draw tourists. We hopped into my Uncle Bobby's 1977 black Lincoln Town Car and travelled from the greater Phoenix area to the Mexican border. Once we crossed over, we followed a series of barely paved roads through desert scruff, up and down small hills.
By late afternoon, we arrived at our hotel, The Playa Bonita. This hotel specialized in rooms with a view. In fact, all rooms had an oceanview. They achieved this feat by kicking balconies out at an angle on the rooms that actually faced the parking lot so that you could sit out and take in the ocean. The whole way down, my Uncle had bragged about how Vernice (my aunt) wrangled them a room on the end of the hotel facing the ocean directly. Oh sure, you have a view, he'd say, but ours is straight on to the ocean.
Vernice, who had booked this specific room for them surely just to stop him going on and on about it, rolled her eyes. "Oh, Bobby," she said exasperated, "I'm sure everyone's room will be nice."
"Yeah, but ours looks right out onto the ocean, no interuptions; you open the curtain and Bam! there's the ocean!" My unlce likes to have the best.
By the time we walked into the lobby of the hotel, my uncle could barely contain his glee about one-upping us on the view thing. He was beginning to embarass Vernice. I was beginning to ignore him, as I wandered around the spotless and tasteful lobby. We got our keys and headed to our rooms. We went to our room first and set our stuff down, in order that we could more adequately appreciate the splendor of a full on view of the ocean. Before we left, though, we nipped out onto our slanty balcony and nodded, satisfied that our view was pretty darn good.
As we made our way down to my aunt and uncle's room, we were looking forward to seeing this spectacular view and I was wondering how it could be any better than the one we had. Finally, we had arrived at the door. We entered the room and Bobby strode over to the wide set of curtains covering what was to be the grandest vista we poor mortals would ever behold.
Bobby pulled the curtains open with a yank of the cord and we all paused. We had the best view of the ocean, only obscured by 20 or so workman building a pool six feet from their balcony. I don't know who laughed harder: my dad or Vernice.
Chastised, Bobby suggested we head to the beach and watch the sunset. We walked out of the hotel and down to a set of beach umbrellas made from palm fronds. The hotel waiter joined us shortly thereafter and asked us if we'd like a beverage. My mom, Bobby and Vernice ordered margaritas while my dad ordered a Tecate. Not being a fan of margaritas and not really having a lot of experience with beer, I followed suit and ordered a Tecate for myself. As we waited for the server to reappear with our drinks, Vernice explained how that when the sun sets over the ocean, it illuminates an island you can't see at anyother time, since it is very far away.
We began to look for it as our drinks arrived. I reached for my can of Tecate, I wondered what I was in for. As a supertaster, I fretted momentarily that I would hate the taste. But I cracked it open and took a small sip anyway. I am glad I did: It was wonderful. It was cool and effervesant. I leaned back into my beach chair and watched as an island appeared in the distance. By the time the sun set and I finished my beer, I felt more a part of my surroundings than I think I ever had. It was warm and beautiful, the setting was not as foriegn as I thought it would be and the people were warm and beautiful too.
By sipping that beer I had taken a step out with that fickle mistress Adventure. I lost all my fear about being in a foriegn country, I lost all irritation that I kept in a special box for my uncle alone and I forgot all about the Christian Situation in Rome and Persia in the Late Third and Early Forth Centuries C.E.