There is a movie in here somewhere. Somewhere between a classic film noir and a hang-over flick. Except this is real. It's a classic because I am in a hotel room in the ridiculous heat watching a fan spin so slowly it couldn't care less about the sweat running down my face. It's a hangover sequel as I am desperately trying to recall the events for several missing hours of my life two nights ago, and I am in the sort of hotel you couldn't dream up. Outside my door in the courtyard is a stuffed monkey sat behind the steering wheel of a model T Ford. With a whale bone strapped to the bonnet. Only in Mexico.
And what the hell is that smell? Medication? Rum?
It hurts to move, and I very much wish I was writing a story, not an account right now. Collecting my thoughts and the laptop, I sit on the bed and try to think. None of it was connected: there was the FBI in Los Angeles. The drunken night in Vegas and the poker. I remember the guy here in Cortez screaming in terror that I was a pirate. The knife. The strip joint and hiding from the local Mexican drug dealers. The walking skeleton of Katrina; the beautiful and flirtatious but dead Mexican lady. But most of all I have the image of the Black Wind in my mind... and the state we found her in.
I'm tired, and I have no idea what time it is. It doesn't really matter here anyway; not at all. It is only daylight and darkness that matter; whether you can be seen or whether you can hide. There is a chest of drawers in the corner that has a rusting mirror on it, a 6” knife, and a razor. Me and the mirror both have a distressed look about us: the main difference being the mirror makes it look cool...
The police impressed me no better though, as I watched 6 of them rough up some cyclist for stopping and asking that he be left to watch. I guess they were nervous. Or tired. Or both. The last policeman I met was doing better. He could have been the type you would have met fifty years ago. He was whistling and when I enquired to his good mood, he told me he had a wife and several children and could well use the overtime payment he was now on.
I laughed too.
The next day in I met up with my two friends who were coming to help me with the Black Wind, and the day after that we were on our way to Los Angeles with British Airways. Approximately 20 minutes into the flight, while Phil looked suicidal at the reality of leaving his girlfriend, Richard's discussion with the stewardess regarding just how much alcohol he was allowed to drink resulted in a written warning from the captain. He then promptly passed out for the next 9 hours (after pouring his drink onto me 3 times) to sleep it off. Taking no chances the cabin crew (unbeknown to me) informed the LAPD of our arrival, so when I looked up from unbuckling my seat belt after landing, the police officers everybody else except me seemed to have noticed asked all three of us to walk with them outside. ‘Them’ turned out to be him and his buddy, the 4 airport police, and the two FBI officers, and the ‘walk’ was a long and solemn one indeed. Every passenger craned their neck to look at us and the once friendly cabin crew now gave us a stare they must normally reserve for passengers waving a clock tied to a few wires and a lump of plastic. Once we had convinced the FBI that we had no terrorist connections, and they had scared Richard enough to consider carefully before arguing with the nice people on the plane in future, they got us out of their airport very quickly. We certainly avoided the long lines of people waiting to be cleared through LAX immigration.
We’d left America and flown quietly to Cabo, then found the bus to La Paz which took about three and a half hours. It had taken longer than normal this time as something had happened; there was a lot of police, a lot of guns, and a lot of stopping time while we were searched. Men with rifles floated past to the music my earphones. The desert behind them highlighted their existence here; the sea and the sky beyond that emphasising the eternity of it all. But the mood seemed to fit with the images of the dead plastered everywhere in preparation for the upcoming festival... Festival Dia De Muertos (The festival for the day of the Dead).
As the light faded we entered La Paz in the final smoky glow of the sunset and were able to find a taxi driver who knew the dock where my beloved Black Wind was resting. It was very dark indeed when we eventually curled up on her deck to sleep in the warm winds.
The guy I had left to live on her (Frank at the time had no home) had trashed her, then stolen everything that wasn't nailed to the deck. Food and debris and dirt were everywhere, and in this heat that soon leads to cockroaches. It was a mess. It was depressing. So we started cleaning and in the meantime we recovered her dinghy and started putting that back together too. But it got worse. Wiring had been ripped out, the toilet had overflowed, and the sails had been left on deck in the sunlight to disintegrate. The next day I spoke to the yard management who declared that nobody was allowed to work on their own boat (but please feel free to use the local company at incredibly inflated prices), and by the way the yard fees had now increased 40%! She would need to be moved now to continue the work. I knew already the extra expenses were going to prove too much, quickly going up in inverse proportion to my mood.
While all of this was happening I met up with some old friends, experienced the enchanting Festival of the Dead out here, and made myself at home in La Paz once more. Once again the old friends ended up contributing to the local economy via strippers, and once again I was offered marriage. As usual I declined, and as usual I wondered what if? But the real point of this excursion initiated by a local friend of mine was to snap Phil out of his love sick state and to forget the girlfriend for the moment. Ironically it actually made him worse. The doorman looked at us knowing full well that we must of course be gay; sat outside together talking in a mournful tone whilst the pretty girls rubbed their G-strings on the pole inside...
I can only read it as a sign of a nervous disposition when a man screams hysterically for a good 10 minutes. Yelling 'there is a pirate on my boat' does not actually get you noticed very much in Mexico. Thankfully as nobody came to his rescue (only to size me up and consider otherwise) my sextant was returned to me. It's a start. A sextant is a very expensive piece of navigation equipment and one I wasn’t going to be buying again.
That evening Phil must have decided it was about time that he was not left behind in the game of James's laughable mental state after the plane fiasco, and what better way to do this than start a fight with the locals. Oh - there is a better way - make the fight with a local heroin addict, and make sure his drug dealing friends know exactly where we are staying. That should do it. I had already briefed my two young companions not to get involved in any trouble out here - it is not suburban England. I thought they had learnt their lesson when the man they met at the Halloween party took $20 to get them a 'smoke', and spent it on drugs for himself. But no, turning up at his house to point out how offended he was seemed to Phil a sensible course of action. The expected fight soon followed which left black eyes and swollen fists/face coupled with a very sharp exit....