The boat was too small for my taste but my wife and kids climbed aboard for a four-hour visit to an island in the Sea of Cortez -- Isla Coronado. The caretaker of the house where we’re staying, who had recommended the skipper, is named Ismael -- a bad omen when it comes to ocean-going craft. I remembered the reading lesson I taught last week to three high-school boys. We read aloud a passage which described the Caspian Sea as “landlocked,” a word none of them knew. As I explained it, I concluded I’m landlocked too. I like the unspoken reassurance of ground beneath my feet, not the fickleness of water. Unlike my forebears I probably would have stayed in Europe.
I took a long walk south along the beach. There’s a post-apocalyptic feel to Mexico, at least this portion of it. Nowhere else, not even in Houston, have I seen so many half-built or half-demolished buildings. I spoke the day before with a Napa-Valley-by-way-of-Oklahoma woman who lives in Loreto year-round. She described Mexico as “big dreams with no follow-through. Everything falls apart.” On the dunes above the beach I saw numerous walls and concrete foundations reclaimed by the sand. Vultures perched on the tops of dead palm trees. The beach was strewn with oil cans, shards of plastic foam, beer bottles, dead fish and gulls, even a dead chicken. You don’t have to listen carefully to hear “the eternal note of sadness.”
When my family returned we left to have lunch at Del Borracho Saloon and Grill, a name that brought back memories of Under the Volcano. The Napa Valley woman had recommended it but it was closed. We continued along the road to San Javier, the site of a 16th-century mission and another recommended restaurant, through a blasted landscape of rocks, cactus and mesquite that recalled Coconino County. The two-lane road was narrow but well maintained until, after about eight kilometers, it stopped. No more concrete, road signs or painted yellow lines. Beyond was rocks, cactus and mesquite. We returned to Loreto and had lunch at Mexico Lindo y Que Rico.