Coming Into a Knowing in Baja
Intent on driving down Baja in one piece, we set off from California towards the 20 hour drive to La Paz. As we left Ensenada around 11pm, the battery light activated off and on. Then the car’s computer digitally spelled out: BATTERY NOT CHARGING. We could see the volts in the battery were declining as we drove into the full moon lit night – off the grid of any nearby city. Small towns were within 20 miles, but the road was alone. Usually, trucks slowly creep along inviting you to pass, but this night we hadn’t seen a passing car in over an hour.
We arrived in San Vicente, a small pueblo with one gas station. The station attendee offered to sell me a new battery for one hundred bucks. I declined, assuming the battery issue wasn’t the cause; it must be something else. Everyone says don’t drive at night in Baja. The cows sleep on the highway, and you never know who might be lurking in the darkness. As we followed the moon’s light netted on the fields around us the car started to choke and then it stalled as if it had no juice left. We coasted in the dark with no headlights. The car jerked on and off throttling and then shorting as we coasted until we could pull over on an embankment. 30, 20, 10, 5, 3 mph – click. The car was dead.
“Did we have cell service?” I asked, as I could hear my heart pounding with fear. Yes! I had the hotel number of the venue where we were planning to stay which was about 80 miles ahead. Someone answered my desperate call for help. It was 12:38 am. Gerardo, the front desk guy, called a tow truck. The only one in San Vicente was Manuel. Thank goodness that I speak Spanish.
As we sat there waiting for him, my friend Dennis was swallowing every 5 seconds, breathing as nervous as a man sneaking through a den of sleeping lions. I knew he was imagining the worst. Who would see us pulled over with no lights? A military checkpoint was 2 miles away, but walking toward it would have been too dangerous. Manuel showed up at 1:32 am. Dennis almost popped with anxiety minutes before.
Barclay, Dennis’ Great Dane was the perfect guard to an ambush. We’d brought him along because he couldn’t fly. I could see the lights radiating over the hill behind us; it was Manny the tow truck guy. I was so relieved to see him. There we were being towed, sitting in our car with a horse in the back, and Barclay barking at the creaking noises from beneath the axle. Manny was also a mechanic, in fact, he raced in the Baja 1000. He dropped off the car at his lot, and just across the street was a run-down motel with 8 rooms. Finding a room at 2:38 am was next to impossible, but Manny told me they had space, and his cousin Jack ran the place. Jack spoke English.
The place looked full, as I knocked on the office door tentatively saying “Hello?” holding back my loudness. No one answered. I waited 5 minutes. No one answered. I opened the door; no one was there. It looked like the place of a homeless person with a car seat made into a bed.
Tensions were high – no car…no place to sleep…not in a good space; I lost my cool and yelled at the highway, “WHY!” uncontrollably. Yet something inside me underneath whispered, “Stay. Be here with this, let go, and be attentive and relaxed,” so, I followed the voice and sat down in the dirt in a seated position. As my breathing took my attention off my feelings, I gave space to what was happening.
Just then, room #2 door creaked opened, and I could see a thin guy with a beard who’d been awakened. I was sure he’d heard my yelling and was upset because his hair was standing up. He must be a guest trying to get some sleep. Instead, it was Jack. Scratching his head with one eye still closed and pajama bottoms, Jack opened the two rooms left that night.
He gave us rooms 4 and 5, each with single beds. Jack wondered how I knew his name and went to bed. Next day, Manny was ready to fix the car. He rebuilt the alternator but it was bad. How do you find a part for a 2000 Cadillac El Dorado in a town of 346 people in Northern Baja? Manny said he’d drive around to little towns to find a used one.
My cell phone rang. It was Tomas, the secretary of Tourism for North Baja. He asked me what I needed and within 5 minutes found the alternator in San Quintin, a city within 80 miles of where we were. He even offered to bring it to us. What a miracle! How did he get my number? I have no idea. Does the universe have a phone book?
The alternator was perfect. What seemed even more miraculous was there was only one junk yard, with one Chevy with the year and model of our car. As Manny did the repair, he told me about the motel. When Jack’s father died, Jack’s life fell apart. He had a drug problem, and the motel was vacant with little to no business. He was making a comeback though, and after hearing this, I knew what I had to do. I was here for Jack.
A great breakfast was prepared for me. Jack’s wife and mother were very attentive to my presence. I could feel the pull in my gut to say to Jack what was in my heart. Dennis pulled the car up and waited as I walked over to Jack. He turned to me as he was sitting on a rock outside his diner:
“JACK, WHAT YOU DO HERE IS SUCH AN OPPORTUNITY. IT IS SO SPECIAL. YOU HAVE TRAVELERS WHO COME THROUGH AND YOU TOUCH THEM IN SOME SPECIAL WAY. DO YOU KNOW THAT WHAT YOU DO MAKES A DIFFERENCE?” “YOUR SINCERE INTEREST IN DELIGHTING THESE PEOPLE GOES A LONG WAY, JACK.” “REMEMBER TO USE THE GIFTS AND RESOURCES THAT YOU HAVE, JACK.”
“TAKE CARE OF YOUR FAMILY, JACK, I SEE THE GREATNESS IN YOUR HEART; YOUR FAMILY HAS MADE YOU STRONG.” “TAKE CARE OF THOSE WHO STAY HERE AT THIS MOTEL; LET THEM CHANGE YOU. SERVE THEM.” “I KNOW LIFE’S BEEN ROUGH, BUT YOU HAVE YOUR FAMILY, AND THIS VENUE IS A GEM. PEOPLE COME; PEOPLE GO; YOU’RE THE GATEWAY. MAKE THE MOST OF IT. IT IS WHAT YOUR FUTURE NEEDS RIGHT NOW THIS MOMENT!”
Jack was so moved by these words that left my lips, and so was I. It was like the climax to a great movie. The evocative silence ensued, and the words had massaged into the connection between us like a dead calm after the storm. To keep me one night at a motel where Jack lived, this conversation needed my car to stall, a Great Dane who’d protect us, and the car to be towed to a mechanic (the only guy in town to get the single part that nobody thought was available). Doing his best on behalf of his wife and kids, Jack was a man making a life comeback through his motel that had potential. And we got the last 2 rooms available. Could my presence be the confirmation to him that he made a difference? It was like being lost and found in someone’s life; not just yours.
We began to pack our things and get the car ready. As I looked at Jack’s face it was like an itch had been scratched, and he stood up, “Well JD, I guess that we better keep making it better.” Jack turned and opened room 6. It was gorgeous, like a room out of a magazine. He said this was his first attempt at the turn toward better days. Contrasted to our rooms, this room was royalty, rags to riches – rocks to diamonds. He had the golden touch that my words were inferring. The other rooms symbolized death and destruction while this room was the light out of the shadows, the birth out of what was ending.
As Jack showed me his new room upgrade, I knew being at that motel and looking into Jack’s eyes with my heartfelt words of encouragement was everything the future needed. Jack needed to be seen fully for who he was, and I could offer that to him, judgment free. As I called my wife, Claudia, in tears of joy that I could tell Jack that he was doing a great job and supporting his family, I knew deep down that I had touched the sacred, which touched Jack and me both. I was there to initiate his new journey into his second half of life, a 47-year-old man on his way to better days.
When I told Claudia about my urge to support Jack, she mentioned a dear friend in a coma had passed on just moments ago. She said that the baby awaiting his soul couldn’t wait any longer, so Jose gave himself up to a new life. Old rooms at the motel were on the way out; giving rise to the new one needing to sprout out of what remained, a self-medicating drug addict who needed to die into coming alive, to bring new life his guests and family. One life ends and another begins. It is the natural order of the universe making its own art. Mystery is the presence of the soul, and within it, lies death and life in union.
It wasn’t just that I had something for Jack. He had something for me. When you get off the road and shut down, just take a look around you. Everything you need from the future is right there and cuing you up for what’s ahead. Trust it. It’s staring you in the face. When you get off the road and everything stops, it’s to pick up something you need before moving forward. If you drive right past it, something will step in and help you attend to it. Getting back on the road with what’s been added is that which the future needs at this moment.
What is it that brings us into where we are? I entered from the future, not the past.
Remember to operate as if you invited what you have right now. Remember that life is in the business of organizing life and you participate in ever changing formations. You can evolve consciously.