The Old College Try

The Old College Try

We spent most of our five years in Mexico living in Santa Maria Bay, a perfect crescent about eight miles east of Cabo San Lucas. The first year there we lived in a house on a hill overlooking the few shoreline condos and, across the water, the Hotel Twin Dolphin. Except for the daily beachgoing tourist trudge, 25 years ago the place was largely deserted. There were not many residents; excluding the stray hotel guest and those who had rented condos, we had Santa Maria mostly to ourselves.

The best time was in the morning, before 10, and in the evening, at dusk. Another favorite time of mine was when a hurricane was in the offing–not making landfall, of course, but near enough to stir up good waves.

I still recall with some horror one particular summer morning.

The Chief had gone off to work and I was drinking coffee on the veranda. Behind me, in their rooms, the kids were sleeping. My sister had come for a week’s visit, and she was slumbering as well. The blue water of the bay was undulating from the storm winds of a system far at sea. From the top of the hill I could not tell how big the waves were, but by the sound of their crashing they must be mountainous. The surge was reaching uphill nearly all the way to the back patios of the condos.

On the beach a family I would soon learn came from Oklahoma was playing in the troughs created as each surge subsided back into the bay. These were like water slides, and I assume the trick was to roll out before being actually sucked into the water.

Because nobody in their right mind would willingly enter that maelstrom. Not even Oklahomans, with their well-honed knowledge of the sea.

So there I was, quaffing my coffee and reading a book, thoroughly satisfied with everything life had on offer. Here, in this tropical paradise, the kids were all safe and happy. My sister was visiting. The view from my vantage point above the bay was exhilarating. And the coffee! I had somehow wangled, out of a Starbucks manager in Walnut Creek, California, the ability to purchase five-pound bags of French roast whenever I returned home to the Bay Area. These were not for sale to the public, but part of the batch each franchise received from its corporate supplier. Don’t ask me how I accomplished this. Perhaps I suffered a rare spasm of something akin to charm.

Then came the screaming, which I initially took as evidence of the family’s bizarre enjoyment of those troughs. When it increased in stridency I peaked over the top of my book, amazed to see people in the bay.

A girl of about 10, her teenage brother and their father had gone into the water. And they were not having fun.

I don’t remember if I woke my sister to look after the kids. I don’t remember putting on shoes. I sped down our dirt road in my 1976 Volvo wagon, fishtailing and throwing up great gouts of dust. I parked and sprinted to the beach.

A small group of residents was trying to figure out what to do. I arrived just as the sea, literally, spat the teenager clear. Hands were laid upon him and, buck naked and vomiting a copious amount sandy water–a slurry, really–he was dragged out of danger.

But we couldn’t imagine how to rescue the other two. The waves were too high to see over, so we sent someone to climb the hotel-side hill for a better view. He only ever saw the girl, appearing and vanishing with the movement of the water.

A hotel guest, a man on his honeymoon–and a fire fighter, no less–was frantic to rescue her. “You go in there,” I told him, “and your marriage will end there. You’ll be killed.”

It was shouted down to us, after a few minutes’ more observation, that the child was dead. I don’t remember if the father was ever sighted.

I don’t remember if the father was ever recovered. The girl was–after nearly a week, and further down the coast toward Cabo San Lucas–but in the view from our house she floated lifeless until nightfall, a buoy marking the turbulent internal currents of the bay. I seem to remember we shielded the kids from that spectacle.


The rampant Trump administration dismembers migrant families, separating children from their parents. Some of these kids are kept in cages near the border while others are spirited away, in secret, to distant detention centers. In secret. In The United States of America. In 2018. Why? There doesn’t seem to be any credible semblance of a plan to reunite these families. Why? And we only have it on the administration’s say-so that it has stopped this atrocity. Again, why?

You can take my word for it that it’s racism. This goes back to 1973. While he might never achieve the construction of a physical border wall, still, this bullying will be the equivalent for Trump.

Care to risk a crossing while this maniac is in office? Our friends, the Canadians, do so with impunity.

We’re either honorary Oklahomans blithely playing in the sand, blind to all the danger while Trump’s administration rages on, or we’re like the version of me who, above it all, merely observes.

Why not be first responders instead? Let’s rescue our country from the Orange Horror. True, I helped rescue no one. But we gave it the old college try.

What does this mean? Educate yourself. Then get off your duff and vote. Get involved.

2 thoughts on “The Old College Try

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  1. Sir, you really are clueless!

    Apparently you were in Mexico legally. The individuals of whom you whine are entering this country illegally. Guess where you’d be if you did that in Mexico? In the slammer!

    Not only that, but I seem to remember that Trump signed an order some time back recinding the practice.

    You call yourself a journalist? Then at least try to put the facts straight even if they don’t fit your political spin!

  2. I don’t know why I’m still surprised at the ignorance invested in the immigration process. This President inherited this debacle from Obama. I don’t recall reading a scribe such as this during those years, but maybe you did. The glaring thing to be noted here is a complete lack of facts. Those ‘cages’ were built by Obama and his folks. Trump is trying to abide by the laws as written. Something O never did. We are a nation of laws..if you don’t like those laws, address your Congress to make better ones. But in the meantime, you don’t get to pick and choose which laws you find palatable. You are a journalist for goodness sake, speak truth and state facts. Emotions are not facts.

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