The Rise of Cuz in Las Gaviotas, Part 1

Dogs are always welcome at Happy Hour, a cantina in Las Gaviotas, Mexico.   There, you can catch some 80s hip hop like Two Live Crew while sipping on a margarita.   It also welcomes the likes of American, Paul Cook, my exuberant cousin and subject of this writing.   Saloon doors should be installed just for him at the cantina.  Were I stuck in a prison cell, Paul would be my cellmate.   Time would pass quickly, for his artful story-telling has a way of making you feel as if his memories were yours.   A documentary of him could be made, like actor Val Kilmer did of his own incredible life.   When it is, I’m buying the rights.   

I’ve always known Paul to be an honest Cuz (Cuz is short for cousin, pronounced Cooz).  Even so, feelings of disbelief, shock can arise and most certainly will if you have the chance to listen to him talk even casually about his life experiences.  Every adventure story carries some risk to its central protagonist, in this case Paul.  Now, to be clear, this latest chapter of my cousin’s recent trip to Mexico does not possess an opening action sequence like a 007 film.   That kind of harrowing thrill ride is best saved for another day.   No fighting on the top the train or skiing off a cliff into thin air just yet.   That’s probably because the making of Paul’s latest venture is still very much a work in progress, just like working on his new sprinkler system is at his home in Ramona, California.  Yes, even a daring adventurer like Paul must sometimes attend to the mundane encumbrances of life at home.   

What this first installment does provide however is a context for the necessary escapism embraced by Paul, a threshold through which he is not afraid to pass.  On the other side lies a place called Las Gaviotas in Mexico.  In keeping with his adventurous spirit, Paul learned of this coastal city in Baja from no other than a couple of strangers at a bar one evening in San Diego.   Shortly thereafter, as unlikely as this sounds, Paul, his wife Lisa and his son, Nico, were staying with them at a home they own in Gaviotas.   Meeting new people as if they were old friends is just something Paul has mastered.  The ability to walk up to people and create kinship is almost like scratching a match and fire appears.   It’s that easy for Paul. 
During the course of our phone call, I recall making remarks like, “Wait a second, Paul, did I hear you correctly?”  There was this need on my part to confirm his reality because it was so alien from mine, which I suppose is part of the allure.   When recounting his visit, it was like I was right there with Paul, a stranger in a strange land or should I say shuffleboarder in a strange land?   

Paul, on the other hand, made it sound like he could have been going to his own kitchen to make himself a sandwich.   There was no false bravado.  In my mind, he just calmly executed a decision to go to Las Gaviotas and trust in himself.   For a second, it occurred to me that perhaps I was overreacting.   People go to Mexico all the time right?  Then I remembered who it was telling me the story.  It was “Cuz,” pronounced “Cooz” as I said.  He always had a masterful way of telling me stories, I told myself.  When we were kids, he would say, “Eddie, I got a story for you.”  Now, years later, I recognize that the various landscapes of Cuz’s adventures, a land of deserts, rivers, lakes, mountains, were mined like gold by Paul.  They were waiting for him to come and build a life apart from suburbia and the plight of common folk. 
The main thing I want to share is that Paul getting up and going and leaving behind the USA for a trip to Mexico by car is bold, period.   It might not be to Paul, but it is to me.   Hearing it made me want to leave the safety of my four cornered room and see for myself.   I asked that he send me pictures.   Despite years of knowing Paul as someone fully capable of doing things like this, I listened with the curiosity of a child.   Leaving San Diego and driving south across the US-Mexico border to visit a small town like Gaviotas for a few days and then return home to teach on a Monday is not an option for most people, even if they have the means or stamina.  Or is it? The master story-teller that Paul is can make you feel anything is possible, like having a drink with a dog.

One of the things I noticed when Paul spoke was a certain weight to his own words.  Through certain strategic pauses, breaths between words and other things I cannot describe, I got a picture no words or iPhone camera could have provided.  I understood how his experience affected him without him saying so directly.   
So that’s a bit of background going into my talk about Las Gaviotas.  The specifics of what actually happened remain classified.   Just kidding.   I share a few examples below to give you an idea.  In Paul’s own words, it’s actually more about who you are spending time with that matters most.  Rosarita and Gaviotas, two beautiful places, yes, but family and friends make it worth it, explained Paul. 

Gaviota means seagull in Spanish.  I looked it up immediately following our call.  I suppose I did so to bring this land of his closer to reality, to extract it from the surreal context in which my cousin inhabited it.   
Sometime I will talk about Paul’s job as a teacher, which is a whole other beast.  As a teacher myself, there is a great need for replenishment of the kind Paul partakes in.  That’s for another blog too!  
A few closing thoughts: for me, since I didn’t go to Gaviotas, the enchantment of Gaviotas lay in the actual retelling by Paul.   I also admire the courage and follow through in making the decision to go.  The land itself seems magical too, so close and yet a world away from the English speaking states is Mexico, our neighbor.  The more I listened to Paul, the more I felt a belonging, like my family and I could squeeze into the picture above with everyone.  I imagined myself on the beach, right there at the cantina listening to the bartender blasting the classic 80s.  When I think about it, my recent wild trip back from Kona, Hawaii seemed very similar — see my blog, “Rivulets of Fire.”  
Towards the end of our talk, I asked Paul rather rhetorically if going away on weekend trips like his to Baja California refreshed him for the next week teaching. “What I tell people when I get back is that ‘I had fun, maybe too much fun.’”  Maybe that’s what is needed to make up for too much stress at work– having too much fun.    Paul seemed to be implying so.  Refueling doesn’t always mean having to leave your present surroundings.   Still, breaking the cycle of your normal weekend plans and doing something radically different may be exactly what’s needed.   For me, I recharged just by listening to Paul share.   
Do things now.   Don’t wish for it, work for it.   Experience the physical world to nourish the mental one.  Fly like the seagulls do in Las Gaviotas.  
Website | + posts
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
1 year ago

Enjoyed reading about your cooz 🙂 adventures!!

Susan Saw
Susan Saw
1 year ago

All I am saying is that Paul and family are brave to go down after one meeting with these new friends. But that is typical of the hospitality of our neighbors to the south . How fun!

Trish Althaus
Trish Althaus
1 year ago

What a wonderful reminder to try to put yourself out there and to take adventures!

Carolyn Grassi
Carolyn Grassi
1 year ago

Wonderful, Eddie, reading about Paul. Remembering how you both grew up near by in the “magical years” of childhood. Your portrayal of his Mexico visit is delightful. Good to see the photos too. love to all the family …Paul’s Aunt Carolyn

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x