(note: one of the names in this story has been changed so as not to unduly embarrass someone who was clearly feeling a little confused that night.)
I realize that it’s now the 16th of March, but, since I’ve gotten a little behind in my postings I’m going to date a few on the days they happened until I’m all caught up.
We first ran in to Harley & Stephanie on s/v Pandora in Ensenada. Later, when they arrived in La Paz, they were parked almost right in front of us at Marina Costa Baja. Now we’re at Marina del Palmar and they are in the Abaroa boat yard right next door.
A week or so ago, I joined several other cruisers to help Bill from s/v Wandering Puffin pop some zits on his boat. Some fiberglass hulls had a phenomenon known as “blistering” happen to them. This is apparently when water gets into the fiberglass of the submerged portion of the boat and creates little seawater-filled blisters on the hull. I’m pretty sure that small blisters are not particularly harmful but no boater likes having a zit-covered hull. Also, if the blisters pop on their own, they can put little holes in the paint where the water is released. Bill had lots of blisters on his hull and had already taken care of the largest ones. But there were still hundreds of small pockets that a previous owner had filled with Bondo. Bondo is not particularly water-resistant apparently, and water had gotten behind the filler in many of the holes. Bill needed to pop the Bondo out to allow the holes to dry out before he repaired them with epoxy. Harley, whose boat is right next to Wandering Puffin, had the brilliant idea to announce on the morning net that Bill needed help. Bill provided the beer and the fleet provided the volunteers. I was one of them.
So, I was talking to Harley, who just happens to be an ordained minister in the Church of Dudeism,
and he mentioned that he had celebrated his 60th birthday a few days ago. Since my 60th birthday was coming up soon, we decided that we March, 1951 dudes should get together and have dinner or something. So, we arranged to meet for dinner on Saturday evening, March 12.
Lulu and I met Harley and Stephanie as planned and we tried to decide where to go. They hadn’t been many places except Rancho Viejo and Bandito’s since both are convenient to the boatyard. I suggested we go to Mr. Azucar’s and, hearing no better ideas, we headed up La Avenida 5 de Febrero.
Lulu and I had eaten at Mr. Azucar’s once before and had stopped for a couple of afternoon cervezas a couple of days ago.
The owner is Marcello and he’s very friendly. That might be partly influenced by the fact that he seems to spend much of the day drinking tequila while tending bar and schmoozing the customers. He’s also very generous and always sends at least one complimentary round of tequila to our table. Sometimes two. When we were there the other afternoon, he spent quite a bit of time sitting with us and telling us about himself and his family. The waiter, Fernando, is also a very nice guy.
Anyway, we got to Mr. Azucar’s about 5:30. We weren’t the only customers, but almost. There were some locals having beers at one table and a couple of other locals at the bar. A waiter we’d never seen before came up to our table of 4 and laid one menu on the table. One. So we just sat and visited a bit and finally, 3 more menus arrived.
And then the fun began.
We were perusing the extensive menu trying to decide on what to eat. This was thirsty work. Normally, as soon as the menus are delivered, the next thing that happens is the waiter asks,
¿Algo para tomar? (Something to drink?)
But this time it didn’t happen. So, after awhile I spotted Fernando at the bar and hollered out his name and followed, in my best español, “¡Fernando! Necesitamos algo para tomar cuando nos leyemos el menú.” (We need something to drink while we read the menu.) He signaled “OK” and then bustled off in the other direction.
Did he already know what we wanted to drink?
Well, no matter. He’ll be back. So, we continued to peruse the menus. A few minutes later, here comes Fernando with a tray. But there wasn’t anything to drink on it. No, there was a bowl of this really good smoked fish dip (almost exactly like one Lulu makes) and some totopos (tortilla chips). Well, that’s nice but we really need something to drink. So this time we didn’t let Fernando get away before we ordered. Harley and I each ordered a Tecate cerveza, Lulu ordered a Tecate michelada and Stephanie ordered a frozen margarita. While we waited for our drinks, we noshed on the chips and dip and continued trying to decide what to eat. The drinks eventually arrived although certainly not all at the same time. Hard to screw up a beer or a michelada (or so we thought) but you should have seen the look on Stephanie’s face when she took the first sip of a weirdly orange-colored and barely frozen margarita. Clearly not what she had in mind.
Finally we’d decided what to get and Fernando returned to take our order. He didn’t have a pad or pencil so we figured he must just have a really good memory. Lulu ordered Camarónes al Diablo. Fernando, nodded. Then, Stephanie ordered Chiles Rellenos de Camarón. With this second order, Fernando suddenly seemed to realize that this was going to be harder than he thought and he scurried off for a notepad. When he got back, we started again. It took a long time to complete the order because Fernando wrote the entire name of each order on the pad. None of that waitperson shorthand for him. No sir!
But, we eventually got our order in and continued visiting. Now, I’m sure I’m getting some of these things out of order, but somewhere along the line, while we were waiting for a round, Marcello (Mr. Azucar himself) dropped by the table to check on us. We told him that we were waiting for our drink order and what it was. He said “OK” and headed to the bar. He then gave Fernando our drink order again and Fernando acted as if it was the first time he’d heard it.
I tell ya, all signs pointed to reefer madness. Both of these guys seemed really out there. Hopefully the cook was okay or there’s no telling what we might get to eat.
Another round of drinks were ordered and Stephanie decided, wisely, to skip the margarita this time and join Lulu in a michelada.
For those who don’t know, a michelada in its simplest form is beer served in a salt-rimmed mug, over ice, and with a large dose of lime juice. Frequently some spiciness is added in the form of pepper or sometimes a dash of hot sauce. Up in Ensenada, they were always based on very spiced-up Clamato juice. The ones at Mr. Azucar were pretty basic but with the addition of black pepper.
So, we order 2 Tecates and 2 micheladas.
Pretty soon, Fernando returned with our 2 Tecates and two salt-rimmed mugs with about 1/2″ of peppered lime juice floating in the bottom. No beer and no ice. When we asked for the beer for the micheladas, Fernando looked very confused. “¿You want cerveza?” “Sí” “¿No michelada?” “We want cervezas for the micheladas!” Although this conversation was all in español, Fernando still looked like he was having a hard time homing in on what was happening. That must have been some mighty good stuff he appeared to be imbibing in.
Finally, Fernando returned with the beers. “Uh, Fernando, ¿podemos conseguir hielo?” (Can we get some ice?). This really seemed to stymie him but he did finally shuffle off and return a minute or two later with a goblet of ice and some tongs. He didn’t look very happy about it, though.
At long last, our meals arrived. Well, three of them did. We’re pretty used to Mexican restaurants now and know that it’s rare when everyone’s meal arrives at the same time. The general rule is, eat it while it’s still hot – don’t wait for me. So, Lulu got her Camarónes al Diablo, Stephanie got her Chiles Relleons de Camarón, Harley got his Captain’s Platter, and I waited for my Filete Relleno de Mariscos (Fish filet stuffed with shellfish). Everybody but me dug in. Before too long, mine came too.
Me: “This doesn’t look anything like what I ordered. It’s shrimp in some kind of red chile sauce. Wait a minute, this looks like Camarónes al Diablo!”
Lulu: “I wondered because this stuff is really good but it sure isn’t like any Camarónes al Diablo that I’ve ever had before. There’s way more stuff in it than just shrimp.”
Me: “That’s probably Harley’s Captain’s PLatter.”
Harley (to me): “What did you order?”
Me: “I had a fish filet stuffed with shellfish.”
Harley: “That must be what I’m eating. It’s really good but sure didn’t seem like what I ordered.”
So, we all exchanged plates and got what we ordered. This mix-up was in spite of the fact that when Fernando served, he’d hold up a plate and say “¿Camarónes al Diablo?” even though what was actually in his hand was a Captain’s Platter. It was surreal.
But, the food was good and we even got our complimentary shot of tequila. We had an excellent time getting to know Harley & Stephanie and, even though the service was somewhat bizarre, it’s a meal we won’t soon forget.