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Get on the YouTube!

It's early Thursday morning and I've just left on a month-long photo shoot for my next book, Builders of the Northwest Coast. I'm sitting in Cafe Roma in San Francisco, earphone plugged into my Mac laptop, watching film clips of Otis Redding, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, and Hank Williams.

YouTube.com (www.youtube.com) is the most fabulous website I've discovered in years. Film clips of all manner of things and I haven't even got past the music stuff. (And there aren't just oldies.) Lord this is so brilliant. You not only hear the music, but see the artists performing.

Otis dancing in a park with about 15 little kids, maybe 6 years old. His version of "Satisfaction." Is this good! He must have lip-synched to the music and he starts dancing for the kids and they all start dancing with him and then more kids run up and dance. Spontaneous and genuine. Rare and unique.

Otis doing "Try A Little Tenderness" backed by the Bar-Kays band in orange jumpsuits. It's wonderful to see him in person — he must be the most beautiful man I've ever seen.

You knew Otis (not Aretha) wrote "Respect," right? Here he does it with the Bar-Kays. You just can't hold still when he gets into "Got-to/got-to/have it·"

Hank Williams and Anita Carter singing a beautiful duet of "I Can't Help It (if I'm in so love with you)." Intro by June Carter:

Bob Dylan in strong voice at Frank Sinatra benefit 1995 backed by full orchestra:

1983 duet by Frank Sinatra and Bono (yes!) of "I've Got You Under My Skin":

When you find some songs you like you can bring up all the songs posted by whoever put those songs on the site. For example, James Carr has 142 songs posted.


I'll probably be doing more newsletters and blogs in the next month, when I'm nomadic and free of office biz.


P.S.: Every time I set out on a trip these days I think of my friend Godfrey writing me once: "May your trip be fraught with adventure." May it.

Return to Baja: A Love Affair Rekindled

For about 12 years (1989-2001) I'd go to Baja California every chance I got. 3-4 times a year, for stays of 4 days to 3 weeks. I fell in love with the place as soon as I got out into the blue Sea of Cortez on a ferry headed for La Paz one fine Spring day. Desert, beach, waves, plants, birds, stars at night, warm water, blue blue skies. I drove from La Paz through Todos Santos, Cabo San Lucas, and to San José del Cabo, old Spanish-style town on the southern tip of Baja.

One day I walked into a small gift shop and met 26-year old Isidro (Chílón) Amora, a native of Mexico City. We hit it off immediately. He was another explorer, he searched out fossil sites, cave paintings, remote beaches, waterfalls in magic canyons, and knew the history of the Los Cabos area, its discovery by the Spanish in the 1500s, the English pirate ships terrorizing Spanish galleons, the original inhabitants — the strong and beautiful Pericua tribe.

Over the years Chílón and I criss-crossed Baja, either in my desert converted VW Baja bug, or his rail (dune buggy). We camped on beaches and in arroyos, visited remote ranchos, old missions, found hot springs, ate in a hundred taco stands. We'd go to places where I was the only gringo. I loved that! I got inside the culture. Chílón knew the cool local restaurants, bars, taco stands, nightclubs, art galleries - places I'd never have found on my own.

It also helped that he was a local celebrity due to his 2-hour children's talk/music show on Sundays. He played "Periquín," a parrot with a kind of high, birdlike voice and talked to the kids. His trademark was a trill, like when you flutter your tongue against the rood of your mouth, Rrrrrrrrr. All Los Cabos kids listened to him. He played rock and roll and reggae, told the kids to respect their parents, kids got to talk on the air. As we'd walk down the streets, people would go Rrrrrrrrrr in passing. There was a wave of good will wherever he went, and I coasted along in his wake. I got to see Baja from a Mexican point of view, far different from the standard gringo/Baja wavelength — at their most receptive and revealing.

We launched a newspaper, El Correcaminos, that turned out great, but never got past its first issue Always in the back of my mind was a book on Baja. I shot thousands of pictures over the years, made notes, accumulated over 50 books on Baja. I was into it!

My love affair with Baja didn't end, but the exigencies of my publishing business and the need to get some books (including Homework) done, intervened, and I quit going down there about 4 years ago.

Last week I went down for 5 days, to hang out with Chílón, to witness the profound developmental changes in Los Cabos, to take another look. In my next posting I'll add a few photos and comments. On this trip I realized that, with the unique perspective I've had through Chílón, as well as my other Mexican friends Fino (local surfer dude), and Yuca ("pocho" hotelier, deal-maker), I had (have) a ton of unique material for a book. Suddenly, the Baja book, which had been on the back burner has taken on a reality. Maybe 2007. This project now makes sense, especially with the large numbers of people going to the region, there's an audience not only among North Americans, but with travelers from other countries. I'm working on my Builders of the Northwest Coast now, but this looks like the next major book. Hey it's so great to get excited about something, to have a book hove into view like this. This just clicked.

La Paz is a great town right now. It's a lot more real than Cabo San Lucas or San José del Cabo (or Todos Santos.) Sure gringos are there in force, but it's still a Mexican town.

German motorcyclist on the Baja tour on his BMW in the courtyard of El Azul Angel, great little hotel in La Paz.


Mexican wit and ingenuity. Hamburgers cooking on pickup truck converted-to-grill on the Malecón in La Paz.

Old adobe building in El Triunfo, former copper mining town 30 miles south of La Paz

Chilón and I stayed up all Saturday night, then went out to Coyote Beach at dawn on Sunday (east of Tecolote) to watch the sunrise, which was pink due to cloud cover. I jumped in the 70-degree water for a sunrise swim. On the way back to town we came upon these turkey buzzards drying their wings on cardon cacti.

Chair made of palm frond stems by Chilón's friend Alfredo. These stems are actually scrap from palm leaf palapa roofs.

Sale y vale,*

*Mexican slang for "goodbye," pronounced sah-lay vah-lay. Try it next time you're saying goodbye to a Mexican, instead of "adios." It always gets a great reaction.