Un-Made in Mexico

Sex, drugs and the American flag: The true tale of an Orange County family

Hence, Baja, where Mr. Positivity is no man's bitch. And so at the end of an autobiography lasting, seriously, some 30 minutes (including multiple stops during which he cited what unnamed others have said vis-ŗ-vis his favorite subject), Alex tacked on to the disquisition an aphorism about God's autistic behavior regarding the opening and closing of doors, and smiled a smile that revealed he was grinding his teeth, and stared unblinking into my eyes—and that's when I figured (a) that Mr. Positivity's irises were either a rare, solid black, a black as black as a moonless Baja night, a black that could bend light or (b) that he was just absolutely racing on coke. He held my gaze steadily.

Apropos nothing, he added: "These kids"—and here he indicated the MPs, who had been patiently, even expectantly absorbing a tale I couldn't believe they haven't heard before—"are the future. I treat them like they're my own."

That night, driving to Bar Harbor in the Male Participant's truck, the Minor Participants said they no longer want to go to college, don't want to go back to California. This is home, they said of Baja. "Alex says we're the future of this place."

Photo by Matt Brill/Getty Images
Photo by Matt Brill/Getty Images

*   *   *

Back at the experiment, I joined the FP in a lawn chair in the middle of the lot. The sun had gone from white to tangerine on its westward arc over the Pacific. Mexican workmen had been promised "mucho cerveza" if they would continue plastering the sunflower-colored kitchen. But they were packing their tools.

The FP offered me coke in the bathroom.

I told her Alex hates America. She suggested that "hate" is the wrong word, that the relationship between the 50 or so Americans around here and the nation of their birth is more ambiguous. They fly improbably huge American flags over their homes. There are American flag stickers on the rear windows of their trucks. Some of them speak absolutely no Spanish ("The only Spanish I need to know," one expat told me, "is the Spanish word for 'dollar.'")

For herself, the FP feels betrayed. That last real-estate deal in OC, the one in which she thought she was surfing the rise and fall of land values but bailed too early, is evidence not of her own attitude toward land and family (I don't even suggest this). It's evidence that America has gone mad, that Americans are willing to go into ruinous debt in order to buy homes they can't possibly afford (did I know, she asked, that the average California home requires a combined household income of something like $130K?), all the while acquiring foreign cars and Chinese electronics and debt debt debt. Baja, she said, getting up for some more blow, has taught her the value of slowing down, enjoying life.

When she returned, I asked the FP what she wants in life.

"What do you mean?"

I noted that she seems unhappy with her husband.

"Well, he's just an idiot. Even the MPs call him 'Homer.'"

I gathered my will like a fist and declared a truth, maybe the first important one between us: she wants a divorce, and her husband—laboring away all year to pay for the Baja experiment—thinks everything's going according to plan. It isn't, I said, meaning the plan.

No, she said.

So I said again: What do you want?

She leaned her head back. "Casual sex," she said. "Rock & roll. Drugs." And then she said she was kidding.

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