I rolled into Santa Teresa early in the afternoon. The sun beamed down its scathing agenda, burning my tender gringo flesh. Cars and motorbikes threw a lingering cloud of dust from the bumpy dirt road through town, and I thought of Burning Man.
Santa Teresa is a lot like Arcata except with great weather, amazing surf, beautiful tanned chicas everywhere and a happening nightlife. Ok, so it's nothing like Arcata. Everyone has dreadlocks and the place has a definite hippie vibe. A hint of magic on the wind. You get the feeling that the secret got out not long ago. The place is a veritable gringoville, teeming with a certain breed of tourism. But it’s a relaxed, free-flowing kind of place, and I can see why it’s such a sought-after destination.
I strung up my hammock at Zaneidas campground and hopped in the ocean for a while. The waves here are huge, consistent and barreling. I got out and went to a pay phone to call my folks. The phones were in use and I waited.
A dreadlocked Jamaican walked by, did a double take, turned around and said, "Hey mae, what is that on your shoulder?" I told him the tattoo was Saggitarius. His face lit up. "I am the fifteen of December, mae." It’s my birthday too, I told him. The Jamaican laughed loudly and cried out, "How did I know? How could I know? Come man, let’s share the beer."
I went to his place next to the campground and we drank a Pilsen. His name was Pineapple Head. He showed me around his place, which he built himself. He was a sculptor and had several cement figurines around the yard. Pineapple Head read my palm and told me I am blessed, protected by a dead relative, bound to live a long life.
"You're never gunna be married, man." I shrugged my indifference. "No wait, you gunna be married one time." He said the last name of an ex-girlfriend who I had already, in fact, married, in an impromptu morning matrimony sesh at a Persian-themed martini lounge at Burning Man, years ago.
"How did I know, man?" Pineapple Head proclaimed. "I am only the vessel."
We talked late into the night, drinking beer and cheap vodka. Santa Teresa is a hard place to leave. One succumbs to quixotic visions of endless surf, early retirement at Zeneidas campground, and the ultimate french fry. The allure is Blue Crush meets Mad Max Goes to Disneyland mostly naked. Everyone zooms around in beachwear on bicycles, quads and motorbikes looking like 1930s bank robbers behind big shades and handkerchief masks. More than a hint of mischief lurks on the breeze.
But maybe someday I will return to Santa Teresa and work for Pineapple Head at the hotel/sushi bar/internet cafe he is building – ET's Magic Beach Place. I will sip fine batidos de papaya con leche in a hammock, let my hair grow long and dread itself in the surf, and never wear a T-shirt again.