Fear. Anger. Hunger. They all sit, Gollum-like, in the pit of your stomach, clawing at the sides and hissing bile. Wretched, debilitating and nauseating, each selfishly demands the resolute attention of your senses, cells and synapses. Combine the three and you’re basically a hyena. And they all make you do stupid, regrettable things. Like punching someone, or eating a whole box of uncooked dry spaghetti, or weeping quietly and uncontrollably on the bus. In fairness, the dastardly trio can also inspire greatness in their victims: resourcefulness, momentum and mettle.
What makes a baseless fear? You know, all those fears that recur in nightmares and ride their tricycle down the hallways of your mind. Low odds? If something is, say, less than 4% likely to occur, does that render your fear baseless? And who decided the figure would be 4%? Is it the anxious anticipation of an event you’ve never experienced? Because, dude, if you’ve yet to experience something, what exactly are you afraid of? Or, is the blinding, gut-wrenching phobia of a harmless animate, or inanimate, object enough? Does the sheer force of ones fear give it cred? Who really knows? Not me. And I asked first, anyway. My baseless fears include, but are not limited to: Frogs, cruise ships, eating oysters in public, losing control of my bowels and being chased by snakes. A trip to Mexico presents me with four of these five fears, at least. Plus a special bonus fear: being abducted by banditos and held for ransom. Todos Santos is an hours drive from the Spring Break Capital of Central America, Cabo San Lucas. Picture Santo Poco from seminal Mexican film The Three Amigos, but with less guapas and more hawkers. It’s hot, dusty and quiet, with a plague of Mexican handicrafts, conveniently cat-sized sombreros and genuinely fake silver. It’s also home to what may or may not be The Hotel California. But we’re here for one thing: tacos. Armed with new, guidebook fears of cut fruit, green salad and ice cubes, plus an enthusiastic recommendation from the pearly-toothed and tanned Mexico-Ken from our resort, we’re looking for Tacos George’s. ‘Perdon, donde esta Tacos George’s?’ We ask a man in a white singlet, leaning against the doorframe of his colourful trinket cave. He looks at each of us quizzically and points up the hill. Cool, I’m pretty sure Ken said it was up the hill. At the end of the row of shops, a mother and her daughter stand side by side, squinting under the angry sun. ‘Pardo-nay, donday esta TACOS GEORGE’S?’ They return our Spanglish with flat looks. Slowly, and much louder now: ‘TACOS. GEORGE’S. POR. FAVOR?’ The little girl looks at her mother, then back at us, ‘Tacos Jorge?’ The peso drops. ‘Oh! HAHA! Si! HOR-HAY! Tacos HORHAY, haha, isn’t this funny?’ We giggle and nod. ‘See, grassy arse sin-youreetah’. With her flat, obliging stare, the girl raises her arm slowly, and points down the opposite road. Then grins. A hot block away we find it, a cart with a cobalt blue awning, under a flaming bougainvillea. After negotiating a common language (O-LAH), then our order (‘DOS SHRIMPY TACOS?’) and their price (30 Mexican Pesos/ US$2.35), we watch Jorge deftly batter shrimp, drop them in the broad pan of smoking oil, then pile the golden crescent moons on top of a freshly grilled tortilla. We’re each handed a plastic plate, sheathed in a plastic bag to save washing up and pointed toward the condiments with a sly smile. We peel lids off blue lunch boxes one by one, skip the cabbage slaw, shredded lettuce and murky swamp of browning guacamole, and load up on salsa. Of a possible six, I try four, making the gringo’s assumption that red will be hottest. Fresh and caustic, Tacos George’s is the best taco of my life. Smug with our Spanish, we bid ‘ADIOS’ to George and see a man eating fast-melting ice cream: ‘Donde esta helado?’ He delivers us to a smiling boy with a bicycle cart, who heaps Styrofoam cups with fruit sorbet. Wandering back down the baking street, savouring every mouthful and extolling each flavour, it’s not until we’ve dug half way down that the question occurs. ‘Hey, this is ice, right?’ The Eagles echo in my ears as a baseless fear converges with a guidebook one, and ripples through my tummy. ‘Last thing I remember I was running for the door…’ Yeah, it’s THE The Hotel California.