Sunny Sexy South
Why life is more fun closer to the equator

Mi Amigo Bob

Mexico wasn’t the first time I worked internationally, of course, as that was in the mid-80s in Nicaragua. But Bob was the one who discovered me stuck in an unhappy marriage in the wasteland of California’s Inland Empire, a place I in no way belonged, and packed me off to Tijuana to help out with one of his many environmental projects. That eventually led to my 5-year stint working on the border the first half of the ’00s, where I believe that a group of us from both sides of the border really did make a positive difference.

I remember the first trips to Tijuana in the mid-90s, sampling at the infamously polluted Metales y Derivados, in the maquiladora-and-slum hell that is TJ. And I remember the first night out in the cheap glitz of la Revo. Bob was renting a room in Tijuana at that time, but it was not long after that he moved to Ensenada and I moved in with R. in LA. Bob would sometimes stop to crash on our couch on the way down, but often enough just talked me into going along. His indiscriminant enthusiasm for anything Mexico was infectious.

It was a good five years later, after I got back from my second stint in Nicaragua, moved to the Bay Area, and started the job on the border, that we became close friends. There was his house on Whitney Street in North Oakland where R. and I eventually ended up living in ’05 and ’06, after he moved upstairs to the attic apartment. It was the last place I lived in California or the U.S., for that matter. There were endless dive bars, innumerable games of pool and music ranging from shitty punk at Oakland’s Stork Club to Paulina Rubia in the big stadium by the TJ bull-ring. There was whale-watching with him and A. and her guy; she got terribly sea-sick but we did see whales and they were amazing.

Bob could drink me under the table any time, and I’m no greenhorn when it comes to tequila. I could always plead the excuse of being the designated driver, but when it was a night at home, especially after he moved to the house north of town with the beautiful ocean view, he would quite simply do me in.

E. and I eventually browbeat him into retiring; I launched the campaign before I left the U.S. After E. and I discovered we’d both moved to Berlin in the same month (!) and became friends in our own right, he and I joined forces when Bob visited Berlin in 2007 (memories of E.’s squat near Frankfurter Allee and Bob’s discovery of the Absinthe Depot). He did retire soon after, at age 62, and threw himself heart-and-soul into the Ensenada scene.

The last time I saw Bob was back visiting Berkeley/North Oakland at the end of ’09. We decided to ring in the New Year with a big dive-bar tour, starting with our stalwart, the Stork Club, hitting bar after bar on the way up San Pablo Avenue, ending at the Hotsy-Totsy up in Albany. The requisite bad pool was well covered, but the Hotsy-Totsy, to which neither of us had ever been, turned out to not be the strip club I imagined. In the spring he finally sold the house on Whitney Street and dived 110% into the Ensenada scene. During my last visit to Northern California, a year ago, I didn’t see him, as he was doing one of his many long-term tours from Baja into central Mexico. I didn’t mind; he seemed so happy.

Those of us who lived or worked on the border were very conscious of the risk of being in that very dangerous part of the world. Bob’s many years in Baja finally added up. He was brutally murdered at his rental in downtown Ensenada last week, where he had just moved after years at the house on the north side. He sent me birthday greetings at the end of August, full of news about his new house downtown, planning to rent out the old one. The tenants, a young couple in their early 20s, have been detained in his murder. They have destroyed his life and probably their own.

But that won’t prevent those of us who cared for him (especially you, E. and A.) from guarding the memory of Bob, the altruist who tirelessly helped to bring the Ensenada bike path to fruition and continued to nudge the city on the path to sustainability, but at the same time, the hard-living man who should have by all rights partied himself into an early grave, as we all expected. He believed in Mexico when so many have given it up for lost. He was a gentle, kind soul on this earth which can so little afford the loss of such men. Que descances en paz, mi muy querido amigo Bob.

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2 Responses to “Mi Amigo Bob”

  1. Bob was my friend and the close friend of a person I love very much, Bob was a gentle soul, silly and genuine, he was an optimist and a stubborn one at that, his constant lefty political work, both in the US and Mexico spoke to this. Bob made it clear that people mattered and not things and he was a welcoming spirit, we shared his house with him in Oakland, a cat- Hugo, and many good times. I am writing to honor his life, the circumstances of his death will never obscure this.

  2. […] This was also posted on her blog. Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in Story by robertofrey. Bookmark the permalink. […]


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