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An Appreciation of T. Jefferson Parker's California Girl, Baja California, and KT.

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In 1975, I was living with a lady I'll call KT while we were working in the Student Financial Aid Office at U.C. Berkeley; and, after our collaboration writing a book of advice for California applicants for student financial aid had failed (due to my hard-headedness), we decided to take a trip from the Bay Area to Baja California in a very used 1967 VW bus I was driving at the time.  Both of us innocent as hell and not sure if we were still in love.  

KT, the Bean, and me departing, by Personal Files

We crossed over at Tijuana, and proceeded slowly down Mexico State Highway 1, grooving on the rapidly changing sea- and landscapes and loving Mexico.

Tijuana (2000), by Ken Lund at Flickr Commons

T. Jefferson Parker is the best police procedural writer I've ever read, and California Girl may be the fifteenth book he's written. Three of his earliest books -- Black Water, Red Light, and The Blue Hour -- feature Merci Rayborn, a very strong woman working for a Southern California Police Department; these three books were smash-hits in the 1990's, but Parker published California Girl in 2004, and his awesome fame and prolific-ness decided me: if I'm going to appreciate California Girl at OEN, I'll simply present excerpts from Chapter 30.


In fact, California Girl's Chapter 30 stands alone as a perfect little jewel of T. Jefferson's art - after 284 pages of Southern California during the Vietnam War, of John Birchers, Nixonites, motorcyclists-hippie-druggies, a Drive-In Theater Converted to a Drive-In Christian Church, beautiful women and beauty queens (one of whom gets murdered and her head cut off), hard-headed men, and of course Southern California Law Enforcement persons.

Inside the John Birch Society (2005), by cdrummbks at Flickr Commons

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By Chapter 30, two San Diego County Sheriff officers -- Lucky Lobdell and Nick Becker - have decided to drive incognito down into Baja in pursuit of their primary suspect in the beheading of a local (Tustin, California) beauty queen, the suspect being a highly intelligent and vicious motorcycle-riding-drugdealer whose base of operations is in Baja California, well south of Tijuana.    

Back in 1975, KT and I had our first memorable close encounter with Mexicans at a beach on the coast side of Baja, near I can't remember what town, probably Mulaje or close to it. There was a secondary dirt road off the primary dirt road off Mexico 1, with a sign saying "A La Casa de Todos" and even our limited Spanish told us this was direction to "Everyone's House."   So we followed the secondary dirt road, while the sun dropped toward the ocean. And we got to Everyone's House a half-hour or so later, only to find it deserted. There was a big ocean breaking down below us, and we smoked some weed we'd brought from Berkeley, descended the cliff below the House and above the beach, strolled the beach while the sun set, decided to eat saved-stuff for dinner before crashing in the house, and climbed back up the cliff.   Which was when an open jeep-load of four youthful Mexicans drove up and parked; and two of them - with wet suits on and spear-guns - got out and walked over to talk to us. I tried to converse with them in my 25-year-old high-school Spanish, and at least I got over the idea that we were friendly, happy and harmless tourists. So the four of them ran down the cliff and across the beach, hit the water, and commenced to fish out of inner-tubes in the big surf.  

The first page of Chapter 30 of California Girl begins:


"Nick steered the red rocket south on I-5 while Lobdell smoked a cigarette and looked out at the new nuclear power plant at San Onofre.

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The Country Squire had two surfboards strapped to the top and food and water and camping gear in the back.   Nick and Lobdell had tried to dress more like surfers than cops but Nick figured they just looked like cops in sandals"." (p 285)  

Baja West Side Beach (2010), by Flavinha Crazy ! at Flickr Commons

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I have a law degree (Stanford, 66') but have never practiced. Instead, from 1967 through 1977, I tried to contribute to the revolution in America. As unsuccessful as everyone else over that decade, in 1978 I went to work for the U.S. Forest (more...)

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