Half Empty, Since 1998

We sat quietly for a minute, forcing our booze-soaked minds to compute what had just transpired: We were going to be in a kayak race.

Losing The Yak Race

Ryan McKee. April 29th, 2002

I met the guys at the bar at the Pink Cadillac around 10:00. Gabe had just puked on it. Luckily the bartender didn’t notice at the time because it was Labor Day weekend and everybody and their mother was in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. The bar was packed with people and the bartender had shuffled down the bar to help the irate mob that was demanding stronger drink, no ice, no water, no chaser. Gabe had been sucking down tequila like a recovering smack addict sucking down methadone. Shawn had suggested changing it up a bit and getting a shot called a cherry bomb. I have no idea what’s in a cherry bomb. But it seems appropriately named since it blew the insides of Gabe’s stomach up and out his mouth.

When I got there, they were more ducking-out, rather than waiting for me. They didn’t want to be linked to the puddle of vomit on the bar.

“C’mon, Gabe puked on the bar, we need to go somewhere else,” Jimmy told me. And that is how we ended up at Margaritavilla, a more mellow, Jimmy-Buffet-themed bar.

There we loaded up on cheap beers and tequila, transforming each of us into easy prey for Mexican business sharks that were circling the bar, just waiting for the weak ones to show themselves. And show ourselves we did. Pretty soon there stood a beautiful Mexican woman in front of us. She smiled. We did our best to work our numb faces into smiles for her.

“Hey guys,” she said in impeccable English. “You look like you’re having a good time. May I sit down?”

We all clamored at once to get a chair for her, but she already had one and was sitting down. She had a clipboard with a pencil tied to it by a piece of string. She had four fliers that she handed out to each of us. The fliers had a picture of a ship on them and at the top read in bold black letters, KAYAK RACE: WINNER WILL RECEIVE A FREE SUNSET CRUISE. FREE FOOD. FREE DRINKS.

She began talking. I followed her for a couple sentences: she was selling tickets to be in the kayak race, which was the next day at 10 am. Then I noticed how full her lips were and how they were painted red. And I noticed how tight her shirt was, and she was showing a lot of cleavage, and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t wearing a bra because I could she her nipples poking out.

In the middle of thinking all of this, Gabe nudged me. I looked up and noticed they all had their wallets out. She had sold them, they were entering, it was twenty dollars a piece. Before I fully realized what was happening, I too had my wallet out and was handing her a twenty. She wrote our names down and told us that we were lucky to get on the list because it was filling up fast. Then she asked if she could have the fliers back, they were the only copies she had.

After she left, we sat quietly for a minute, forcing our booze-soaked minds to compute what had just transpired. Finally, we looked at each other and started congratulating ourselves. We were going to be in a kayak race. Us. Four average twenty-year old white males, who came down to Mexico only with the purpose of getting drunk. Just to escape our usual, mundane lives back in the States. There was nothing special about us. We weren’t exciting people, we never picked up on girls at parties. We never tried. We brought nothing to the table. We would stay in our own group and drink and tell each other the same stories. We were never the life of the party. People remembered us as ‘the guys in the corner.’ We were wallpaper. We were accessories.

But now we were something else, we were kayak racers. And we let the other people in the bar know about it. We started talking to girls. They seemed impressed. We told guys sitting at the bar and they gave us high-fives. They bought us a round of drinks. We bought them a round of drinks. We bought drinks for girls. They smiled at us and we smiled back. We tried to flirt and to the best of our knowledge, they flirted back.

We were kayak racers, however, somewhere in the night, our drunken slurs transformed it into yak racers. We laughed, the girls laughed. Yes, we were yak racers and we began talking about racing Mexican Yaks, a rare species, down the beach. Jimmy saddled a imaginary yak and began riding it around the bar, yelling ‘gidde-up yak, gidde-up’. I jumped on Gabe’s back and began riding him around the bar. Other people in the bar noticed and laughed, and few people yelled, ‘woo!’ More drinks were bought and drank and the night becomes hazy and eventually fades out.

I awoke to Shawn’s blurred outline. The responsible one of the group, he was getting us up at 9:30 so that we could get to the race. Jimmy and Gabe were throwing up. I felt like elves had crawled inside my head and were pounding on my brain with miniature hammers. But Shawn, also the frugal one in the group, insisted, we had already paid twenty dollars each.

We arrived at the beach, pale and sick and wanting nothing to do with any of this. Nobody from the night before was there. Not the lady who had sold us on the idea, not the girls who had promised to cheer us on, not the guys who had bought us drinks. There were just two men, one Mexican, one white. The Mexican guy was tending to four kayaks. The white guy told us that we were the only ones that had shown, so we would be the only ones racing. Which was cool, because at least one of us would win. The race was to paddle out to this orange buoy about a 100 yards out and then paddle back.

The race was ugly. Shawn was the only one who completed it. He had already reached the buoy and was on his way back when I gave up, about 50 yards out. Gabe was, for all intensive purposes, merely paddling in circles. Jimmy was dry heaving while his paddle floated away from him.

When Shawn reached the shore, the white guy said, “Well, since you’re the only ones that showed this morning, how ’bout I give you all a free sunset cruise this evening.”

We had all won. I hadn’t felt like that since I was in little league and they told us that we were all winners no matter who scored the most runs and I believed them.

That evening we rode our sunset cruise, the four of us, sipping our free Coronas and looking our on the orange Mexican sunset. We were no longer four average white guys, but kayak racers. Winning kayak racers.

It really didn’t matter later when we found out that anyone can take that sunset cruise for fifteen dollars.

Semester at Sea:

  1. Beating The Hell Out Of A Japanese Penguin
  2. Losing The Yak Race
  3. An American Dancing Fool In China
  4. The Time I Couldn’t Even Pay For a Handjob

Semester at Sea official website