Book Report

Jake, Nick, and Double Deuces

Jake, Nick, and Double Deuces. By j. Marable and M.Parlic. 157 pp. self published. No date or price but it’s only a couple years old and price is negotiable.

Many years ago, two ex-pats from South Chicago ( who’d never met before arriving in Cabo), became good drinking buddies, getting together to swap tales of Chicago, and later, of Cabo’s changing face. 40 long years later, this book of those stories was self published as a result of that story-swapping, and as a first person accounting of the rougher and seedier side of Cabo during those early years. I read the book quickly while on vacation, and thought this is truly a man’s book! The dialogue in each story sounds like men drinking a beer, and swapping their own John Wayne or Harrison Ford  tall tales. This book contains similar tales, and describes a very earthy and dangerous young Cabo. It also describes Todas Santos in early years

It seems to me the necessary ingredients for a successful and macho book are money and greed, a few gross and violent murders, retribution and revenge, sex and hot women, fistfights and beatings, hidden WW II jewels, some real and true romance, and then stir in some dirty politics, conspiracies, and garnish it all with a bomb threat! All of these dangerous ingredients are linked together in Mike’s stories, and described by him in rough language, with a few sweet and tender details.

The three main chapters, all with different stories, are somehow linked with reappearing characters who are woven into dangerous situations, and all connected with the Double Deuce...a nickname for Cabo’s famous bar, ( actual name, Latitude 22, which everyone in Cabo knows), which was, and still is Mike Grzanich’s’ bar and popular watering hole. Now it’s moved 10 miles out of town on the fourlane and he calls it the Roadhouse.

I decided that my fast read-through did not do justice to the intricate plots and unique characters, and so, during several sleepless nights, I reread the book, discovering that Mike had really done a masterful job of weaving together the plots of all three chapters. They are all linked together by characters or events in some way.

The first short chapter is Jake, and in its five pages, Jake is murdered.  Mike has the ability to describe his characters so that you feel that you know them. I quickly took a liking to Jake, and so, could not believe he was already out of the action. I was hooked.

Reading on, I was intrigued by Mike’s brief history of Cabo; with a bit different take on some events. He tells us that in the ’50s, sport fishing was popular; but only in La Paz, Mulege, and Loreto. Cabo, at that time was a quiet village of local fishermen, he says. Then visitors from Hollywood, (plus Ike and Nixon from the White House), discovered the untouched beauty Land’s End and this narrow desert peninsula was no longer a secret.

John Wayne, Phil Harris, Bing Crosby, Ricky Ricardo and a few others helped put BCS on the map. Mike says, “...once in another time....and not that long ago, it actually was a different time...” In relatively few years, as such things go, Cabo went from a sleepy village to luxury hotels, restaurants, resorts, and of course time shares. With that, it was transformed into a tourist Gold Coast.

I had a chance to interview Mike Parlic, better known locally by his real name of Mike Grzanich, in his bar that has moved 10 miles out of downtown Cabo, out on what he calls Hell’s Highway. I had just finished my first reading of the book, and had been told by many Cabo residents that Mike is a local icon and a Cabo treasure. It was early in the day so he was friendly and easy to talk to. Sitting on bar stools, we compared bum knees, and then talked about his book and his life. The bar is wall to wall with interesting local photographs and memorabilia, each with its own unique story. You could read those walls for days. Two signs inform customers that “if we don’t have it, you don’t need it”, and to “...leave the bullshit at the door....”

Mike’s writing partner is now 92, and lives in the States. He said that both of them contributed to each chapter, and I remarked that I like the blending of their styles, and I also like the short chapters (within the three long chapters), and their pithy titles: “ Gathering of Rats”, “Peek-a-boo”, “Sorting out shit,”, “Whoops”, among others. Most of all, I like the satisfying endings to each piece. Like a playwright, Mike brings to life an uncommon assortment of characters, places them in unlikely situations, and somehow weaves it all together into a story.

The second chapter is titled Nick, who is in a coma after a horrendous beating and multiple injuries, ( though one of the perpetrators can easily be identified, because during the scuffle, Nick bit his ear off). In his coma, Nick hears the conversations of everyone around him, but can only communicate with the ghost of his twin brother who had died years before. A complete changes of topic, but again, woven into what comes before and after. I found this chapter interesting because I’ve often theorized that coma and stroke victims are often fully aware but cannot communicate.

The last chapter brings in political conspiracies, and is a page turner for sure. The language is rough, characters even rougher, and I think some of the book’s charm is that Mike is not trying to be politically correct. The characters and plots have jagged edges and are not for the timid reader. Mike, the author also happens to be one of the main characters, and can best be compared to a cross between John Wayne and Agent 007. I wish I’d asked him more about the stories and the characters; were they real, and are some of the plots true? I didn’t ask that, and perhaps it is best not to know.

Quotes by Mike are some examples of the old Cabo wisdom; “...promises and bones were made to be broken”.” a mother-in-law’s kiss; damp and cold...”, and the one quoted most often throughout his book, “nothing fails like a great plan!”

I’ll end this review with my own favorite quote by Mike Grzanich, “ ...I remember my father’s try and get smarter as I get older- but really, I am only running out of stupid things to do.”

Copies of Jake, Nick, and Double Deuces are available in Cabo at the Lattitude 22 Roadhouse and he’s promised to bring me some copies for my book store in Loreto on his next trip north.

Our bookstore, El Caballo Blanco is finally reopened here in Loreto, and with a room full of bargain books, and also some new Baja coffee table books. The last several years have been a wild journey, and it’s wonderful to be back here. Thank you for your patience! Jeannine Perez, Loreto.  Please  note the new phone number  613 125 2611.  ,