We came in the back door of the infamous Hussong’s Cantina about 1 p.m., 16 desperados assembled to celebrate the Nuf’s 78th year on earth.
The bus ride down, filled with vodka-rich jello poppers in NST colors, tequila shots, beers and diet coke, stopped first for a birthday toast at what Nuf called the ”greatest view in Ensenada.“ Then it was the short drive down to the back parking lot and into the legendary bar with its walls of fame – sketch drawings of a bounty of outlaws who have earned their wall space with multiple journeys and a respect for the Mexican way of life. Needless to say, Nuf has a spot with his pal Robin in the front corner on the left as you walk into this storied hall of booze-fueled conversation.
While most of us looked for a taco, Nuf, his friend Oscar and wife Mary preferred a margarita at their place at the bar (front right-hand corner under the Hussong’s logo on the storefront glass). The mariachis arrived on time at 2:30 p.m. and Nuf began to hold court, his court.
It was a glorious first hour of song but not until the second hour did it all come together. As Nuf encouraged Oscar to step in with the band, this world renown Mariachi tenor waited for the respectful time before standing to “sit in” with song and making the most out of an out-of-tune violin. It wasn’t long before the crowd recognized what was going on and began roaring its approval with high-pitched screams and applause for Oscar and his new-found band of young local mariachis. Then came an old cowboy doing his rope tricks with the band joining in. A few songs later, during the revelry, a bride and groom in wedding attire entered the bar for a drink and a dance. The band stopped and played “Here Comes the Bride.” Only at Hussong’s…
As Nuf took back his court and challenged the band to play yet another on his favorite’s list, he noticed an aging patron who obviously knew of Oscar and invited him into the group (with his wife coming to the table to tell us over and over again what fortunate gringos we were for knowing the tunes of old Mexico). Then as Nuf joined Oscar for a rousing version of his favorite, Paloma Negra, up stepped this third amigo to help with song. We later learned he was suffering from terminal cancer, but what a special day he shared with us in this bar of bars.
“That’s my son,” Nuf whispered to Oscar, when Larry took his turn with the band, singing Crei, even drawing in our own band of NSTinis. At one point, Nuf was convinced his pal Robin was smiling and clapping along. About the same time there was a roar at the corner TV – the Padres beat the Giants, promising one last game to fight for post-season play.
Shooting photos at Nuf’s place at the bar came next and then it was time to head for the back door and the bus ride home … not just another day for these desperados but a special never-to-be forgotten “el Jefe” Saturday – in his world.