The House in Baja
In 1968 Jack and Denny Smith, somewhat to their own surprise, leased a vacation house in Santo Tomas, Baja, built by their landlord Romulo Gomez. For some twenty years, Smith captivated his readers with stories of the incomparable Mr. Gomez and the Baja life of “mañana.”
From the beginning of the relationship, the Smiths had to adjust to Mr. Gomez’ singular approach to construction and maintenance. In a July 8, 1990, column, “Adios to Gomez and Their Baja Mansion,” Smith wrote about the early days of home construction, “Three months later, we drove back to give Gomez some more money and a plan I had drawn. I told him to go ahead. It was another three months before we came back. He was building our house but not on our lot. It was in the middle of the rutted road. I asked him, ‘Gomez, why are you building the house in the middle of the road?’ He said, ‘Because the road has the best view.’ We were to become familiar with that kind of logic.”
From such experiences, Jack Smith wrote his most popular and enduring book, God and Mr. Gomez.
|The Smith house in Santo Tomas, Baja, ca. 1970. ||Romulo Gomez and Jack Smith working on the house, ca. 1970. |
Jack Smith. Baja Logbook, 1970-1977.
Smith’s journal of life in Baja is open to the first page, with the entry for May 16, 1970, the first day of occupancy. The entry recounts various glitches in the house, especially the crossed lines that sent hot water through the pipes to the toilet.
In his July 8, 1990, column about the end of the Baja days, “Adios to Gomez and Their Baja Mansion,” Jack wrote more about their first stay in the house: “I had always told him that I would not consider the house finished until the toilet was in. He called us from Tijuana one day and told us the house was finished. The toilet was in. We rushed down to La Bocana and threw upon our front door. The toilet was sitting in the living room.”
|Jack Smith at a book signing for |
God and Mr. Gomez, 1974.
|Jack Smith’s Greek fisherman’s hat.|
Courtesy of Curtis B. Smith.
| || |
Jack Smith. Card containing notes for the introduction to God and Mr. Gomez, 1974.(Image not available)
Romulo Gomez Monroy. Home for the Smith family in Bocana de Santo Tomas, Baja, California, Mexico, December 4, 1968.(Image not available)
This account by Mr. Gomez shows expenses for construction of the Baja house.
Jack Smith. “Baja Home in the Hands of God, Gomez,” November 24, 1988.(Image not available)
Here, Smith talks about his and Denny’s impending return to their Baja home and recalls the loving, exceedingly thorough – sometimes too thorough – maintenance attention that Mr. Gomez has bestowed upon the house between their visits.
Steve Schapiro. Photograph of Jack Smith, with Baja house in background, ca. 1975.(Image not available)
All rights reserved. Displayed by permission of Steve Schapiro, courtesy Fahey/Klein Gallery.