BY GEORGE JOBB
Neighbors here in the Baja can easily cross a broad spectrum of humanity. Anyone who has rented or owned down here for a few months or years undoubtedly has many stories about their neighbors.
A friend stopped by for morning coffee yesterday, standing high up on my deck, taking in the view of the adjacent neighbor’s yard. He observed that that was the largest hookah pipe he had ever seen! I gave him a “hmm,” and said I didn’t know what he was talking about. But when I peeked over, I saw It wasn’t a hookah pipe at all; it was what I would consider a large commercial still that they had built on their terrace. It obviously had just gone up in the last couple of days, since I hadn’t seen it before. The still itself stood about six feet tall, maybe seven. The girth at the bottom was about the size of a 45-gallon drum, but it was round and made of copper. They also had a copper bucket with a coiled copper line for cooling and condensing. My neighbors had put some time into this. I started getting flashbacks about all the movies or TV series I’d seen about moonshiners, and thought that maybe they were doing some filming, and that I was just overreacting. But I don’t think so, because usually things are pretty much what they appear to be. Judging by the five 25-pound propane tanks there, they were about to go into business!
I’m from Canada, and my parents at times used a still to ferment mash leftover from making wine which was turned into pure alcohol. Usually a liter or two at a time at the most. I also used to purchase a liter of moonshine about once a month back in the days when the kids were still in diapers and I was living from paycheck to paycheck. The Serbian who sold it to me was a regular workout partner. He brought the recipe with him and his family from the old country, a recipe made from raisins; it was quite tasty at about 70% alcohol. That’s a pretty good kick for $10 a liter.
But this still of my neighbor’s was obviously designed to produce five or 10 gallons at a time. Normally you would do this on a farm or ranch or somewhere less populated. Perhaps up in the hills, because there’s usually a heavy odor given off by the process. Also, if there’s a problem with the pressure release valve. they tend to explode. As you’re dealing with 100% alcohol, it tends to catch on fire easily.
I prefer not to be the teller of bad news to the new tenant, who appears to be a Gringa hippie girl, but a condominium in this high-density area is not the place to install a commercial still. I’m not sure at this point how this is going to turn out, as I’ve only told one of the gardeners that this is probably a dangerous situation, and perhaps he should let the neighbor be aware of it. Perhaps she might want to get a more rural rental house in a less developed area for her startup business. Even in Baja you still need some common sense.
It’s been five days now and nothing happened so far. The still is still there, cooking away. Maybe I should just knock on her door and see if she’s going to have a tasting.