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Year 2007 – Living in Paradise

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Political Commentary

This year I have kept the political commentary in a separate location.
This year also I have moved thoughts and observations to a separate file.
This file will attempt to stay restricted to current history.

JANUARY

II am starting off with things working and in good health.  This is the start of my second year living full time in EL Golfo de Santa Clara, Sonora, Mexico.  I hear about other places people call Paradise.  They are sadly disillusioned.  Annually there are three or four rainy days.  The nearest snow is hundreds of miles away.  There are maybe 10 days total with any clouds in the sky..  I live in my RV close enough to the sea that I could throw rocks, if there were any rock to throw, into the water at high tide.  I have good friends that work here and even some friends who are park members.  I can drive the 120 miles to the American city to buy things that I do not want to buy here.  There are two dentists and two doctors, one gas station, and the equivalent of a Blockbuster, Home depot, Walgreen's, and 7-11.

The women are young and pretty and friendly.  You can always get help for anything and when it gets warm I can swim in the pool.  The Laundromat is 100 feet away.  The stars are clear -- no smog.  Have I left anything out?

FEBRUARY

I went to Yuma yesterday.  I also took the Harvard Implicit  Association Test.  I enjoy this site since it is the first psychological anything that makes sense to me.  I took the old/young test and found I had a strong preference to young.  A preference, I understood.  Strong was stronger than I expected.  I also mentioned this to my daughter who asked why I was surprised.  Every time I mentioned "old", it was with a negative adjective.  Maybe it is because I usually call her from Yuma.  This is a city that make a traffic jam out of 3 cars.  Their traffic signal system is designed to create intersection accidents.  Between the people who park at the yellow line and refuse to turn until they have an arrow even though Yuma permits turns on green and the people who run the red lights because they will not wait for a green anything, it is amazing any traffic moves at all.  And never make the mistake of turning west on US 95 in the afternoon anywhere near the shopping plaza or I-8.  The solutions: 1. Make all intersection have exclusive left turns and not permit turns on green (ala Silicon Valley). 2. Close all exits to I-95 from the shopping plaza (I do not like this one but ...).

But after dealing all week with my computer class where people have $2,000 laptops and want me to tell them how to turn them on and off, I start the trip frustrated.  A woman at the park used to teach Spanish classes.  She found that the old people wanted to be taught but they did not want to put out the effort to learn.  The computer class is somewhat similar.  The driving in Yuma, frosts the cake.

I watched (over and over) the Harry Potter movie where the dragon is chasing him.  At one point Harry is lodged on a ledge and wants to move around its corner.  He grabs the roof spike, not at the bottom, but at the top.  It promptly breaks off and he falls to the next ledge which is where he wanted to be in the first place.

Many years ago, our family visited the park at the base of the Mackinaw Bridge.  There was an abandoned multi-story house there.  Many kids wanted to get inside.    I showed them how to climb the gutter to get to the second floor and to climb into a window.  Climbing a gutter is dangerous.  You must make sure that your entire weight is vertical with no horizontal component.  That is, you must cleave to the side of the building itself as leaning out will put the drain away from the building.  A couple hours later one of the kids was taken away in an ambulance.  The other problem with climbing a drain is that each time it is done weakens the supports.  I would not have done it a second time and I did leave the door of the house open to eliminate the need to climb the pipe.

It is things like this and the experience of living in the South (Dallas and Boca Raton) that make me believe that we have totally destroyed the concept of natural selection and are intentionally creating a world full of dummies.  Or maybe it is just that the dummies have become the majority and are voting themselves preferences.  I think maybe both are true.

On a lighter note.  I remember my sisters bringing home some small bits of paper from their biology class.  The idea was that the taste buds of some people are physically different than other peoples.  That is, some people would only taste paper while others would have a very strong taste.  I was one of those who thought the paper was the most bitter thing I had ever tasted.  I have discovered that Mexicans have different tastes than AMericans and I believe that it is physical and not cultural.

For example feeding any of the following will get a Mexican to believe that you are trying to poison them:  Mustard (mostaza), shrimp sauce with horseradish (rábano picante), root beer (cerveza de la raíz), or Robitussin DM cough medicine (medicina de la tos).  On the other hand, feeding a gringo a chile serrano may get a similar response.

Scared S...less

I saw someone really fearful the other day and thought I have never been that frightened.  But then I started remembering.  Once I was that frightened.  No.  It was not the time when I was 10 when I fell off the cliff (I wrote about that already).  No.  It was a time, about five years ago, when I was walking down the sidewalk in Chandler, Arizona.  Or at least in that area.  You have to understand.  When I was a teenager, I lived down at the train tracks.  The Chicago and Northwestern freight tracks west of highway 100 in Wauwatosa.

There I learned a lot about trains.  For example, you could be walking along the train tracks and suddenly there was a train behind you.  You learned to walk on the right side of the tracks because when the wind was right and the engine was coasting, there was no sound at all.  Oh yeah.  The tracks creak and there must be some sound but when something that large appears out of nowhere, you are at least surprised.  At night the surprise was no so easily come by.  At night, the trains have this headlight that scans in a figure-eight pattern.  Oh.  It does in the daytime too but, like cars, you do not see it much.  Also when you see the light approaching from behind, you watch your distance.  When we were kids, it was time to hide as we did not want the engineers to see us.  I think it must take a while for the engineers to get used to this light as it moves through its cycle.  Driving a car with a headlamp that turns with the steering wheel takes getting used to.  That oscillating search lamp at the front of the train engine must be like that only worse.

You must also understand.  Until I saw my first guided missile take off; until I saw my first hurricane; I thought the massive engines of a freight train pulling a mile of freight cars was the most overwhelming force on the planet.  Everybody sees these beautiful, rusting, snakes of steel as they trail across the countryside.  But up close and personal, the energy and power emoting from one of those engines as it sits and waits for its command to move is an experience that you should have at least once.  Up close and personal, that engine and the engineer looking down at you exude more energy than your body will have in your lifetime.  And it is just sitting there.  When you hear the engine and motors whine and you hear the clank of each car gets told to go, you are listening to one of the great forces that mankind has created.

In any case, I am walking down this sidewalk in Chandler one evening.  Walking south with a hedgerow on my right .  This is going to be a long walk because this hedgerow has gone on forever and seems to not end in front of me.  Maybe you know from my description where I was.  I do not remember the streets.  All I do remember is suddenly this search lamp, figure-eight passed me lighting up the sidewalk in front of me as it also traveled south.  I dove for the curb.  I do not remember if I wet my pants but I think I did.  I got back up and looked around as the giant switch engine, we called them jeeps when we were kids, silently glided past on the other side of the hedgerow.

I mean, had I even suspected train tracks on the other side of the hedge, I would not have been surprised.  But when sudden death is coming up silently behind you -- fast -- it is time to be scared.  I mean I have been run over by a small pickup and although close to death, I survived with some serious scars and a pathological fear of little yellow Toyota pickups.  But a freight train leaves no survivors.  When it runs over you, they pick up the pieces.  When that light passed me, the fear was intuitive: I was in the dirt in less than a second.  While lying in the dirt, I figured out that wherever that train was, it was not on the sidewalk.  But that instant when the light glided south, as fast as a slow-moving car, the panic portion of my brain took over and I was on the ground as fast as I could throw myself there.  With a train, my five feet sidewise jump to the ground would be enough -- if I jumped in the correct direction -- and I did jump away from the light.  But that did not save my pants.  When you are cut into pieces, you do not have a whole lot of time to yell for help or to rethink your relationship with your creator.  You do that when you get up, brush yourself off, say  thank you, and look around hoping nobody saw you and wonder about changing your clothes.

Enough.  I get the sweats just thinking about that night five or six years ago.  The engineer probably had a good laugh -- he lives with that behemoth -- and he knows what it do.   And we replaced this power and glory with asphalt and 18-wheel trucks?  Shame on us all.

Just Some Thoughts

A few years ago when a friend of mine and I were discussing politics and hit upon prayers in school, my friend posited that parents would not like prayers in school if they were in an area predominantly another culture.  What would mommy say if she heard her little Baptist-clone reciting a Moslem prayer?  The Moslems believe that they are praying to the same God as Christians and Jews.  It is not like mommy had to listen to a Buddhist chant.

This last week I visited a woman with 3 young kids.  The middle girl makes Dennis the Menace look like Cupid.  When the girl was made to lie down because she had bloodied her nose, she kept getting up.  The mother picked up a switch and swatted her blanket multiple times.  This got to be a game and the mother ultimately switched the girl's bottom.  Although this was done lightly enough to not even stop the girl and she certainly did not feel pain through her diaper, the bigger sister started crying.  The mother told me that big sis cried whenever her little sister was spanked.  I know I shall never understand the Mexican culture but this went way beyond anything I have seen before.

We went to a corner pizza restaurant.  I know the Mexicans will ignore me because I am not fluent in their language.  For this reason, I often take a kid shopping with me.  This walk-up pizza window had the menu posted and the Mexican menus are much simpler than gringo menus.  The top page had small/personal pizzas.  The bottom page had medium-sized pizzas.  There were no large or family or humungous pizzas as in the restaurant up the street.  We would have gone up the street but they were closed.  The girls do not like lots of ingredients so we asked for two medium pizzas, one supreme and one pepperoni-only.  I pointed at the choices on the appropriate page.  The only reference to small/chico during the discussion was the girl saying to me that these pizzas were smaller than those up the street.  After ordering, we went up the street to Maria Luisa's grocery store for some Salsa de Osteon and soda.  When we got back to the pizza restaurant, the man had two small pizzas and refused to replace them with the larger ones.  We left.  He was angry at me.  I was angry at him.  The woman and kids were angry at me.  We found a nice little restaurant that made up some tortas for us.  We did not stay at the playground as it was too cold.  We went back to their house and then I went home.  Yes, it took a while to get the tortas.  But I had sat in a chair at the house for over an hour, with no comment, waiting for the woman  to finish cleaning the kitchen of her mother's house before we even started our park visit.  And my language may not accurately state the proper pizza even though I made a point of saying medium multiple times and never saying small even once.  But my finger on the menu was accurate.  There could have been no mistake which piece of paper my finger was on when I ordered for the pizzas.  If you want to ignore me, you can do so.  But if I have ordered food and you attempt to pawn something other than I ordered on me, we will both walk away disappointed.


MARCH

APRIL

I have sort of been falling down on my job of keeping this file up to date.  Many things have happened in the last two months.

The soldiers at El Doctor stole my camera and my expensive perfume.  While the one soldier was keeping me busy in the trunk, the soldiers up front rifled through my stuff and stole what they wanted.  Last month I splurged and bought a bottle of expensive perfume.  Gone.  My Olympus Camera.  Gone.  They may have gotten some pictures but the camera needed replacing.  It cost over $500 new but after loaning it to Sara multiple times, it had been abused enough to show the wear.  The front cover  slide no longer active the on/off switch well.  The focusing motor could hardly get past the sand.  ANd they got the camera but not the charger.  Camera battery chargers are unique to the camera.  Unless he is rich and has web access, he has a pretty brick.  The guy on the left side missed: I keep 100 dollars in pesos in the door pocket.  Those soldiers were not there the next day.

I visited my daughter, Megan, in Berkeley over Easter Week.  Megan's foot is somewhat better after her operation.  Her wrist is next for surgery.  She bought me a nice new camera for a birthday present.

I have more of less given up on my friend Martha.  She and her sister, Christina, were working at the fish plant when she asked me to drive her sister home.  Home is in 57 -- a fifty mile trip each way.   This is a major request not just for the distance but the woman did not act sick in the car -- just rude.  I delivered her home and did not even get a thank you.  Not one word.  No words during the ride.  Nada.

Moreover, the ride home was in the middle of one of the worst dust storms that I have ever seen.  Many times you could see nothing but a few feet of asphalt in front of the car.  The Mexican roads are two lanes: one each way.  No shoulders.  Maybe a center line but rarely a lane marking and even more rarely a line at the edge marking where the shoulder should be.  Miss a curve or get distracted and you go off the road.  And , I forgot to mention it, off the road may mean anywhere from one meter to 10 meters down -- unless you are on a mountain, in which case the drop may be much worse.

The main road turns west to 57 in a T-junction with a stop sign on the T but not the main highway.  Most of the main highway traffic south turns to 57.  Most of the main highway traffic north goes straight into San Luis.  The problem is that often people going south who do not turn pass slowing traffic in the oncoming traffic lane.  This is dangerous at the best of times.  In this case I think it was fatal.  A car in the left lane was firmly ensconced into and under the bumper of a large truck.  Up to but not including the car windshield.  There were some cars to the side and people standing around.  No ambulances nor police -- yet.  I turned south back to El Golfo.  The storm was along the entire roadway to town and in the park.

There have been several nights with wind storms this month.  None so bad but almost.

It is now a two weeks after Easter and there are about 12 RVs in the park.  Usually there are just 1 or 2.  It is part of the changes happening here in El Golfo.

MAY

It is now the second last week of May: Memorial Day is coming.  This is always the worst holiday of the season.  I shall be in the park for most of it.

Lots of things.  My woman friend, Marisol, has a house on the northeast corner of town.  A double lot and she has moved back with her husband in San Luis.  She has a double lot and a small house on the very corner at one end.  SHe has let me take over the other lot if I will make a fence, septic tank, and other minor improvements.  These should be finished by the weekend.

I must leave the RV park because of new ownership rules: nobody lives in the park during the summer.  I came back from Easter seeing Megan and was told I had two weeks.  Because of 3-day coupons, I get to stay until June 8 but I want out sooner.  I need to return to El  Centro this week for my blood test.

The damage to poor Marisol's lot is extensive. WIth the survey showing the lot to be slightly smaller than originally marked, and a chain link fence being installed and ground leveled, and a humungous septic tank slab, and concrete tracks for the RV, etc., the place is no longer a little, isolated, cabin on the outskirts of town.  The work is taking longer than expected and I shall move in next week rather than the end of this week as planned.

I shall miss my beach but I can see the ocean from my bedroom window.  I shall not miss the dust from the quads.  I shall miss my friends that work here but I can still visit them daily.  In fact I expect to.

The total improvements come to $5,000.  This is really a great deal for me.  I mean, people are paying $20,000 just for a lot with maybe a shanty that has to be discarded.  Then they have to make the same improvements that I am making.  I get my own home on an open double lot, for the total cost of the $5,000 plus paying the light and water bills and $50 per month to my friend.  She, in return, has the knowledge that her home is secure and ready to welcome her any time she pleases.  With the influx of new people to the town and the general crime rate for anything that looks abandoned, this is good news for her.

If my health holds up, and that is always a big if, then I should be able to stay here for many years.  I shall also plant some trees and shrubs to make the place look even more homey.  But now that I am a member of the community, I had really learn the language and more of the customs.  I need to do this or I shall become a hermit.

La Boda

The mother, Rosa, of my friend, Liz,  and the previous assistant park manager, Hurricane, got married this last Saturday.  In many ways a normal wedding but there were some problems on my side.  Rosa is a very pretty. down-to-earth, Mexicana.  Hurricane is a somewhat boisterous, Canadian.  They have been seeing each other ever since Rosa came to the park five years ago.  Now it is official.  I bought them a nice set of brilliant colored dinnerware.  I know Liz liked them.  I have not heard from Rosa or Hurricane.  And I do not expect to.

The wedding was at 7:00.  The wedding went as planned.  The catering was abysmal and I got nothing to eat.  Those that did got 3 little tacos hardly worth the effort.  But the real zinger was Martha.   All of those invited were family or park members.  I was the only solo park member and Liz told me that I could invite someone.  I invited Martha.  Last Saturday I took her shopping for a dress.  Instead she bought clothes that would have done my wife with her KMart tastes proud.

Also Martha had hurt her ankle and had been hobbling around for 2 weeks.  This is OK with me because I did not want to dance and now she could not.  Here in Mexico many weddings are open to all who want to drop in.  If you want it to be private, you include a little reservation card in the invitation.  Only those with such cards get past the gate security.  Now we have the single exception.  I am a park member and live here so I, like many others, do not need a reservation card.  I was supposed to drive to 57 to get MArtha but she disappeared on Tuesday.  Her family said she was here in town to sell tamales.  I could not find her.  By Friday my legs were hurting from congestion badly enough that I went to El Centro.   I told her daughter, Karen, that I would not come to 57 to pick up Martha since she was not there.

I had not heard from her at all.  On Saturday afternoon, she shows up and asks where I've been.  We arranged for her to return with Alexandra that evening before the wedding.  She showed up late but that was good because ALexandra was making a lot of noise.  I had alerted the gate guard to let her in without a reservation slip.  After the meal and the start of the dance, we had exchanged small food items.  I got two tamales, she got some ham and cheese.  Then she left.  I went to bed.

But she returned with another woman and a couple of men.  She had a good time dancing and her men friends got evicted for peeing on the fence.  On Sunday morning she still pretended a foot problem when I saw her as she returned to 57.  She had told me that she would be selling more tamales.  That same morning later I found out that she had brought friends in.  It took a a few different people to discover that she had brought them on a separate trip.

I saw her again yesterday on the way to El Centro again.  I do not think she knows that I know she has been lying to me.  I am not good at letting friends go but this time it is necessary.  I guess it is a flaw in my character: I find the most manipulative, lying woman and try to be friends with them.  At least I have Liz and Marisol for friends.

JUNE

There is no way out of seeing Martha as she just started working at Maggie's restaurant and her house is on the way to mine.  Mine? Today is moving day.  I hate moving the RV these days but it is time.  I am not happy with the contracted work on the lot but what else is new?  If I wait for it to be perfect, it never will be.  But it is close enough and I need to leave the RV park this week.

Because fishermen are lost in the sea and for other reasons, there are a number of single women in this town.  People tell me that they are easy to meet.  I can go to the bars -- but I do not drink.  I can go to church but you know my position on Catholic believers.  Manuel tells me that I have several neighbors that are good women near my lot.  But they will not be walking past as I am at the end of the world.  I will need to increase my walking radius if I am to meet them.  But then Liz tells me that all (not most) available, single, women that I will meet are the manipulative types that I tend to fall for.

Sometimes becoming a hermit sounds like the best alternative.  I think the primary way I find out a woman is manipulative is that she likes me -- or pretends to.  Mostly I find out when I stop giving her presents and she stops calling on me.  Liz pays me up front for things.  Martha says she will but does not.  Marisol gives me money on a layaway plan.  All are some level of friend. None could be girl-friend material.  And I cannot imagine living with someone full time.  I did that once and I learned the difference between being alone and being lonely.  I will take being alone thank you very much.

My New Home

I am safely ensconced in my new home. Things are getting done better every day.  No.  The contracted work is not complete.  Marisol and her husband have moved into their home here in El Golfo on a permanent basis.  So instead of care taking, I am now worried about many things.  I am afraid of the stability of their marriage impacting the duration of my life on this lot.  I could say more here but mostly remember that I am paranoid.  Any man would be overjoyed to be married to a woman as good and good-natured as Marisol.  I recognized that in her the first day we met.  She calls herself my third daughter.   A designation that I hope we can both live up to.

The lot is clean, level and very full of sandy dirt.  The lot must be watered every day or it will disappear.  I had a scare the other day when some of the neighbors started building a shanty across the street on the top of the hill.  Apparently it is more difficult to be a squatter today than it was five years ago.  They were forced to abandon their project.  Now there are some walls up there but the people are gone.  Oh. Geography.  My lot is on the northeast corner of town.  There are several such corners so I must clarify a little,.  Believe it or not, the streets in this town have names.  I am on 6th avenue.  I am at the very northern end of 6th Avenue.  East of me is a good sized hill.  There will not be a 7th avenue for some time.  North of me there are no streets.  The hill to the east sort of curves west making 6th avenue difficult to continue north.  It will but not this month.  I do not know the name of the street on my north side.  For that mater, I do not know the name of the street south of me but I can tell you a bit about it.  The street ends on the west end at the highway one block north of the TelCel tower.  In the other direction it continues past 6th Avenue and over to the other side of my hill.  I have not been there to see where that goes but I know it must go somewhere.  The new highway to Puerto Peñasco is further to the east but I am not too sure where.  Across from me east is the hill and the lots in front of me are currently minimally occupied.

Marisol's house is to my south and  6th Avenue crosses the road I just described and then does up this hill -- also curving west.  This becomes a fairly steep hill and the sand is soft and having gotten stuck once on it, I do not go up there any more.  It does not go anywhere that I want to go.  So the main entry to my home is from the cross street that ends up near the cell tower.  Two block closer to the tower is Martha's house but she lives in 57 now.  No.  Since Marisol started at Maggie's Martha has rented a tamale/hot dog restaurant in 57.  Good location.  I hope she makes it work.  Yes, I am still infatuated with her.

I spend several hours every day at the air-conditioned security gate with Liz or Manuel.  I spend about an hour at Maggie's.  Early in the morning I try to make progress on my new home.  It is too hot to try to do anything during the day.  My little Tercel makes more and more squealing noise.  I hope I can get it fixed.  The IRS is auditing me.  That will be a major expense.

This Part Could Get Me Killed

December 3, 2008. This has been removed as the probability of my death  is not zero.

JULY

As the Chinese say: "May you live in interesting times."  It is now the 11th of July.  On the 4th of July El Golfo was as deserted as a Post Office after a bomb scare.  This last week has been interesting.  But here is the problem.  I have a friend, Tino, who can write with so much heart that a Sunday Mass would sound like a love-in.  I have a friend, Gary, who like myself is a technocrat but can make everyday things sound as thrilling as a moon landing.  Then there is Tom who lives what I consider a most exciting life and he describes it well -- when you can get him to describe it.  I am still waiting for a blow-by-blow description of his trip to Mexico last year.  But me.  Me? I live such a boring life and with my writing is as dry as a tuna fish sandwich without mayonnaise, that I wonder why you, poor reader, are still here.

But let's do some of this week  Some of it a little backwards.  Some forwards.  I just got home from 57 (you can learn about it elsewhere in this narrative).  My patron and wife/landlord were just arriving/leaving at the same time that I got home.  She, one of the most beautiful women you will ever meet, wants me to order tires for her on my next trip to the EEUU (USA for you gringos).  She shows up at my front door with dinner wrapped in foil for me, reminds me to leave my laundry out front in the morning, and then gives me a big hug.  I need hugs these days.  Marisol.  I have mentioned her before.  Such a beautiful name: Mar (sea) y (and) Sol (sun) for a woman who has more love than anyone I have ever met.

Remind me about my laundry?  Yesterday or maybe it was this morning, she told me to leave it out and she would wash it for me.  Washing also means ironing.  You mean your wife does not iron your underwear shorts or T-shirts?  Hmm.  Mine did not either.  I got my car back today from the mechanic.  $120 dollars.  Total.  He told me that his work was guaranteed.  Here in Mexico, his word is good -- I do not need a contract.  I wish it were perfect here but as you have read, it is not.  I bought some gas, drove around town, and then drove up to see my woman friend, Martha.  I am sure I love her kids more than I love her.  By the way, there are many words for love in Spanish and you must choose the correct one.  Amar is to love sexually.  Enamorar is to love emotionally.  I use the second because the first is out of my league.  I shall die having known very little of the first kind.  Thank you, MaryAnne McD wherever you are for that part of my life that did have amor.

But Marisol is someone who I swear must be the most famous woman in all of northern Mexico.  If I want to tell someone where I live, I say I live next to Marisol.  This is not just true of people on the street.  This is true of the water company, the police department, even the mechanic.  Two days ago, I was in a car parts store in San Luis (100 KM away).  When the man saw myself and the other men I was with, he got a big smile and said for everyone to hear: Ah, Marisol.  I asked her about this today and she said that she was in there once to buy parts for her Toyota.  Once.  For her, once is all it takes.  In fact, I have told my friend Martha, that I do not want to hear about Marisol from her.  There is obviously a jealousy problem here. Friendly conversation ends when she ask me about Marisol.

I cam back from 57 tonight feeling sort of down.  I got hugs from Alles and Karen, Martha's daughters but not from her.  I should thank her for this because she could easily take advantage of me with just a few hugs and unkept promises.  Mary made it all better.

This morning when I got my car back, Liz gave me a few good hugs.  She knows I need them these days with my car problems, blood tests, the IRS, Dish Network, etc.  Car problems?  That is what I am writing about here.

Now I lead such a boring life that if you have read these pages for the last couple of years, you might wonder why I do not just plant myself and watch the sand grow.  Last week I drove my little Tercel up to Yuma for blood tests, shopping items, and some phone calls.  My favorite barber was out so my hair is suddenly very much too long.  I always wonder why it is just fine for a long time and then one day suddenly it is a mess.  Last time there I promised her that only she would cut my hair.  I wish our schedules overlapped a little more frequently.  But then she has a family to take care of and the most important time of your life is that spent with your family.

That trip was the day before the 4th.  I also went up on Friday after the 4th. or maybe it was Thursday to correct some things that had not been completed.  I had a mystery phone call.  It was from a Linda at Lab Corp.  This is one of those companies that has grown into an absurd caricature from a bad movie.  I waded through the voice menus and found none applied to me.  I did this twice.  Sometimes I wish I had not invented touch-pad menuing.  Yes, you heard me.  Ask Tom about our walks in the Broken Sound jungle in 1989..  I gave up.  There was another message from someone else.  I have no idea who she was.

I went to the Lab Corps office to see what the call was about.  They had no idea.  Since they had drawn 9 or 10 tubes for tests  before, I presumed that this was either billing or they needed more blood.  The woman assured me that billing would have said 'billing' in the message. She checked her papers: no more blood was needed.  The message had said to call night or day but I could not figure out who to talk to.

Now comes Saturday and I return for some things that must be dealt with.  Only none of them can be.  The window shades I had bought are all missing their mounting hardware.  Here it is in the middle of July.  My AC is working overtime and I need window shades.  The wind has almost ripped the awning off the side of the RV and so I do not even try to use it any more.  If you have never lived near the sea, you do not know about the wind always blowing-- but it does.  And when it does not blow, the humidity will make you wish for the wind to return.  But the RV parts store is closed on Saturdays during the summer.

In any case, on my way back to Mexico having failed at almost everything I finally get someone to answer at Lab Corp.  I just out waited their menu.  Some menus get upset and repeat the entire menu if you do not push something fast enough.  This one was nice enough to route me to a real human voice after a few minutes of silence.  The word 'haughty' comes to mind.   "Cabrona" is a better word.  She informed me that I needed to have more blood drawn.  I asked why this could not have been done yesterday on my second trip to the office when I suspected such was the problem.  "Oh, we do not inform them -- this is a corporate matter."  I asked if the current information could be routed to the doctor and I could complete the tests later.  She told me that I either took the tests immediately or she would write into my record for the doctor that I had declined/refused their services.  She asked where I was and I told her: Somerton.  I volunteered to drive the 30 miles back to Yuma if the lab were open.  No, but there was one in Phoenix (everyone should live in Phoenix from her attitude).  I said good bye.  I bought one of the 2-quart Circle-K diet Pepsi tanks on my way back home.  That was safer than kicking the next dog I met.

I stopped in 57 to see Martha.  I really hoped for a hug but again no such luck.  We agreed that Wednesday I could take her and the girls to a Chinese buffet that I want to go to in San Luis.  It is not possible to describe to you gringos what real Mexican food is like.  Even Mexican Chinese food.  But I shall try.  I mentioned that Marisol had dinner wrapped and waiting for me when I arrived home tonight.  And it arrived with a hug.  I do wish I could speak this language.  "Esta vida no.  Hay que dos vidas mas antes puedo hablar Español"  The plate has a couple of sopes on it.  These are sort of like tostadas except the tortilla is sort of shaped like a pizza rather than just flat.  It holds more this way.  Last night I heard a knock at my door and two beautiful women, Marisol and her sister Andrea, were standing outside with a plate with three tacos on it.  Now, if you think, that a taco is what you buy at Taco Bell with a hard shell folded in half with a small layer of hamburger on the bottom, some lettuce and then shredded cheddar, you have missed out on real food.  I do not have the words for these three tacos.  They were not overloaded.  The Taco Bell taco has more food on it than any one of these.  These were three soft tortilla shells, flat on the plate.  In the middle of each was a combination of shredded beef, avocado, onion, garlic, lettuce, tomato, assorted spices, chiles, and goodness knows what else.  All of this in about two tablespoons volume.  A five-star New York restaurant could not have made such a dish.  And the three totally filled me up.  And I know the sopes tonight will even be better.  Oh.  Sopes and Sopas are different.  Later.

I had a pizza tonight in 57 with Martha and the kids.  Until you have had a pizza loaded with jalapeños, you do not know what a pizza is.  Two pieces is quite enough.  Why chiles?  They wake up your taste buds and you do not eat as much -- great diet advice.  Really.

On leaving 57 on Saturday I tell Martha that I think my car is ready to die but if it works we will got to lunch on Wednesday.  At El doctor (KM 75), the car barely shifts into gear.  It has always been hard to shift but today it has been almost impossible.  At KM 85, all I got was noise.  Even neutral got noise and was not neutral any more.  Now I am 30 miles from anywhere that could possible help.  It is over 100 degrees.  There are no cars in sight.  I have pulled off into the desert knowing that it might be hard to even tow the car back to the blacktop. Why? Because if I leave it next to the highway it might not be there when I get back. I have three bags of things that I absolutely cannot leave behind: my laptop, my CPAP respirator, and I forget what else other than my papers, electronic cables, etc.  And there is no cell phone service here.  Oh. I know what I forgot: the purpose of the trip was to buy a birthday cake for Maggie.  I had bought a chocolate covered cheesecake.  Beautiful -- and  I had also bought a couple of dozen cup cakes just in case of an emergency.  When I got to 57, the entire icing had slid off the top of the cheesecake.  Now this icing was sort of special.  Sometimes I really wish I could speak the language.  I went to Sam's Club and asked in my best Spanish if she woman could write on my cake.  You are supposed to order these three days in advance but the bakery assistants in the Yuma Sam's Club have always been nice to me.  Sometimes I think because I try to speak their language.  In any case, she gave me a piece of paper to have me write exactly what I wanted: "Feliz Cumpliaños, Maggie".  I got back: "Happy Birthday, Maggie"! I recognized the difference almost immediately.  She saw the look of horror on my face and then looked down at the cake: she offered to write in Spanish on the other cake.  I was lucky that there was another cake.  But now what language made no difference.  The top was a pile of chocolate on the side of the plate with little red squiggles embedded in the brown.  Red?  I did not ask for red.  Given a choice I might have asked for yellow or blue.  The Mexicans go in for bright colors and loud music.  All Mexicans.  It is part of the culture.  Like yelling for your graduating senior at the Seattle commencement exercises.

While in 57, I had asked Martha's brother to direct me to the local pasteleria to buy another cake.  The pasteleria volunteered to write on the top but I said no.  Cultural differences are really significant in strange ways.  In Mexico, they will eat more sweets, drink more soda, and use more sugar than a gringo could imagine.  But their cakes, cookies, and bread are never sweet.  This cake had three colors of fruit toppings amongst the frosting composed of many flowers.  And had a section of shaved nuts.  But all of this was not as sweet at it looks to a gringo.  On the other hand, my cheesecake chocolate was exceedingly sweet.  But everyone loves chocolate cheese cake.  But then I had the cupcakes.  I knew I had too many of these so I gave the kids at Martha's each a cupcake.  These little cakes each had over an inch of frosting on top with little colored sprickles.  The kids, without exception, dumped the frosting on the ground and proceeded to eat their cakes without frosting.

So I got to KM 85 and my cakes were left in the car.  I got a ride from the third car going by.  He was a Mexican gringo.  Like me, many gringos like the life style, learn the language, get too much sun, and go back across the border for necessities only.  The blood pressure increase when crossing the border is not just my problem, it is a common problem.  When my ride got back into cell phone range, I called Marisol. She was in San Luis at her house (she has a house at each end).  She could not help.  I called her because I had bought the cakes for her party for Maggie and now the cakes would all be ruined if she could not get a rescue party to the car quickly.  I then called Liz to see if someone in the park could tow my car back to El Golfo.  Marisol called me back: Maggie's husband Javier, could tow me back -- just get to the El Golfo restaurant.  I called Liz back to say I did not need more help.  She had already arranged a tow dolly and two volunteers to come get my car.

Now.  I have good friends in the EEUU.  I know if I were in a life or death situation, a half-dozen people would drop what they were doing and fly to wherever I was to help.  I know because this has happened and they did.  But this is not the same.  People along this highway will stop to help even before you signal that you need help.  I was safely back in El Golfo about the same time as if my car had not broken down.  However, these same helpful people, will strip your car to its frame within hours if you leave it unattended.  Javier and I returned in less than an hour: nothing damaged or taken.  Except  the cakes were all melted.  I had even packed them in ice -- just not enough for the desert.  I always travel back with 20 pounds of ice.

He towed my Tercel behind his Ford pickup the other 30 KM into town.  I have done many things in my life but this was my first experience being towed by a rope behind another car. One hint: don't blink.  He asked where I wanted my car and I suggested in front on Martha's El Golfo home.  This is a good place since there is no one else living there now and a car out front would be good.  The roads to her house are hard (not soft) and her house is two blocks from my RV (soft sand the rest of the way).  Javier pointed out that there is a mechanic around the corner from Martha.  We left the car with the mechanic.  I expected that I would be talking about salvage costs since the transmission was obviously fried and not recoverable.

I talked with Marisol on the phone and then when she got home (in El Golfo, next door). I forget if Beto were there.  Beto is her husband and is a police officer.  El Golfo is part of the San Luis RC districto (sort of like a county).  He transfers between towns on command.

Apparently this mechanic guy is a good mechanic.  Marisol takes me to breakfast at the restaurant on Sunday.  Now I get a bit confused on days.  Marisol informs me that I am not to walk anywhere. She or someone else will give me rides wherever I need to go.  I guess I have told too many people about my heart medications.  The rest of Sunday is mostly just sit and feel sorry for myself.  I mean, my car is my only transportation and this is the desert and the heart condition is real and now there is no car and I am stuck and worse -- relying on others to drive me around.  Usually it is me offering to drive others.  And I have not had a hug from Martha in a month.  Or at least it seems that long and I know she gave me a couple of good hugs not too long ago.  And 57 is a long way by bus.  I need some new books and some new DVDs and a DVD player.  I have bought everyone else a DVD player but not myself.  And after all of this, I have not been invited to Maggie's birthday party.  No cake for me.

Monday, Marisol drives me to the RV park.  Liz is not there.  I have letters that must go out to stop the Dish Network debt collectors.  That is another story elsewhere here.  Those buzzards secretly stole hundreds of dollars from my Visa card when I was not looking and now claim I owe them more for service they know I could not receive.  In any case, Liz did not show up and so I walked over to Theresa's restaurant:, El Capitan.  Theresa closes the restaurant every Tuesday and drives to Yuma for shopping and family visits. Today is Monday.  She could not drive me to Yuma tomorrow but she could deliver my letters.  Marisol called back: my car was repairable for several hundred dollars.  I almost dropped my teeth.  Oh, that is another obsolete, almost, expression.  I got a ride back to the restaurant with Javier.  We would tow the Tercel to San Luis where a new transmission could be found.  Javier took me to the mechanic and we found he had already removed the old transmission and the front of my car was scattered, neatly, around his pit.  I think he hurried so that he would not lose the business.  In any case, all we needed now was a new transmission, clutch, and clutch housing.  Whew.

We picked up another guy, Leo, and head off to San Luis.  We stop at the first junk yard outside of San Luis.  They, of course, do not have a 1996 Toyota Tercel standard 4-speed transmission.  But after a few calls, a yard is found which does. I sit in the car during this process.  A gringo walking around the shop would only increase the price. Only a few miles away and the price is $150.  We get there, the transmission is as promised and I am out a total of $190 since I tossed in $20 for gas a couple of times.  I still need a clutch and clutch housing.  We drive to a couple of car parts places.  This is where the guys says "Ah, Marisol".  But we have the parts: $120 more.  $310 total so far. and now the real reason for Javier's trip to San Luis:  supplies for the restaurant.  We stop at a half dozen stores for everything from carrots and tomatoes to several bags of beef.  The back of the pickup is full.  We stop and lunch on some tortas (sandwiches) and head back home.  We leave the transmission, parts, and a bottle of gas, for my mechanic who finds our parts acceptable.  We unload the food at the restaurant and I get driven back home.  I forget who drove me.  Probably Javier.

Tuesday, I get a ride first to the restaurant and then to the park where I get some good hugs from Liz.  She knows how desperate I am for something, anything, to hold onto.  My life might be working again.  Maybe the car will work again.  There is hope for everything except hugs from Martha.  Oh.  And somewhere along the road, someone asked me if I first knew Martha or first knew Marisol.  Martha introduced me to Marisol when Marisol first got her new house.  I bought her a few housewarming presents.  Marisol. Not Martha.  I bought too many things already for Martha.  So I answered the guy with: "Martha".  That was the total conversation about her at that point but now the bunch of them laughed for nearly five minutes: Chuck is enamored with Martha.  I still wonder how they figured this out.  But they are correct.  I have a habit of being enamored with women who cannot return the favor.  Look at Sara or Amy if you do not believe me.

So comes Tuesday and we are all set and waiting for news on the completion of the car.  I am at the park office with Liz when Marisol calls me and tells me that we have to go to 57 to pick up a "reten".  I hope a reten is not serious as I am running out of money.  Our stop at a bank on Monday for a couple of thousand pesos seems like a month ago -- it was yesterday.  This was my first attempt at a Mexican ATM.  I hope the charges were not excessive.  No, the reten will not cost a thousand pesos.   But we must go as the mechanic will not go to 57 for what he is being paid.  What is he being paid?  I hope not too much.  So Javier and I jump back in the truck and head off to San Luis.  I thought we were going to 57 but that was not in the plan.  We picked up another guy, a different one today, and headed to town.  We got the reten at the second parts place we tried.  A reten is a retention seal.  I should have guessed.  No, I should not.  You have to understand that some things translate easily and some do not.  A reten being retention sounds easy.  We have already gone through the bonbones translation (marshmallows),  We now also picked up a large air conditioner for the other guy.  Oh. I added another $20 for gas and $4 for the reten, this makes $345 total.  The other guy picked up $10 for more gas.  We got some lunch.  Yesterday I paid for the tortas so I guess that makes $360 to date.  Today someone else paid for the tacos.  I think they were tacos.  I get the food confused.  We headed for home.  We got to past 57 and picked up 3 hitchhikers in the back.  Somewhere before El  Doctor the truck overheated.  The switching box for the heater/air conditioner lines had broken.  With a little help from a passer-by, we plugged these hoses with bolts and took off.  The engine overheated again.  No wonder -- it was absolutely dry.  WIth the help from the hitchhikers, and other passers by, we got enough water to fill the radiator and the bolts to plug the heater lines.  We made it back to El Golfo.

The mechanic got his reten.  We got safely home.  And that ended Tuesday.  Oh. After I got home, the beautiful women delivered the tacos.  This morning, I walked down to the mechanic and my car was ready.  For $120 more dollars, $480 total, I now had a working car and a working life again.  Unbelievable.

Just a few things here before we go.  Yes I rode up to 57 try the car out and I shall do the same tomorrow on a trip to Yuma to finish the blood test scenario and pick up my shade hardware and deal with the missing cell phone order, etc.  I shall beg another hug from Martha.  But that is a lost cause.  The feelings are not returned but her friendship is and that is really important right now.

Friends.  Yes, I count Gary, Tino, Tom as friends.  In certain situations, they could be counted on as much as my Mexican friends. But now I live in Mexico.  These are my new friends now.  This is my life. Boring as it is.  With nothing to write about except a busted transmission, I am happy here.  I need to visit my daughter in San francisco and am really torn.  I need to do that but I really never want to leave my home here in what I believe is the closet place to Paradise that anyone could ever find. (You jokers in New Orleans or Florida have a lot to learn about Paradise).

Those of you with real girl friends and spouses will never know how much a good hug makes everything that is going wrong seem insignificant compared to the feelings of love for everyone shared in one good hug.  And I guess my freshman literature teacher was probably correct: I shall never make it in the creative writing department.   But after all that has happened in the last 5 days (5 really?), none of that matters any more.  I need to go: the sun is shining over the mountain and there is much to do today before the heat sets in.

And for those of you who think the Mexicans are lazy because they take siestas : you have no idea.  These guys get up at the crack of dawn and work until it is too hot to work.  They rest (siesta) until it cools off and then work until dark.  Meals are different.  Deseyuno is breakfast and generally eaten at about 10:00.  Comida (lunch) is about 2:00 in the afternoon and cena (dinner) is after dark.  The big meal is comida.  This is a healthier meal plan than the typical gringo sees up north.

Oh. I did go to Yuma today, Friday.  I got my hardware.  The cell phone company has gone broke.  The blood tests completed along with an official reprimand to the haughty woman in Phoenix.  I stopped in 57 and to my surprise, got two hugs rom Martha.  My poor car.  Sometimes I think I am a professional smuggler.  The American border patrol really thinks that I am bringing something back to the states from Mexico.  They always think that people coming into the EEUU have just visited Mexico and are trying to bring something in.  No.  Many of us live in Mexico and our problem is the other direction.

You see, the Mexicans do not worry too much about what you bring into their country. Oh, no guns or ammo.  Americans are hung up on the guns.  But the Mexicans do care about the value of what you bring back.  The first $50 is free.  After that you pay duty at about 17% if you volunteer inspection.  If you do not volunteer and your are randomly red-lighted, you pay about 25%.  God takes care of children and idiots.  I fall into the second class.  I always have more than $100 of new stuff.  Today, I brought bake $500 worth of stuff.  My car was loaded so badly that it looked like I was smuggling rocks.  But I did not get a red light.  Those times I have gotten red lights, they looked at what I had and let me go anyway - paying no duty.

I always wonder about the duty.  I mean the Sam's Club door guy laughs because I always have a box of diapers for someone's baby.  He thinks I have more grandchildren that have of the Mexican countryside.  I do not think that I should have to pay duty on things that came from Mexico so I always make sure the the "Hecho en Mexico" label is facing the door.  But then I have never paid duty anyway so I guess the subject is mute.

So today, I had chicken for Marisol and Manuel.  An AC unit for LIZ and diaper wipes for everyone including Martha.  She does not pay but maybe that is why I got good hugs today.  She got the cheap wipes.  I really wonder if the Mexican brand-name compulsion has merit.  Liz explained that giving off-brand gifts is sort of like the giving cards that are not Hallmark back in the 1960's.  It does not matter if the off-brand is good.  You did not care enough to give the very best.  The Mexicans really have this brand name thing.  They also really have a bigger-is-better complex.  8,000 BTU AC?  How many tons is that?  Only part of a ton.  Why bother.  But then these same people will install their entire home with 3" plumbing whereas 4" is the American standard.  Why? Becasue they will save $10.  I give up.

I am home.  Lazy?  Marisol worked today from 7 to 5.  On her breaks she did my laundry.  They have no dryer so she had taken the time to hang up the clothes to dry and then later take them down.  She also ironed them at work before she came home at 6 because her iron is in San Luis and she had to borrow one.  I could have lived with my t-shirts not ironed this week but she would have been upset if she delivered to me less than perfect laundry.

We have come to the end of my tale.  I fell down today and stretched a leg muscle that is not used to being stretched.  It hurts.  So I am writing this late at night.  But I am happy.  Martha says we can reinstate our Chinese lunch this Tuesday.

A Hole in my life.

I know many things.  I am what some people would refer to as the "authority" complex person.  I talk too much and have an opinion on everything.  I always have the "Been there.  Done that" response to anything.  But this month I discovered an entire hole in my world.  Not totally this month but it all came together in my head this month.  There is an entire vocabulary of words that fit together like a puzzle once you have found a key piece.  In my case it was the word "cabron".  A Spanish word.  I saw a bumper sticker that went something like: "Nadia me gusto para que soy un cabron".  This come out to be: "Nobody like me because I am a cabron.  What is a cabron?  I know, we just went through "where do the pongas go?"  I get sort of hung up on small sticky things.  What is a cabron?  The word is so insulting in Spanish that no one would even tell me what it meant.  The response was always that's a very insulting word.  One afternoon in the club house bar, a man told me that a cabron translated literally to old goat.  Interesting because the local word for goat is chiva.  But I did find in a Spanish children's book the word cabron and cabran referring to goats.  My man was correct.  But goat? What is it about a goat that makes this so insulting?  I know you know but I did not.

This is where the vocabulary thing fits.  A cabron is a goat.  Goats are known for their fur in some circles but mostly they are known to be capricious and like to butt their horns into whoever is near.  I know because when I was about 5 one gave me a toss that still hurts when I think about it.  But cabron?  Horns? Capricious?  All from the same thing: goats.  The Island of Capri?  Famous for its goats.  Capricious.  It turns out that everyone but me knows that goats will have sex with anything that moves -- including other male goats.  This the origin of the word "horny".  Capricorn?  These Capri goats must have been there throughout known history.  But I did not know.  Cabron?  A male goat that will screw anybody or anything.  Sorry for the reference but that is what it comes down to.  A cabron is a person who will cheat anyone including his own mother.  And I never suspected any of this and I pride myself on knowing word origins.  But unlike knowing where the pangas go, knowing about goats is unlikely to kill me.

Scared Again -- But Not For Me

The other day I went up to see my woman friend, Martha.  We had a short visit but she lowered the diaper on her little boy (1-year old) and showed me some red spots.  I literally recoiled in terror.  The red spots are ringworm circles.  Somewhere in this history (Ypsilanti) I talk of my bout with ringworm.  It left me with a permanent scar on the top of my head about  1 1/2 inches around.  Other scars are also up there somewhere.  There was a question if I would ever have hair in those spots.  Now this little boy has bright red circles on his naval.  These days athlete's foot medicine kills ringworm.  Here in Mexico ringworm is worse because of the sanitation and poverty.  Martha asked what to do.  I brought her my foot medicine after asking some of my local friends about ringworm.  They had the same fear but not the terror that I feel.  I told Martha to take her boy to the doctor.  Now I am more fearful.

The little girl (2 years old) has one of the spots now on her leg.  The little boy has one on his face.  These things are exceedingly contagious.  And the doctor gave Martha diaper rash medication.  I read the ingredients.  Vitamins and zinc oxide.  Unless zinc oxide kills ringworm, which I doubt, Martha is in for more trouble than before.  She thinks she is treating the problem when rubbing the medicine around on the baby's skin will probably make the ringworm spread.  The red spots have already turned brown.  I did not see if there were any more.  I go there again on Friday.  If the spots are not better I shall suggest visit to a different doctor with Martha stating my ringworm fears.  The doctor that she would have gone to is the county/districto health clinic.  Not high on my list of world-class medicine.  One of us is wrong. I hope it is me.

That brings a thorny issue.  Many people consider me an expert on almost anything.  Many times I voice an opinion (stated as an opinion) that is contrary.  In many of these cases, I sincerely hope I am wrong.  Nobody really wants to be wrong but sometimes the consequences of incorrect opinions are overwhelming. In these cases it is best to acknowledge the error and attempt to correct consequential actions.  Sometimes it is best just to have kept these opinions to myself and walk away.  I have trouble walking away as it is in my nature to always want to help.

Chinese Buffet

I took Martha and kids to the San Luis Chinese Buffet (Obregon and about 16th).  With Mexicans you are always in for a surprise.  I thought just the girls were coming but she also brought the baby.  This was not too much of a surprise as she is always with the baby if given the chance.  Mothers are like that.  When I showed up at 11:30, she made me wait for a half hour phone call before telling me that she had not slept and I should come back in 3 hours.  She could have called me so that I would not have made the 50-mile trip that early.  So I went to Mexicali, got stuck in traffic and had a Carl's Jr. Santa Fe sandwich.  I would recommend cyanide before another one of these.  I got back to Martha's and only had to wait about 10 minutes.  We all piled into the car along with one of the cousins.  That was the real surprise.    I have come to expect dates with a woman friend to turn into a family event -- but extended family?  The Chinese buffet was great.  I ate too much but that is normal at a buffet.  The meat was a little tough but that is also normal for a buffet.  Lots to drink.  The baby made a mess.  The cousin kept track of the daughters and I had time to talk to Martha.  When she was not watching TV.  American chinese restaurants do not have so many varieties of chiles in the menus.  But then if I do not get enough chiles, I start craving them.  All in all it was a good day -- nothing bad happened.  I will not buy Martha the car mats she wants.

I still have too much on my plate to figure out when to visit Megan.  And I wish I had Tom's language abilities.  I know I shall never be able to speak Mexican.  When people come up to me and ask simple questions and I give simple answers and we are both mis-understood, I want to hit something.  My vocabulary is not that bad but my enunciation is not good and in Mexico, enunciation is everything.  My friends do not understand that when I can tell them the equivalent words in multiple other languages that I do not know the other languages.  The problem is that I have learned the historical derivations of many English words.

AUGUST

Well, we made it this far.  I have to go visit my daughter.  It has been put off too long.

I taught a little girl to swim this week.  Mostly she is a very intelligent little 8 year old who already thinks she is part fish.  So she learned as fast as I could teach.  From being a step-sitter to swimming the width of the pool unassisted took about two hours.  Karen should be real proud.

But I also learned from these families another way that I was too strict with my girls. We show up at the pool (six kids and a mother) and they start asking where the toys are.  None of them can swim but they all want floating toys.  My kids got nothing in the pool that floated (other than themselves) until they could swim.  After learning to swim they could have whatever they wanted.  I still believe that I did the correct thing even though the numbers are against me.  Karen learned a lot.  The others did not and I do not expect to see them at the pool again.  I would have liked to see Karen tread water.  Then she would be able to swim the length of the pool without worrying that she would drown.

I just came back from San Jose.  I did not enjoy the trip.  But it was interesting.  I rented a Nissan Altima with all of the gadgets.  No keys, just a fob.  The car got great gas mileage.  My legs will ache for days from the hard seat.  It is a big car.  I liked it except for parking, the seat, and the misconception that it locks itself when you walk away.  You could lose a lot of valuables if you believe the spiel.

But the best part of the trip was coming home.  You gringos just do not understand.  I dropped the Enterprise car off.  They gave me a ride to Wal-mart because I missed the Yuma bus at the nearby stop.  The bus was late so maybe I would have made it.  I arrived at the border tired, hot, and sweaty.  It is August you know.  I was out of pesos on my Telcel and had no more pesos.  I walked across, bought some pesos and took the first cab: I forgot my walking stick.  When he let me off, no stick -- and he forgot to collect the 15 pesos.  The bus to 57 was almost ready to leave.  I took it to the turnoff where a bunch of Mexicans helped my load my stuff onto a Mexican labor bus.  In the USA this same group would be looking to steal my stuff.  Here they were happy to help an old gringo.  Thanks guys wherever you are.

This bus left me off in Riito at the turnoff for El Golfo.  Had I had time between these transfers to buy a Telcel card I would have discovered that someone was available in San Luis to drive me home.  An old acquaintance from El Golfo gave me a ride the last 50 miles to Maggie's restaurant.  I gave his kids some crayons and notebooks.  It made their day.  With my luggage and 100 degree heat and no shade, hitchhiking in the USA would have left me robbed, dead or both.

But the real payoff was when I arrived at the restaurant.  I was met by balloons and hugs and kisses as if I had been gone for a year.  I love my Mexican family.  And sadly they will never read this to know how much.

SEPTEMBER

OCTOBER

Not much is really happening these days but... And, oh, my daughter Megan takes exception to my references to her in the original so I have reworded this.  Megan thinks that I am too picky.  I thought she might have argued that if I had sat still for this Nazi maybe I would have been better off -- but after reading my narrative, she agrees with me.

Yesterday (26 Oct) I had another minor run-in with the US Border patrol or maybe just a run-in with an Officer Gonzales.  It made me angry so I thought I would write it down.  I went to "the other side":  Here that means I went to the US side.  Normally I cross at Algodones even if I am starting on the east side of San Luis.  Why?  The wait at Algodones is just a couple of cars.  In San Luis it is normally somewhere around an hour.  But I check before making the run to Algodones.  Yesterday the line in San Luis was so short, I thought I would take the gamble and go through.  To Yuma the roads from San Luis are better roads than the roads to Algodones and then across -- the distance is the same.

And the line moved fairly well yesterday.  But the zinger in San Luis is that the border guards (US side) always have attitude problems.  I wrote a couple of years ago that they tried to have me arrested for living outside of Texas.  The San Luis city cops read them the riot act but I lost two hours and had some concern about finding a lawyer.

But yesterday this Gonzales guy took the harassment award for the year.  It looks like they have gone to some sort of bulk examinations rather than car by car.  Maybe their computers had problems.  Whatever, rather than waiting in the booth, this Gonzales guy was outside harassing the people waiting to cross.  The line was stopped.  He prodded the driver in front of me to pull forward and when she did, he had her go back again.  Maybe he is just a Mexican who got a job on the American side and does not know the normal role of police officers in the USA.  In any case her car stalled and she got out, raised the hood and looked concerned.  Since there was little more he could do to her, he came back to me and told me to pull forward to her bumper.  I had left about a half car length because I did not want to trap myself in the upcoming concrete barriers in the event she was not going to be able to move.  But this Gonzales guy was persistent so I moved forward.  I came to within 2 feet of her and was already closer than I was comfortable.  WIth the barriers (sort of like speed bumps) on the ground, cars roll forward and backward and I did not want to be rammed if she rolled backward -- and she had straddled one of these bumps.

In any case Mr./Officer. Gonzales felt that I needed be 6 inches from her bumper.  A reason for this was not obvious.  I was already totally on the US side of the little reflector markers in the roadway.   The car behind me was reasonably keeping his distance in the event I had to back up.  And he was totally on the Mexican side of the pretty, reflective markers.  WIth good cause Officer Gonzales only hassled people on his side (that is, the US side).  So I politely asked why it was necessary to crowd the car in front of me.  He refused an answer and again told me to move up.  Pedestrians are not a problem here.  There was no need to be so close that no one could walk between the cars.  About the third iteration of "Move it and Why must I crowd the other car?, he answered me: "Because I told you to.".  This is precisely the wrong answer to give to an American citizen.  He has the right to tell me to do something against my better judgment and without explanation in an emergency.  There was no emergency.  Even in an emergency most police are polite enough to tell you the reason for ordering you to do something that makes no sense.  For example, this month if you live in southern California, the policeman may tell you that you must leave your house.  If you ask why (presuming he did not already tell you and you cannot see or smell and have no TV), the response would be something of the nature of: "If you do not leave, the fire will kill you."  In this case, a response of: "Because I told you to" would be as stupid as making me crawl to within inches of a car visibly impaired.

I presumed as he left, with the demanded passport in hand and my motor turned off on his demand, that I would be facing serious acrimony when I did get to the gate.  I presumed my little car would be stripped and I would spend another couple of hours waiting for policemen (real policemen) to tell the border guards to stop harassing citizens.  It is obvious that this Mr. Gonzales never read the signs that the rest of us spend reading every time we cross the border.  The sign on the side of his casita door says that I am due professional and courteous treatment.  Obviously the professional and courteous definitions vary between the giver and the receiver.

But I was wrong.  No serious problem.  But again he was demanding to know why I was not cooperating with the Border Patrol.  I quietly replied that I had cooperated up to the point that I felt I was endangering my car and the car in front of me and had only asked the reason for this endangerment.  He told me it was his job to determine my best interests and to guide me as necessary.  That is an exact quote.  He handed my passport back and I left.

My daughter tells me that I am getting senile and I should not take so many exceptions to other people.  I would like to replay for her some of the things that I saw (you can read about them elsewhere) when I was her age.  When you grew up in the 1960's, you saw police shooting citizens.  In Madison the police would beat you up just because you were there and you looked like a student. The result of those actions cost not only the police chief his job but also the mayor his -- lost to a student.  You remember being beat up by policemen.  You do not forget that because somewhere, someplace, the entire concept of America died. Dead.  It is never resuscitated..

The day that we must just accept whatever we are told without cause and outside of our concern for our own well-being, is the day that we will have been better off with Mr. Kruschev burying our grandchildren.

NOVEMBER

ICE - Passing the Buck

I sent the above to the Border Patrol web page complaint section.  I got an official number (071027-000055).  The reference now says "Solved": I got my response to my problem with Officer Gonzales:

Recently you requested personal assistance from our on-line support center. Below is a summary of your request and our response.
If this issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, you may reopen it  within the next 7 days. (Note that there is no published way to do this).

Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

Response (Frederick) - 11/01/2007 11:23 AM
Thank you for contacting CBP. I am sorry to read about your negative experience at the San Luis border crossing. Customs and Border Protection supervisors are responsible for ensuring that officers behave in a professional manner and treat all persons with dignity. Many facilities have CBP Passenger Service Representatives (PSR) who are available to help resolve complaints when they arise. If you encounter a similar problem in the future - please feel free to ask to speak to either a supervisor or a PSR.

I encourage you to write directly to the Customs and Border Protection Port Director where it occurred. The Port Director will investigate the complaint and respond to you. Contact information can be found here:
http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/toolbox/ports/

Meanwhile, we have made a record of your complaint and will use it with others to monitor the performance of our CBP officers.

This is what I call passing the buck to nowhere.  There will be ZERO action taken on my writing this complaint.  Why not?  It is not their problem.  They have a pretty web page with lots of things to indicate that they really want to do their job and are interested in hearing about problems.  I took several hours and laid out the description the best I could.  I even updated it to correct grammatical anomalies.  So, a week later, I get a response saying "Thank you -- we don't give a shit."  Oh, it sounds pretty but their response is: "You are too late, you should have demanded a supervisor at the time." followed by "Wait until it happens again."  or write to the office indicated by their link.  Their link looks like the Tucson Yellow pages.  Trying to find how to write to the San Luis Office is not productive unless you are in San Luis (or Tucson).  There is no place to forward the original complaint nor copy of this document.  Show up in person at the correct time and place or the problem never occurred.

As I mentioned in my letter, this is not even the first problem in San Luis. Earlier in this history, the San Luis Border Patrol officer attacked me like a mad bulldog, had me pulled to the back where he discovered that the Arizona Highway patrol did not arrest people for "Illegally living outside of Texas" (exact quote).  The San Luis Police did respond, verified my situation, and then read the Border Patrol Officer the riot act.

Solved?  I think the appropriate response might be "Answered".  The problem is solved when government employees, especially those in a police authority, respect the rights and dignity of the citizens and laws that they are sworn to protect.  Now I understand the reason for the communist "re-education camps".  They should not be necessary in the United States of America.

Bad Memories -- The United State Postal System

I have said it before : The USPS has become the worst government agency that Benjamin Franklin could have ever imagined.

This week on my excursion north, I stopped at the Algodones Purple Store.  Mostly for the rest room but to pick up some pills I had exhausted.  There at the cooler was a man somewhat older than myself saying that he had never seen such small bottles of Coca Cola.  I almost stopped and said something but I decided my trip to the rest room was more important.  While I was growing up, Coke came in 6 oz. bottles with the label embossed on the glass itself.  I remember when the labels went to white paint.  The bottle size increased to 6 1/2 oz.  This happened around 1956.  Certainly within the memory range of someone a little older than myself.  But then I forget things too.  The displayed Mexican Coke bottles were about 8 oz: bigger than those that this man grew up with.

But the issue is the Post Office.  I went to the El Centro Post Office on Main Street to buy some 4 cent stamps and to exchange some old stamps that I would never use.  These were affixed (glues) to an old torn envelope.  You know the type: brown envelope for papers.  The stamps were the lickem, glue stamps of a few years ago.

The clerk refused to exchange them.  He said they were used.  I pointed out that "used" meant postmarked and they were clearly not post marked.  He said they were glued to the envelope.  I said that is exactly why I need them replaced.  He said the USPS does not replace stamped already glued to en envelop.  I said yes they did, get me a supervisor.  He said that the Post Office policy had never, ever been to replace stamps.

Now is where the memory kicks in.  When I was a boy, postage was 3 cents for a sealed letter.  1 cent for an unsealed latter or post card.  You sent birthday cards unsealed.  The extra two cents were because you did not require privacy nor a return address.  Moreover, you did not always buy stamps.  You simply taped a few pennies to the envelopes and the mailman would stamp them for you.  Then the policy came down: no more coins: stamps or nothing.  No more unsealed, unreturnable envelopes..  This was a disappointment but as the rates were going up, nickels were more of a loss problem anyway.  Now you pre-bought stamps making more money for the Post Office.  The same concept as this "forever" stamp.  You pre-buy them thinking you are saving money for future increases.  The Post Office makes money on interest between the time you buy and the time you use the stamp.  Then there are the collectors who are the dream of every postmaster.

But my clerk did not get me a supervisor.   Last year or two years ago I went to the Tucson post office and found that they no longer refunded stamps.  They would, however, exchange stamps.  I could handle that.  I had one of their priority mail little boxes, and I had stamped it.  But I had no use for the little box any more and the rates had gone up.  I wanted my money back for the stamp.  I accepted some new stamps.  They said the policy had never been to refund money.  Maybe I had just had a friendly mailman when I was a kid.  But new stamps were good.  I would eventually need them.

So now I am in EL Centro and the clerk is telling that the policy has never been to refund or exchange stamps, even new and these were used and he would not get me a supervisor.  He went to the back room and talked with the supervisor and returned.  No, the supervisor would not talk to me.  However at some future time, maybe today, maybe tomorrow, maybe this week, I could return and discuss it with the department history authority.

So I went to the USPS official website and searched ("(replace AND Stamp)") for their current policy.  That's right, the policy search is not even easy.  The clerk was sort of correct.  The policy specifically exempts replacement of affixed stamps because of rate changes.  The claim is that the user should buy additional stamps.  If I had to categorize my situation, it falls here.  I have 4 stamps of different denominations totally what the postage would have been for my envelope a couple of years ago.  The fact that the envelope is destroyed except for the stamps (undamaged), makes no difference.  If the stamps are damaged, no refund.  If I cut the stamps off of the envelop, the refusal falls into a slightly different category.  If they were not affixed, they fall into a third refusal category.  Get the picture?  They have a category for each kind of refusal.  You are not going to exchange stamps under their current policies.  Oh.  There is one hope left: the local postmaster can give you a pardon and on an individual benevolent basis exchange your stamps.  I do not think that they hire postmasters based on benevolence.

So now I shall cut with a scissors the old stamps, glue them and the paper backing to new envelopes and use them.  And with each one increase my loathing for a government agency out of control.  I know the Post Office laughs every time they see a "Love" stamp.  Love is not in their vernacular.  Going "postal" is but they would prefer to forget that word.

Berkeley and Detroit

Today I head off to Berkeley to visit my daughter, Megan, for Thanksgiving.  I drive my car to Yuma, rent a car for the trip, stay with Megan for the remainder of the week and then reverse the process.  I spend the nights at the Gorman rest area on I-5.  It gets cold there so I bring my blankets, my CPAP machine and an inverter.  Inverter?  The Respironics CPAP says it works on 12V.  It does but it does not keep up the air pressure.  This is sort of dumb.  I have two of their units.  Both have the same problem.  Before I had these two, I had other Respironics and they were worse.  With the inverter, they work just fine.  The electronic inverters are about 95% efficient so there is no loss there.  I just wish manufacturers would not lie. I think they must test their machines with reverse-inverters instead of for real car batteries.  No, it is not my car, I have tried this on many cars.  But that aside, it is usually the cold that keeps me from sleeping well.  When ice forms on the inside of the windshield, you know the cold is not your imagination.

Detroit?  One last look at the news and I see that Detroit has been named as the most dangerous city in the USA.  And even as these results are published it is not just Detroit claiming foul.  The pundits (yes, they are) claim that publicizing high crime hurts everyone.  Somehow I think that the person who reads these reports and avoids the more dangerous locations is safer than not reading the statistics and falling into a crime nest.  That St. Louis and Detroit vie for worst city is no surprise:  with the automobile economy down and sinking further.  When the city limits define the slums, is anyone surprised? Detroit was the first city to have forced integration busing across city lines.

My cousin in replying to an ad for a Corvette was shot, robbed, and left for dead.  My roommate installed a police car siren as a burglar alarm and used it to save his life by opening the door when muggers attacked.  When we worked late in Highland Park, we drove across the bridge to Canada to have dinner as there was no place within 10 miles of work in Detroit where you could get a take out dinner and sit down to enjoy it.  In Windsor, we could buy a pizza or Chinese, drive across to the park, and have a dinner while discussing the events of the day.  It was always amazing to me.  From the highest crime rate you can imagine to a peaceful midnight stroll in the park with just a river dividing the two.

Having now lived in Mexico for 5 years, I understand.  The USA is a violent place.  It has a gun/violent mentality.  There is no river to Mexico, only a fence to keep the violence north of the border.  It also keeps most of the Mexicans out but the Mexicans have a secret:  they want no part of the violence on the other side.  Those that try to cross are their own subculture.  Most here would like to visit but I know of no one that would want to live there. I have the best of all worlds (I am not Voltaire): I have a safe and secure home here.  I have neighbors who watch out for me and my home.  And I can walk the streets or go out in my yard day or night.  Except for the dogs -- but that is a different issue.  I am a citizen of the USA and receive the benefits of that (and my many hours of hard work for 40 years).  I was fed a good dinner at the restaurant last night and given nice hugs and best wishes by its owner.  The man across the street and up the hill invited me for fish dinner (which I had to turn down because I was already full).  And I drive to Berkeley which has its own problems and is located right next to Oakland.  Oakland is high on the violence list: a fact to which I can attest.  I have been in all of the cities that are marked high.  I have lived in or near some of them.  I must agree with the list.  I have not lived in St. Louis but the reputation of East St. Louis matches the reputation of Oakland.  I had a roommate in Detroit from East St. Louis once.   The Detroit crime rate and acceptance of casual murder frightened even him.

Megan is a good daughter or I would not be making this trip.  The American border cities are about my limit when it comes to guns and violence these days.  Going further north just raises my blood pressure.

I made the trip and it looks like I shall be making it again.  Megan informs me that she is having an operation over Christmas and needs a caretaker.  And my cousin, Diane, is coming to Las Vegas.  I shall attempt to visit Las Vegas with Diane and her husband before driving off to Berkeley.  I shall miss Christmas with my Mexican friends. 


DECEMBER

Well, the year is ending.  My new laptop arrived at CRA Yuma Lakes.  I take it on my trip now.  I felt badly that the inventory of mail for El GOlfo could not be handled but I was going north and not south.  After Yuma Lakes, I drove up to the Emerald Cove park to see if I could locate Bill Switzer.  They told me that he was not in the system and certainly not in their park.  I shall discover when I return from the trip that he is in Yuma Lakes for the season.  Three months in and nobody told me!

So I went to Las Vegas and saw my cousin Diane and her husband.  Las Vegas used to be a downtown and a strip.  Downtown was city and the strip was county.  You walked (or rode the bus) over a mile to get to the strip from the Greyhound station downtown.  Along the strip there were casinos.  One after the other.  The blocks behind the strip were sort of dismal.  Now I know why.  Each casino now takes up multiple blocks rather than just front the main street.  There is no separation of downtown to the strip. These casinos are giant.  There are now giant parking complexes adjoining each casino complex -- and they are complexes.  The city has grown up around the strip.  Shopping malls, etc.

I used to think of the airport as distant from the strip: you took a taxi.  Not any more.  You may still want the taxi but the casinos extend right up to the airport.  The business district extends far beyond on either side.  Residences go for miles and miles.

Another thing about the casinos: they have seriously reduced the cigarette smoke.  Oh.  It is still there and I still gagged smoke but before I would get sick just walking across the floor.  Because I wanted to be with my cousin, I tolerated the smoke.

I spent the night sleeping in the car at the local Thousand Trails.  They had empty cabins available but reservations said that they were full up.  Thousand Trails also shut down for Christmas so there was no way to communicate with them.  I mean really shut down.  Their 800 number said to come back on January 2.  I really think I paid for more than that with my annual maintenance fee.  But us members have little to say about how the Dallas office runs the system.  As I have stated elsewhere, customer service is not available in Texas.  The concept is unknown there.

Then I drove over and stayed with Megan until January 3.  I think Megan is recovering satisfactorily from having her tonsils removed.  The day I left she was able to talk in sort of a hoarse whisper.

Oh.  Netbank.  They were shut down a few months ago.  ING (ING Direct: www.ingdirect.com) took them over.  The transfer was grossly mismanaged.  All of my history is gone.  Final online transactions ignored.  So I have late fees and checks for which I cannot get copies to prove they were paid.  Credit card companies with serious issue with me.  ING has an 800 number for which I have spent hours listening to music.  When I do get to talk with someone, they have no interest in solving the problem and I think that they do not have the resources to help.  They have promised paper copies of my last Netbank statements.  This, I presume, is a lie since it has been three months now and all I get from ING are statements about how great it is that I am a new customer.  I have no paper checks.  I have no deposit envelopes.  I do not expect any.  I cannot get my credit cards off my bank with them.  Because of how badly they handled the transfer, I have attempted to pay my bills with my other checking account at Bank of the West.

Unlike ING, Bank of the West makes no serious claims about being an online bank.  Payments that I have attempted to make with Bank of the West do not happen, the check amount (sometimes missing $50) get re-deposited after a few days.  I have gone to the credit card pages and had them draft Bank of the West.  I have transferred my money out of ING (except for pennies) by having them send me a check.  I have had emails saying they sent it but I have my doubts.

ING Direct is NOT an online bank similar to other institutions.  The have online facilities but they will not handle problems online.  You must, without exception, call them on their 800 number to get anything resolved.  And then the problem is in limbo.  So far I have had no call to ING that resulted in a solution.  Not even a paper letter stating that I made the call and what they did about it.  Nothing.  It is almost better to just listen to their music.

So tomorrow I shall go to town and open a new checking account with Washington Mutual or Chase.  They claim to have online banking.  We shall see.  Bank of the West would be OK if they did not bounce my checks -- outgoing checks.  If they are going to bounce them I ought to be able to know why.  ANy explanation?  Not a chance, just a deposit of (almost) the amount of the check.  And their online statements and web page do not even give you an image view of the checks.  Maybe some day.  I like Bank of the West but I need a bank with serious online capabilities.

Oh. And you wonder why I have two checking accounts?  I am paranoid.  I always figure someone will mess me up and I shall need a fallback until I can get my finances back in place.  This is also the reason that I keep more credit cards than I need.  Just in case.

See you next year.  Thanks for  being here.

Summary

It has been a good year, more or less.  Any year that I can still walk and hold on to my Mexican friends is a good year.  I am now firmly ensconced on a lot in El Golfo de Santa Clara.  I have really good friends here in Mexico.  Other than my daughter, Megan, these friends are closer to me than any family has ever been.  I truly have a family here.  And I am happy.

Written:  2007          Updated: November 27, 2007         Back To Top