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.
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?
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
December 3, 2008. This has been removed as the probability of my death is not zero.
As the Chinese say: "May you live in
interesting times." It is now the 11th of July. On the 4th
El Golfo was as deserted as a Post Office after a bomb scare.
week has been interesting. But here is the problem. I have
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
it. I am still waiting for a blow-by-blow description of his trip
last year. But me. Me? I live such a boring life and with
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
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
and Karen, Martha's daughters but not from her. I should thank
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
had bought the cakes for her party for Maggie and now the cakes would
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
like a month ago -- it was yesterday. This was my first attempt
at a Mexican
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
passer-by, we plugged these hoses with bolts and took off. The
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
a working car and a working life again. Unbelievable.
Just a few things here before we go. Yes I rode up to 57 try
car out and I shall do the same tomorrow on a trip to Yuma to finish
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
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
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.
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.
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
early. So I went to Mexicali, got stuck in traffic and had a
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
expect dates with a woman friend to turn into a family event -- but
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
(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:
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.
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
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.
is not in their vernacular. Going "postal" is but they would
forget that word.
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.