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Year 2008 – More Life 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

I have settled into my life in El Golfo and not much happens here.  The key word here is: "Tranquilo".  I went up and visited Megan at Christmas.  I will need to go to Texas to renew my driver license before April.  Otherwise, mostly I am cleaning house and trying to stay well.  The weather has been a bit colder than usual and very much windier than usual.  Most of the neighbor kids are my friends.  Some are not.

In the last several months I have rented different cars.  I shall need to buy a new car.  New for me anyway.  My cable ties are breaking and oil consumption is on the rise.  Recently I have rented 3 cars:  Nissan Altima, Chevrolet Malibu, and a Chrysler P/T Cruiser:


So, I really like the Altima and I figure that the rental might just be top of the line and the cheaper models do not have the gadgets.  I go to the www.Nissan.com web site.  Wow.  What an eye-opener.  This web site belongs to a man whose family name heritage is Nissan and who sells computer services and equipment.  This would not be spectacular but he is under attack -- and losing -- to the Nissan Motor company for cyber-squatting on the Nissan name.  This is really sad.  Cyber-squatting is usually someone buying a name that is identifiable to someone or some place or some corporate entity for intent of depriving them of the name registration.  For example, people bought the names of singers and movie stars -- and generated porn sites.  Innocent people wanting to see information on their heroes were instead blasted with boobs.  Boobs at best.  After multiple court cases, cyber-squatting  is now against the law.  It should be.  But this Nissan guy had his business in place long before Datsun became Nissan.  Oh.  The Nissan name existed but the product was know as only Datsun.  I know.  I had a few Datsuns.  I really loved them.  I had them for 15 years and never heard the word "Nissan".  But now this Nissan man is losing because he has refused to give up his family named company to the Nissan Motor behemoth.

This is bad news for ANY person wanting to maintain their own name and values.  This is really bad news for me.  I know that there are people out there who would love to have my site name.  I know, offers to buy the name have been made.  Like this poor Nissan guy, I never expected when I started that anyone would want a site with my name.  I was wrong.  In fact my preferred registration was a "Kelly Family" but it turns out that there is a German family of Kelly's who sing.  Even if I got that name, I would most likely have lost it.  So we are at my personal name and not a family name.  So when some corporation comes along and tells the court that they were a corporation before I took the name and that because I have this site, they are losing business, I will be sued for millions of dollars.  In this lifetime, I shall never see a million dollars.

I would think that before suing, Nissan Motors probably offered the guy what they thought was a reasonable sale price.  The Nissan guy probably was as stubborn as I am and said no.  Maybe several offers.  Several No's.  I can understand not wanting to give up your family name to a corporation just for money.  But then if I looked at the increase of my pension, I would probably take the money and say discretion is the better part of valor. r I might say that this is just a fight I do not want to have.

In any case, I shall have to look elsewhere as I shall now not buy a Nissan Motor product.  Sad.  They make good, under-rated cars.  It is not just their marketing decisions that have led them down the wrong path: their corporation wants to blame some poor guy because he has the same name.  I would think he is being hurt just as badly because although Datsun/Nissan has made good  quality cars, their poor line-up and marketing may reflect upon Mr. Nissan's computer sales.

FEBRUARY

Obsessive-Compulsive, Addictive, Whatever, I have it

I guess I take some pride in saying I am an alcoholic.  I wish it ended there.  When I was old enough to buy alcohol, I drank so much that at least one friend almost died trying to keep up.  Maybe that is elsewhere -- if so look at the University of Wisconsin -- Milwaukee section.  I would sit on my drafting stool with a thermos of Vodka Gimlet.  It all started when my friend Karen H. introduced me to blackberry brandy.  I moved to VSQ brandy -- by the quart -- very quickly.  One day I stopped.  That was the day I started at Chrysler in 1967.  I was going to die.  I knew that.  CHrysler was the only hope I had left and I would not let go of that.  Smoking never caught on.  Now I was safe.  No more alcohol.  People say you are not an alcoholic if you can quit by yourself.  I can tell you here and now if you have any brains at all and you figure that you will be dead within a year and you are still young enough to have those dreams, you can stop.  It is just not easy.  You don't like the wet bed sheets?  Work all night and you will not notice.  Don't like the cotton mouth -- drink Pepsi.  Don't like the headaches -- go for a walk.  Don't like yourself -- that is the bottom line.  I put Chrysler (with the extreme help of my IBM friends) on the map.  I knew it.  I was not going to live in the state hospital like my father promised.

But I got past the alcohol.  Within the year I almost forgot it ever happened.  I went back to the university the following year.  I needed something to stay awake.  I had a heavy course load and I needed money which meant work for pay.  Pepsi was not enough caffeine.  I tried coffee.  It tastes like burnt something.  Maybe rubber.  I tried tea.  I ran to the bathroom every hour.  I heard about diet pills with methedrine.  I bought bags full.  I became a speed freak.  I went to bed every third night for about 4 hours.  That is all I could handle before my brain was racing in new directions.  Unknown to me, I lost my ability to remember anything at all.  I missed an entire class for a month.  My work programming was so sloppy that I spent all of my time correcting errors.  My class project had me running in circle until Kathy Z. showed up to help.  This was another case of the alcohol only worse: speed kills.  We all know that.  Again I would be dead within a year.  My friends were gone.  That stuff makes you very irritable.  To put it mildly.  When the semester ended my grades were not good enough to graduate.  Surprise.  I tried the usual appeal route and gained some ground but no graduation.  I started a new job.  Bendix.  They were patient.  I slept solid for a week.  At my desk.  At McDonald's.  At my motel room.  Anywhere.  But no more speed.  That was history.

I have a really strange way of putting these things behind me.  It is not super-faith in Jesus.  It is making the decision to stop with every conscious minute.  With the alcohol.  I always had the bottle in the refrigerator.  Always.  I could drink it anytime I failed.  Even failed just for a few minutes.  I would not fail.  WIth the speed, I kept the pills in my pocket (I wore a suit).  I always felt them in there.  I did not fail.  Not even once.  I did not want to die.  I would not end up a ward of the state as promised.  No.  I was going to beat all of this.  I think I did a good job.

Oh.  No 12-step plan?  No association of fellow addicts? Not really an addict?  Let me tell you.  I am 64 now.  Almost.  Some things in this life are hard.  Much is easy. Stopping an addition hurts more than you can imagine unless you have done it.  That is the resin for the plans and the associations.  It is not just the decision.  Your body needs to maintain a constant level.  When you have poured poison into it for a long time, removing the poison hurts.  It hurts all over.  You do not want to get up in the morning: it hurts mentally.  Your head aches like it is split into pieces.  Your legs hurt.  You cannot think straight.  All  of you and your body are screaming to return to the poison.  And that is the one thing you cannot do.  anything.  But no more poison.

So when I got divorced I starting drinking again.  Not a little.  A lot.  You know those 2-quart-sized giant bowls that they serve rum drinks in at the theme restaurants.  Yeah.  I know you get a lot of ice.  But I would drink one of those at a sitting.  And ask for little ice as if it were a Pepsi.  Then one of the neighbors told me that he never saw me without my glass of drink.  I stopped dead in my tracks.  I mean right there at the side of the house.  I stopped walking.  I had gone back to where I had been and had not even noticed.  The drink went on the ground.  The bottle stayed in the refrigerator where I saw it every day.  There was more at stake this time than my life.  If I were caught with this much alcohol, my kids would end up with their mother.  This was worse than my death.  This was the mental death of two very intelligent, honest children.

But, as I have come to realize, it is not a matter of chemicals or drugs.  It is a way of living.  A way of thinking.  Or not thinking.  I live alone.  I am not lonely as I have good friends and friends closer than family ever was.  My world is good.  But I spend every cent I can lay my hands on.  For Valentines Day this year I bought a half dozen Barbie dolls, and boxes of candies.  It is unlikely that I shall find enough people to give them to before the holiday itself.  I have the same problem at Christmas.  I have been trying to control it but spending is necessary.  I cannot just quit or I go hungry.  I have been limiting my dollar amounts -- sort of like a budget.  But I must find a different way to beat the compulsive shopping habit. ANd I shall.  But it is a different beast than the others and harder to control.

MARCH

This week I encountered what I consider the primary issue in the United states: Anger.  People are angry.  Anger is the emotion what what you expect differs from what you encounter.  In this case it was just another stupid Arizona senior citizen.  We were waiting in line and I made a comment about my upcoming trip to EL Paso and the customer service person being bilingual (one of my favorite topics).  She laid one on me that I did not expect.  She said she grew up in El Paso and hated it because so many people spoke Spanish and t they should speak the language of  America if they wanted to live in America.  You know my position on this: bull shit.  The founding fathers primarily spoke English.  But not all of their constituents did.  In the late 1800's when our country was founded there was a plethora of languages spoken.  I remember hearing jokes about the "Pennsylvania Dutch" language.  For you young people, this is German.  Then there were the SPanish colonies and the French colonies and the Russian colony. Etc.  Over the years English has become the common language.  As our country homogenized the language became homogenized.  This occurred simultaneously with our country discarding many concept of cultural values.  Sine the 1870's we have been invaded by other countries and their cultures.  Like this stupid woman, our country has the unique opportunity to encourage good new cultural values while discarding the old.  I am afraid we will just increase our anger and lose this precious gift.  In others, you stupid, stupid people who want everyone to look like Tom Sawyer, get out of my country.  We need all of the diversity and the family values that are coming to our shores.  Learn a new language and learn about cultures and histories.  Histories that were old before the Unites States was even considered.

But then I went to El Paso.  I bought a new 2008 Ford Ranger pickup.  Sort of Red.  Like really, really, red.  An experience in itself.  I drove my poor Tercel to Yuma, shopped, returned it to San Luis to Marisol's house. Took the taxi to the border.  another taxi to the train station. 10 minutes to spare.  I was worried.  But the train was two hours late.  Apparently this is normal.  They will not wait for me if I am late but I must wait for them with no penalty on their side.  I slept brokenly as I had no CPAP power and arrived in EL Paso at 9:45 instead of 8:15.  THen I waited an hour for the guy from the Casa Ford to arrive. I was ready to find the next bus or train back.  I had no confidence that they even had the car I wanted let alone that they would ever arrive.

But Rick Massey from Casa Ford made the wait worth while.  The car was everything that Ford could make that I wanted (we won't go there here).  So after financial papers and lunch (they have a restaurant in the dealership), I took off.  I started back to Yuma at about 4:00.  I gained an hour as I left Texas and another as I entered Arizona.  I arrived home absolutely dead about 3:00 in the morning.

Interestingly I stopped at a Carl's Junior at about Casa Grande.  The clerk was bilingual and young.  I asked something that I have come to conclude: "Are more people bilingual now than 40 years ago?"  She replied definitely yes.  Hooray. Our young people (as opposed to our Arizona Senior Citizens) understand the issue.  If you want to be a real person, you will understand more than one language.  You will understand more than one narrow culture, world renowned for its selfishness.  The clerk made my day.  But then I was too tired to do anything except  eat my fish sandwich and drive another 300 miles.

Attention Arizona Senior Citizens:  There is NO requirement for any natural-born American citizen to speak any particular language -- and that includes American English (the poor man's substitute for communication).  There is, however, a requirement for ANY non-natural born citizen to speak American.  So before you publicize to the world that you are a narrow minded, angry, stupid, old bat, remember, most of the Mexicans you encounter are able to speak American better than you ever will.  They also understand another language and have superior cultural values that you will never even suspect.

While We Are At It

In 1998 I bought a nice little condo in Mesa, Arizona.  I intended to rent it until I retired.  There were a few tenants.  Mostly they ripped me off by non-payment or rent, extortive telephone bills, and theft of my belongings.  I spent all of my vacations restoring the place.

I moved there when I thought I would quit Siemens.  It was depressing.  The front window faced the Superstition mountains, which at the time were pristine and undeveloped.   But I never saw them.  The smog is so bad in the Phoenix area that seeing more than a few miles is a rare exception.  Maybe there are clear days when you could see them.  There were no clear days while I was there.  None.

So, when I looked out my front window upstairs I saw a parking ramada roof, an asphalt roadway, and more condominiums.  Try it and see: 2300 University.  I observed from upstairs because the marijuana smell from the kids next door was less upstairs.

After a week, I returned to San Jose and sold the condominium.  I worked too hard and too long to be boxed into a life that could not even be called tolerable.  The next year I bought a motor home and decided to see the country.  I saw the country. The mishaps you may have read in this monologue on earlier pages.

Then I discovered El Golfo de Santa Clara, Districto de Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico.  On the beach of the Sea of Cortez 100 miles south of Yuma, arizona.  After coupons and weeks of working a free clinic for PCs and the Internet, I moved onto a lot owned by a wonderful Mexican woman.  For those of you who think they have found paradise, maybe you have -- but it is not to be found anywhere in the United States.  The USA has too many narrow-minded, selfish, egotists.  There is too much stress.  Too much hate.  Too much anger.  Too much pain.  Too much of everything bad.

What is in El Golfo?  Nothing.  The popular word to describe El Golfo both in town and elsewhere is "Tranquilo".  That is changing and that is regrettable.  When the world discovers a good thing, it ruins it.  But in the meantime, I sit here in my RV.  I see a nice hill of sand in front of me and clear blue sky above that.  My neighbors at the top treat me as family.  My landlady treats me as family.  My friends.  Oh, my friends.  I have more friends than I can count.  They describe me as the "Gringo who lives on the lot of Beto the policeman".  And that, by the way, means that I have serious security night and day.

My landlady visits her house at most monthly.  I visit her in her home (with Beto and Betito) in San Luis regularly.  The neighbor children run to see me when I drive by.  I get free fish (I am not a fan of shrimp).  I get called at least once a day to make sure I am still alive.

I get up when I want.  I go to bed when I want.  I visit friends when I want.  I help people with computers when I want.  I am trying to learn the language.  I am too old to enjoy time with them but the number of really beautiful young women here really makes my day.  Some are friends.

Gas prices are about $1 per gallon less than up in El Centro.  Fish is free (for me).  Fruits and vegetables are fresh from the fields -- so are eggs. And cost half of what they cost just across the border.

The weather is not perfect.  I am told that the weather in san Diego is perfect.  I am not that far from San Diego.  It is March.  I needed covers on my bed last night.  I might want to run the AC this afternoon.  RVs get hot.  El Golfo never get as hot as Yuma (100 miles North).  We never get as cold as El Paso.  No hurricanes.  No tornados.  Two or three rainy days per year.  Maybe a week or so of cloudy days.  The rest have a few jet plane con-trails but otherwise pure blue except for the flaming sunrises and sunsets.

Did I leave anything out?  I think not.  Did I mention our beautiful beach?  Sunsets?  Happy people?

Semana Sancta (Holy Week)

In Mexico they celebrate Easter Week, not just a day.  This year the number of people in town is unbelievable.  Every year we get more tourists.  Some years the San Luis District sends enough police and Army and Marines to handle the traffic.  This year they sent no Army.  No Marines.  Very few policemen.  You would not believe the mess.  Miles, I really do mean miles, of traffic jams.  The 4-way stop in the middle of town has cops directing the traffic.  The problem is the usual: greed/selfishness.  The main street in front of the school can generally handle two lanes of cars each way.  The outside lane usually for people dropping off or picking up school kids or stopping at the tiendas on the other side.  Not today.

In the EEUU, you are never permitted to block the street.  It is a public street.  In Mexico, the street in front of your tienda is treated as your private space.  Mostly this comes to restricting the parking.  Today there are cabanas in front of the tienditas.  And the sidewalk in front of the school is full of caritas selling anything legal.  And there are the outsized pickups trying to ram there way around the other vehicles waiting for the policeman to signal them ahead.    and then there are the quads.  4-wheel motorcycles with usually at least two people on them but frequently you see one almost adult with two very small children.  These zig-zag through the cars as best they can with never more than a foot to spare.

Other beach towns have banned the quads in town.  On streets or  on the beach.  After today, that may happen here.  If so, I hope they do it only on holiday weekends as quads are a normal means of transportation here.  Maybe some day I shall have one.  I think I should have visited Megan this weekend.  WIth my new, shiny Ford Ranger I am afraid to venture from the safety of my lot.  In the middle of town today at the new 4-way stop (it is always there but sort of ignored) in front of the church/park.  While the traffic was stopped, the policeman stepped up next to me and asked: "My friend where do you want to go? To the beach?"  I said "No,  away from here by the Telcel tower" .  He had his partner clear the way to permit me to turn across the traffic and up the road I wanted to go.

I can not explain the chaos.  I do not have the prose and style of professional writers.  There are literally hundreds of quads, hundreds of pickups, small to large, a couple thousand people that do not live here, all of these crowded into a little town that has one paved road through the middle of it and a paved cross street 5 blocks longs.  The rest of the streets are sand and a watering truck makes rounds on the central streets to keep them packed as normal traffic will leave soft spots.  These quads are intentionally tearing up the streets and leaving loose sand everywhere.  The water truck is in hiding as is the grader.

The closest analogy I can come up with is three dimensional: throw a rock through a wasp nest.  The wasps are more angry but you can imagine the density and the chaos.  Oh. Did I mention people die during these weekends?  The ambulance sirens could be heard though the night.  All night.  There is a squad of tow trucks on the main road.  Pony rides (?!)  and a squad of ambulances.  Two days ago a boy on a quad (I do not know how old) ran over a little girl on the beach.  Killed her.  3 other people died that same day.  And that was before the holiday weekend started.

I took the bus to 57 the other day as I did not want to get involved with the traffic.  There were multiple police stops for seat belts and alcohol on the main highway.  Many billboards too.  But nothing has stopped the idiocy of the people when they get here.

They are talking about building an expressway here from San Luis.  It will be built but that will create more chaos here.  I surely hope that someone figures out how to make this town safer on the holidays.  I think a squad of police and some Army presence on the beach would go a long ways.  A dozen police at the main intersection has no effect whatsoever on the traffic problems.  And people die.  I am thankful for my lot and fence and Marisol and Liz in the RV park.

Marisol has not sold any shrimp.  Maggie's restaurant has not done a whole lot of business and so Marisol has not made a profit on her voyage down here.  Why no customers?  Maggie's is not on the main street and is small.  For crowds like this she needs more chairs and tables.  But the crowds are on the main street.  The gringos do not go to Maggie's.  They eat at the caritas and taco stands along the road.  The eat hamburgers at Martha's stand up at the lighthouse: the hill with the abandoned lighthouse is the famous local attraction.  Abandoned?  No light but the hill is not abandoned.  People race their quads, Jeeps, and pickups up and down the hill day and night on the weekends.  From here, the hill looks black.  A few people die on the town beach.  The other dies running over each other going up and down the hill.

I have neighbors who only arrive on holiday weekends.  They have a half-dozen tents of normal to gigantic on their lot.  At least 20 people, maybe more.  These people make no noise.  I went over yesterday and told them that I thought they were too quiet and needed to make more noise or they were not here having enough fun.  I think I heard music last night.

In two more months we have Memorial Day.  I think I must visit Megan then or I shall go mad.

Oh.  It is Saturday night.  I can see a row of red taillights going back north.  The red taillights go on for at least 3 km when the road goes around the curve and up the hill.  Maybe there will be some sanity tomorrow.  Why should they not wait until tomorrow?  At El Doctor there will be a couple of hour wait at the Mexican checkpoint.  After that most will cross the border at San Luis.  This will be up to a 6-hour wait -- even those going back tonight.  The kids can sleep while the car crawls forward.

You do not believe me?

This town is changing so very rapidly.  The new highway more or less parallels the beach.  The purpose is to bring American tourists to the Mexican Mainland-Baja beaches.  Money.  That is what it is all about.  Owned property that extends the short distance from the highway to the beach is selling for millions of dollars.  That's right.  If you own adjacent lots that permit highway access to the beach, you now own property valued from 15 to 30 million dollars.  At these prices we are talking about major resorts moving here within the next couple of years.

Easter

It is Easter again.  It is THE time of the year where we reexamine our relationship with our creator.  It is the time of year that Christians, even the cults, acknowledge the death of Jesus.  It reminds me specifically when I decided that I could never be a Catholic again.   At this point I also acknowledge that I am no longer a Christian if that means the things that most other Christians claim to believe.  But that one Easter Sunday in New Jersey.  The Catholic Church in Livingston.  The pastor got up on the pulpit and gave a sermon.  Usually a CAtholic sermon is a few minutes expounding upon the Gospel message for that day.  This priest shit on Easter Sunday.  He gave a Hell and Brimstone sermon.  He claimed we would all go to Hell if we did not repent.  It sounded more like a text from the Koran than a message of anything Christian.  It was certainly not appropriate for a joyous church event such as Easter.  I know he was wrong and you can tell me that I should not blame the church for one lunatic pastor.  But I was the ONLY one who walked out on him.  If I had been a parishioner, I would have vocally objected.  BUt this was not my place and not my time and maybe all of these people needed such a speech.  For God's sake, I hope not.

It is too many of such events which drove me from that church.  It was too many other historical readings and my philosophy of religion course back at the university that made me give up the last pretense of Christian belief.  I do not know exactly what God's organization is and who sits where.  I do know that I do not live up to the qualities of Jesus although I try.  God knows how hard I try.  He also knows how I fail.  And we discuss it with me knowing that I can never be that light.  But I can make a few people smile.  I can make a few people have a little more joy.  Maybe that is enough.  That is called hope.

"Meet Joe Black"

I just got the DVD for this movie and I have almost worn it out.  Joe Black is death incarnate and has come to take a successful entrepreneur away.  Only one obscure mention is made of what happens on the other side but the entire story is about a man, his success, and his family knowing that on his 65th birthday party he will die.  He has every confidence in the days before that things will be fine.  He worries about his company.  He worries about his two daughters.  Next month is my 64th birthday.  There will be no party.  Not enough people care that much and I have no millions of dollars for my daughters to spend to make a party.  So the movie is sort of close to home.  The big part is that he is prepared to die.  He has done what he wants and he has left his daughters with a path for their lives.  None of us knows when death is going  to knock and take us away.  And we do not know what happens on the path afterwards.  We can only have faith that God is waiting for us with open arms.

I am diabetic and barely keep my numbers close.  I have a heart condition that puts me on a rat poison diet for the rest of my life.  There are some other things inside that do not have names.  These things let me know that the knock can come at any time -- and I do believe that it is countable in months and not decades.  I sincerely wish that I could have made a better path for my daughter, Megan.  That is my sole regret.  Anything else is pretty pebbles to quote another movie.  Maybe I shall regret having bought a new American-made car.   I hope not.

APRIL

Split in the Head

I do not know all of it but I do know that I am different.  Most of it is gone now as several serious concussions (I did live through them but just barely) reduced my memory and my mental abilities.  But I can lay out the split and maybe you can tell me what is going on.

Although not entirely accurate and mostly short-term I have what is called an eidetic memory.  I remember pictures.  I can store the picture and recall it it.  In fact this is how my memory works.  I used to page through texts in school without reading them.  Then when I needed the information for a test, I would recall it and read it.  I had a girl friend in college who could do this perfectly and for long-term.  I hope I loved Janne for the right reasons.  But then when someone I had just met got a haircut I would not recognized them.  The picture did not match.  My wife did not understand this.  She would recognize anyone anywhere in any circumstance.

My eyes work independently.  When I was young (I have written about this elsewhere), I saw double.  I had great vision.  I just saw two of everything.  Well, not exactly.  Since my eyes looked indifferent directions, I just had two simultaneous images of the world.  If I was looking in general in the same direction, I sort of saw only one but not exactly that either.   Obviously I had no depth perception.  Several car accidents proved to me that there was something amiss here.  But then nobody ever told me that I should see only one.  I had two eyes, two pictures seemed normal.  I was 22 before an eye doctor told me that what I had was not normal and sent me to a clinic to do eye exercises until both eyes learned to coordinate.  This was a good thing but I mostly lost the ability to separate them.  A few concussions later and I found image separation impossible.

It was more than double image.  My wife would get upset when one eye looked at her and the other wondered around the room.  I learned to not look directly into other people's faces when talking but then this bothered women even more than wondering eyes.  There is another disconcerting thing here.  I was reminded of it last week when I renewed my Texas driver license.  Since I know I need glasses I did not protest but Texas was not using a standard eye chart.  I had not seen one of the machines since I took the draft physical in 1964 but here they were (the vision machines) in Texas.  Texas.  I should be surprised with Texas having the latest 1960 technology?  Here is how the machine works.  It has two sets of images: one for each eye.  One set slightly larger than the other.  Each set is missing some items.  Normal brains and eyes with normal binocular vision looking into this binocular machine automatically adjust to make the images consistent.  But they cannot be.  So the ones that are the same image but different sizes are size-adjusted to appear identical.  This leaves your brain in a quandary.  It has done its job but there are mismatches.  So your brain goes the extra mile and does not tell you that some are missing.  It just pretends that all of the pictures are available to both eyes.  Normal brain operation in real life for things that are moving and sometimes partially hidden.  The effect is to make the ones that are only on the small-image side appear more distant.  Similarly the ones only on the large-image side appear closer.  So you have images, near, middle, and far.  Great for testing depth perception.  So what is the problem?

My eyes do not work this way.  Or maybe it is my brain.  Under these circumstances, my brain sides separate and I see two sets of images.  I have learned to not ask the tester which set does he want because if he looks into the device, he only sees one set.  So I just read from left to right integrating the two sets orally.  Sometimes I make a mistake.  On the Texas machine the images were letters in rows decreasing in size lower on the screen.

Here is where I get in trouble.  One of my eyes sees better than the other.  Yes, I said I need glasses.  My problem is that even with glasses I had trouble reading the larger line as my poor brain attempted multiple times to behave in a normal manner and integrate the images.  The best it could do was to blur the common ones and separate the unique ones.  Trying to read the lines when the images were moving back and forth was very difficult.  I almost failed the test.  Explanations to the woman giving the test were lost as she had no idea what I was talking about.  To her this was a great improvement over a set of letters on the wall.  To me it was reverting to the nightmares I had with these machine in driver's ed (road signs 2, 8, and 16 were closer), the draft, and a few other places 40 years ago.

But it is more than just eyes.  My wife would also get upset when I would be involved in multiple conversations at the same time.  I could be talking to her and interspersing sentences with someone else at the same time.  Mostly she thought it was rude.  The same with the eye-wondering thing.

This ability was especially useful in math problems.  On a test, I used professor Polya's heuristic technique of reading the problems first and then returning to solve them on the second pass.  This worked especially well for me.  I did have a problem with this though: I often would have the correct answer, know it was the correct answer, know I had solved it correctly, but have to dig to regurgitate the process.  Good teachers have no interest in the answer, only the process.  Waiting for my brain to backtrack and restart was beyond the patience of most teachers.

The real problem was my inability to remember things.  Oh, I can remember all sorts of numeric things.  History is a lost cause.  Things learned in class to be written on a test are never recovered.  I cannot remember birthdays.  I cannot remember names.  I will call my favorite daughter Megan by another name when I get excited.  She hates this.  She claims it is not respectful.  When pushed for information, my brain goes blank.  The two sides yell at each other that it is the other side's job to know the answer.  The two sides have no patience with each other so the wrong information will pop out.  I am sorry, but that is how it works.  Mechanically my brain and body will do correct things.  Orally, the wrong words will come out, if anything comes out at all.  If you cannot do these things then you have no idea the panic that the two sides generate and the blankness that I hear while waiting for a correct answer.  Or the yelling from Megan as I called out  someone else's name. Or the shame I feel because my brain just does not work that way.  And I can never explain it.

Sometimes, problem resolution comes so slowly that people think I have forgotten about them.  I have learned to say "thinking" out loud while the voices arbitrate.  But then you have read this and think I am crazy or are putting you on.  Sorry, I do not know how thinking is supposed to happen.  I do know that some parts of my thinking are different.  I do not know to what extent.  And I do know that in the last few years that the vision thing is all but gone (except when viewing one of those darn machines) and that I can no longer count on getting answers from the side that does not talk as well as the side that does.

I heard once that it is OK to talk to yourself.  It is just not OK to answer.  How do you get answers to questions if you do not ask them?


MAY

Memorial Day

This weekend I am going to visit Megan in Berkeley.  This will be the first trip in my new Ford Ranger.   I need to be out of town for the holiday.  With $4 gasoline now and predictions of $5 by the Fourth of July, the trip will be expensive but that is why I bought the most fuel efficient Ranger.  The problem as I see it, El Golfo will be overrun with tourists for several reasons:

Quad Motorcycles

Every year more people arrive with their quads and unsupported beliefs.  They believe that there are no laws in Mexico or it least none that they need to obey.  They are wrong on both counts.  Although Mexican laws are rarely enforced, they have teeth.  You can go to long terms in prison if you cross the wrong policeman.  There are other laws.  These are imposed harshly and consistently.  They are the laws of physics:

Every holiday we have people die on their or by their quads.  A few holidays back a woman on a quad stopped in the middle of a busy intersection.  I mean right in the middle.  She waved at the cars and trucks approaching her from all 4 directions.  She resided in the CRA park.  I saw her a few minutes later.  I was one of the people who almost killed her.  She was not drunk -- just stupid.  She arrived in the clubhouse while I was still shaking.  She was not even aware of the problems she had caused.  It could have been worse.  As it happened, people were just angry and would have liked to see her dead before she caused the deaths of other people.  In a poblado, you have unmarked crossings and people approach them with some caution but there are occasional collisions and many near misses.  Nobody expects anybody to stop dead in the middle and wave. Yes, we are all doing about 20 mph but driving in sand is not the same as driving on asphalt.  You cannot stop.  You cannot accelerate.  You can turn sort of like you are on water skis.  I was surprised no one was hurt in this incident.  Easter week this year only 4 people died.  One little girl.  No I am not a pedophile but everyone has the God-given right to determine their own life.  A life snuffed out by a stupid person hurts doubly.  First because the child should not have died.  Second, the person who killed the child does not have the brains to accept responsibility for the death of the child.  I guess if they did have the brains to understand what an atrocity they have performed they would not have done it.

Drunk Drivers

Enough said.

Clogged Streets

You have no idea what a line a mile long in 4 directions can do to a 4-way stop.  Only Americans in the entire world will honor a waiting line and they only do it in America.  When the road is one and half lanes wide and half of the vehicles are quads you delve into the concept of chaos.  Not mathematical chaos.  This chaos is more like anarchy.  Other Mexican beach cities have banned quads.  El Golfo is the only one left.  And the others have real streets.

Enough.  I am also stopping at the SKP park near Coarsegold.  They have informed me that I am number 50 on the waiting list.  That means that I need to make the decision to live there within the year.

SKP Park of the Sierras

Park of the Sierras.  It is the most beautiful RV park I have ever seen.  Each site (and there are 400 of them) is separately landscaped, some with little brooks.  Many trees and gardens.  If you love the mountains, as I do, and can live with cold but not freezing and you like the open space of a grand clubhouse and you like the people of SKP, then this is the home of your dreams.  You can grow old watching the world from up above it all and away from the crowds.  The local town is 10 miles up the road. Fresno, the big city, is 50 miles down the road.  The Costco and Home Depot are about the third exit.  Walmart about the fifth.

I have my reservation on the waiting list.  I have arrived at the park and discover that I am no longer number 50.  I am now number 26.  25.  24.  This is not a good thing.   Here is my problem.  They want me to visit more often so that I can get to know the members.  And I am reminded that it is a cooperative: I must contribute work hours each week.  How many hours and at what tasks are not defined.  Because it is the first thing that I am welcomed with on each visit, I am concerned about two things.  The hours may be excessive.  That one is obvious.  The second reason though is not so obvious.  If this is the highest priority item on the plate then what about the important things.  Social skills.  Divertido.  Smiles.  I saw so dew smiles.

Currently I live in a town where the oldest person I know is myself.  Oh, we have gringo tourists and members of CRA who are older but they are seasonal.  My friends average about 30 years old.  They still enjoy the life that awaits them.  To veer from SKP, today in Maggie's restaurant we suddenly heard a loud squeal and everyone turned to the direction of the video game,  The little girl using it was hidden by the ice freezer.  She had just won 20 pesos and was shocked and elated.  We all were proud of Carol and her smiles did not end the entire time I was there.  Tonight I ate a the little taco restaurant at the main corner of town.  I was greeted with smiles.  My tacos had double the meat on them as when I first came.  Children (and adults) waved at me from the passing cars and pickups.  Earlier this week someone stopped and called me by name in the local Welton fruteria.  This was 50 miles from home.  Last night while waiting for my laundry, I sat on the beach and watched the sunset.  An average sunset here.  Spectacular up north.

Look at the SKP park.  People go to rest homes to die.  The SKP park is not a rest home.  If they think you are about to die, you must leave.  But the people who live their have enjoyed their past lives and live happily landscaping and helping each other.  I would be one of the youngest in the park watching what I would become.  And if my heart got worse, I leave.  Where I am, it is possible to live however I want and be appreciated for what I can contribute and to continually hear the squeals of little children and their surprises.

I may not be the most amiable person but when I see old people, even in CRA, I do not feel like one of them.  Megan says I am a bigot.  I dislike old people.  I dislike Americans.  I dislike Caucasians in general.  I hate Republicans.  I should live in an RV park composed exclusively of this crowd.  I have trouble with the concept.

I visited the park twice.  Once before I got to Berkeley and again leaving.  I did not feel better the second time.  I felt worse.  The waiting list is a refuge that I do not want to lose but at this point it is an emergency exit.  I will need another  $10,000 to move to the park.  Plus monthly maintenance plus the $2,000 (minimum) to get my RV up there.

Illegal Aliens

You know.  There is a problem here as I think about it.  I am an illegal alien.  To live here I need a visa permit permitting this.  Instead I use a tourist permit.  Tourist permits are not renewable.  They are good for a maximum of 180 days.  After 180 days, you count on their computer system to forget who you are or just live with the expired permit.  I have done both.  I have friends who tell me that if I have difficulties with the local authorities, they can help.  I live in my RV on a lot.  A beautiful lot.  I am taking advantage of the life style that this permits.  I am taking advantage of the social structure that permits kids to wave at me and stop me to see if I have any toys or candy for them.  A four year old little girl saying "por favor" and a smile on her face hoping that my car is not empty this week.  I would pay to live here.  But I do not have to.  I have been promised two other sites if I need to leave here where the rent is the same: nothing.  One of the sites is on the beach.  The beach is pretty.  Really pretty. But the weekend and seasonal noise from the motorcycles can prevent sleep for days at a time.  But the bottom line is that I may cross the border any time I want.  I can buy food on either side.  I can see doctors on either side.  I can do what is legal on each side.  But my life in this wonderland is illegal.  I m an illegal alien who to date has slipped through the cracks in the system.  I hope to do this for many years.


JUNE

Oops.  I have been adding to my Politics page but not my history.  I went up to see Megan across the Memorial Day Weekend.  The last place I wanted to be was home in El Golfo.  I think that that is the last time I shall ever wish to be away from home again.  I mean I like to visit Megan but life in the EEUU has gone berserk.  In the next few days I shall amplify on this.

Los Angeles 911

Coming home from Berkeley I had made it over the Grapevine hill and was now in a traffic jam. The lighted signs said the right lane was closed ahead due to an accident.  I know.  To me it is ALL Los Angeles.  I am in the right lane.  I know I need to move left soon.  So just as I am arriving at the police barricades.  A car on my left, a little, red, Pontiac-type car rams the large, expensive, Class A Motorhome in front of it.  I mean the guy went from a dead stop to a serious ram in the space of 20 feet.  I am sure that the people in the RV were shook up but the RV weighs 10 tons more than the Pontiac.  This means that the guy rammed the trailer hitch.  I did not see any damage to the RV (I was really about 15 feet away when it happened) but it put a large vertical "V" in the front of the Pontiac.  At this point my lane was moving.  The RV moved to the shoulder behind me.  To my surprise, the Pontiac raced past me on the shoulder.  This happened while I was trying to find my phone, dial 911, and not have the same problem with the car in front of me.  I was succeeding in all but dialing the 911.  And I was approaching the police and California has a law against making cell phone calls while you are driving.  I thought of pursuing the red car up to the barriers but with my luck really bad things would happen if I did that and I would be there in a few seconds anyway.  The 911 call was answered by a recording. "If this is a real emergency, press ANY key".  I could not see which key I pressed as a car did what I had thought of doing: it was chasing the red car up to the barricade.  The call was answered.  In Spanish.  My Spanish is not good enough for a 911 call.  "Ingles, por favor".  I hung up two minutes later as I had been transferred to a ringing phone which went unanswered.  Just as well. The pursuing car stopped at the barricades and a CHP officer jumped into his car and pursued the Pontiac.  This is just where I-210 splits off of I-5  I saw neither of them ahead of me on I-210 so I presume the pursuing police officer made the correct choice.  I also presume that he got his man.  I had tried to memorize the red car's license but I am limited to how many things I can do at once.  And as you know, memorizing is not my forte.  I was 7 years old before I could remember my own name.  And I never did get the spelling right.

But it made me angry.  I am sure that the CHP got their guy.  But the 911 call was a bad thing.  I had really hoped that I would have gotten a call back to find out if the reason I hung up was because I was maybe dead.  I guess Los Angeles does not take 911 seriously.  After all there are a lot of people here and I guess they have their own priorities.  What if the car had rammed me and I had a broken neck and the last thing I could do was dial 911?  What would you do if I skipped more than one month and then disappeared?  You would have nothing else to fill your boredom.

JULY

It is summer.  It is hot. It has gotten humid.  Yuma has started getting monsoon rains and maybe we shall get them here soon.  There has already been on Pacific hurricane down south but nothing in our neighborhood yet.

AUGUST

I have gotten used to my new Ford Ranger.  I have also gotten used to the sore back muscles after driving it for a day.  Two things: the seat is not comfortable and the truck is unstable at highway speeds. The 4-cylinder is definitely under-powered.  It drops down a gear just to run the AC -- and in AUgust there is always the AC.

United States Border Patrol

I always save my bottles and cans for recycling.  Mostly I enjoy getting my California CRV tax returned.  I ran into a new one yesterday when I tried to cross.  They asked me if I had anything from Mexico.  I gave the usual response: no.  I mean when I sit in my car waiting for the border I usually have a bottle of soda and maybe a couple of tamales.  This time I was in a hurry: the bottles were in the bags and none next to me.  A few on the floor that had not made it to a bag yet.  I drink a lot of soda.  All diet.  Light in Mexico.  But they asked about the bottles of gasoline and the empty bottles in the bags.  I have two 8-liter red, California safety-topped gasoline bottles and 5 bags of recycle bottles.  They are unhappy about the gas.  I tell them (from previous crossings) that they are looking for 5-gallon cans/bottles of diesel.  These two little red bottles are not on their list.  OK.

But the recycle bottles include, inside, one Mexican bottle on the top of one of the bags.  If they are unhappy, I shall take it out and give it to them.  This would be the procedure if I had an avocado or a ham sandwich.  No.  An empty soda bottle is a different problem.  I am sent to the secondary area.  I grab my papers and get out.  No.  Get back in your car.  The problem is not that I have the bottle.  THe problem is that it is my intent to recycle the bottles.  This makes the bottles a commercial enterprise and I am importing a foreign product for resale.  THis must be taxed.  The tax on a bottle for which I shall receive 4 pennies is probably not a whole lot but I must go through a commercial gate to pay the tax.  Algodones does not have a commercial gate so I must go back into Mexico and leave through either San Luis or Mexicali using a commercial gate.

I ask if there are any other choices.  There are 3:

I decide on the last.  The Mexican border guard considers the bottles trash and does not want to let me return.  I point out that they are for resale as recycling.  This is acceptable and I return to the line for the USA.  While waiting,  I hop to the back and search the bags.  Good thing.  There were actually 6 bottles from Mexico.  I contribute 15 pesos to the Teen Drug Abatement canister and a Mexican happily takes my 6 empty pop bottles.  Had they been full and I drank them and then recycled them there would have been no problem.  I can take full bottles into he USA.  I cannot take empty bottles unless I wish to discard them along the highway.

The process cost me an extra 40 minutes of waiting in line.  More gas.  More AC.  SOmetimes I really wonder about these guys.  Maybe the sun gets to them.

The Siemens Benefits Monster Strikes Again

Last time in the USA a couple of weeks ago, I asked Hewitt (dba Siemens Benefits) that my home address be changed from El Centro to Yuma.  With the new Cigna health plan it turns out home address makes no difference but it is the only reason I maintain the Celexico mail box.  I also want to have doctors in Yuma so I am not splitting my trips between the two cities as I always end up in Yuma regardless.   And after the fiasco a couple of months ago with lost payments, I figured I should verify the address change.  I had gone on the Web the night before and found my logon still expected me to be in California.  I had been assured before that the lost check was corrected.  Moreover before they credited the lost check the most I was behind 1/2 payment since I always carry a credit balance.  With the check credited, I am a 1/2 payment ahead.

So I was astounded when Cigna told me that my insurance had been canceled last May.  Their web page did not say so.  Hewitt did not say so.  Nothing.  But I am in serious health meltdown.   I talked with a most helpful woman, TIna, at Hewitt who promised me that she would correct the situation immediately .  But immediately means two or three days.  She started with 2 weeks but I informed her that I had imminent heart failure (true) and needed to make sure that my insurance, insurance I had paid for, payments that they have on record, notes they have on record to NEVER cancel my insurance, my insurance was there when I needed it.  And I do need it.

So I put off seeing a cardiologist and will attempt to do so again next week.  If no insurance next week, they get the bill and I send another report to the California insurance commissioner who forwards the complaint to the NLRB.  Even with GWB in the White House, the NLRB has not been castrated -- yet.

I could be like others and cancel my insurance.  But it costs only half of market insurance and it is good insurance (not as good as before but good).  And Siemens owes it to me.  That is the bottom line.  It is the only retirement benefit that I have claimed.  But between Siemens and Hewitt, they want to hassle their retirees to the point that they cancel their insurance.  Cancellation is permanent.  So Siemens/Hewitt wants people so frustrated and so angry that they drop out.  I have friends who could not handle the bullshit and did drop out.  I am pigheaded enough that they cannot make me drop out.  Eventually I may have to but not now.  New year I turn 65 and have to have the medicare coverage.  Then the Siemens becomes the extra that other s need a contract for.  My price goes up and my coverage goes down and that may be the time to look elsewhere.  But if I have heart failure again, the question may become mute.  I may become mute.

So I buy  my stuff and head back home.  I bought a birthday cake for Liz.  Walmart had a sale on mirrors so I bought a mirror too.  An easy birthday present.

SEPTEMBER

Labor Day passed with the usual crazy tourists.  The lines at the Pemex were long. But there were many fewer tourists.  The CRA park tells me they are expecting fewer people there this season.  I would expect that as even the dedicated members still have to pay for the trip and they can stay in Yuma or Parker just as easily and save the expense of coming to Mexico.  Some of them still buy their insurance from rip-off places like R. L. Jones and that makes the trip more expensive.  But the real reason for fewer is that fewer were here last year before the price increases and we can expect those that did come to also be reduced.  Why?  The new owner policies make the place much less desirable.  No bar or restaurant.  Fewer 'staff" positions (although sometimes I think I am the only staff to be eliminated).  In other words, the family spirit of the park is gone and now it is much like other parks.  Oh.  There are Joe and Dee and a few others who will work their hearts out to improve the place but even their hearts are not big enough to cover the Grinch.  When the new highway opens more people will want to visit the park.  I still think the best thing they could do is open the east side as a separate park for non-members.  It is not my problem any more.

Yesterday, the 4th, I felt an earthquake at about 3:00 in the afternoon.  Now there have been times that I thought I felt one before but this time I knew I felt it.  The trees were not blowing.  The levelers were not settling.  The RV was just gently rocking back and forth.  I thought for about 15 seconds but it could have been less.  I went to the computer and waited for something to show up on the earthquake map.  A 4.6 quake occurred just north of 43 (Guadeloupe Victoria).  I talked with friends later and they told me they felt it in San Luis, MX tambien.  The earthquake center has a really stupid form to fill out if you felt the quake.  There are many entries but as they point out the ONLY required entry is ZIP code.  I think if they are going to require ZIP code then they should stop reporting Mexican earthquakes.  I really do not want then to do that but come on guys show some level of intelligence here.  I know I shall upset their stats but I entered the Yuma zip code and told the comments that I was in Mexico.  It has been a while since I felt an earthquake that I knew was an earthquake.

The Shrimp Boats is a'comin

(VERSE 1:)
Shrimp boats is a'comin'
Their sails are in sight
Shrimp boats is a'comin'
There's dancin' tonight

(CHORUS:)
Why don't 'cha hurry hurry hurry home
Why don't 'cha hurry hurry hurry home
Look here! The shrimp boats is a'comin'
There's dancin' tonight

(Repeat VERSE 1)
(REPEAT CHORUS)

(VERSE 2: SLOWLY):
They go to sea with the evenin' tide
And the women folk wave their good-bye
(There they go... There they go)
While the Louisiana moon floats on high
And they wait for the day when they can cry...

(CHORUS: SLOWLY)

(VERSE 3: SLOWLY)
Happy the days while they're mending the nets
'Til once more they ride out to sea
(There they go... There they go)
Then how lonely the nights will be
'Til that wonderful day when they sing...

(CHORUS)
(Repeat VERSE 1)

(I may have gotten the verses and choruses very confused).


This is an old song from about 1951. I hope no one objects to my listing the lyrics here.  In any case, once in your head, the song repeats itself for hours. This to me was just a catchy jingle -- until I moved to El Golfo.  I am always slow on the uptake and always too fast with the temper.  I hate this but I am too old to change it.  It is sort of biological -- and it is getting worse. 

But here is the point. The women are waving good-bye to their husbands -- not just because they will be gone until they are loaded with shrimp.  That is the easy part.  Shrimp boats are small.  The ocean is large.  And like me, the sea is very quick to anger.  The wind can change instantly from dead calm to a storm and with no cloud in site.  Then the clouds come. Then comes the rain.  And it is often at night.  The tides determine when the shrimp boats go out and come back and the tides change daily.  When the wind changes, you head your boat back for home.  You watch and smell and feel and pray.  You watch for the marker signal lights.  You watch the other boats.

So when the boats leave, the women wave good-bye and they pray.  And they pray.  And when they see the white waves or the tree branches waving, they pray some more.  The song is joyful and it should be -- but there is death out there in that ocean.  Some of the men do not come back.  If you live in a fishing town for any number of years, you will know someone who has died or has lost a spouse or a son to the sea.  Every day you watch the horizon and you wait.

A friend of mine told me that as an engineer in the computer business, we had a perverted view of the world:  computer engineers do not die at the office except for ignoring their health.  He was correct.  People I knew in my work die of heart attacks, cancer, and strokes but usually after they have retired.  In the real world, where people work with their hands and are outside in the weather, they are more exposed to the realities of life and death.  I would not die for a shrimp or even a large fish.  So, for all of you people who leave your homes every day and risk your lives in your work, I salute you.

Washington Mutual -- Another FDIC Takeover

<>I need a new bank, Washington Mutual (WaMu) is history.  Last year I banked with Netbank.  I liked them.  They had good services and they had a good web page.  When they went broke, ING took over.  ING is a disaster in every respect.  No paper statements for months.  Online service canceled.  Online history canceled.  Hours on the phone asking for statements and check copies wasted.  I can only presume based upon balances on the ING account of what were paid and what were not.  And ANY history is gone.  The IRS hates me.  I am sure I shall be audited for the next 10 years.  They already sent me notices requesting proof ot this years payments.

As soon as I could, I moved my money from ING to a different back.  I always have two checking accounts.  As you know, I am paranoid.  I always have an option.  Sometimes I need the option but this was the first time that I lost control of everything.  When Netbank was taken over, ING promised transparency.  Bullshit.  Automatic payments were not made.  In fact, no payments were made and without access to anywhere, it was impossible to discover what had happened.  I was out hundreds of dollars in late fees by the time I got myself moved out of ING.  I should have known better than to trust a bank.  Any bank.

So, this time when I discover that WaMu has been taken over by Chase, I shall move my money to a new account at a new bank as soon as possible.  Two reasons.  The first is that I do not want Chase to repeat the ING disaster.  Second, I carry a Chase VISA card.  I never have my checking account in the same bank as a primary credit card.

You will never convince me that this "financial emergency" to donate $700B to $1T to the banks to pay them off for writing bad contracts is not just another means of banks consolidating and becoming bigger and more powerful.  The "financial emergency" is an interesting ploy: after robbing millions of their homes, the banks are now collecting from everyone.  It sounds like a bad movie -- and our elected representatives -- rather than confronting the banks -- have collapsed into bickering over paychecks to fleeing CEOs -- but the biggest banks will get their money while the smaller banks are cannibalized.  And my grandchildren will be paying back the $1 trillion in taxes for all of their lives.  And our glorious leader, GWB, says that it is not his fault: none of his people saw it coming?  What lies.  If no one saw it coming why did he have a payoff plan ready to go?

OCTOBER

NOVEMBER

Not much has happened.  Life in the place where the dominant word is "tranquilo".  The 24th I leave for Berkeley for a week.  But I was watching a director's narrative of a movie and started thinking about climate.  I think that people have little knowledge of life outside their own neighborhood.  So I give you a few descriptions here.

Cold -- Wisconsin Winter.

Yes, there are other cold places.  Cold is really cold.  In the winter we would see lower than -40 degrees.  Below -10 it is sort of the same.  Any skin exposed is frozen. I mean damaged frozen.  Your hair will freeze from condensation and your hair breaks.  You cover your face with a scarf and have clothing on all of the rest. Gloves.  Serious gloves. My mother never believed me that I wanted fur-lined gloves.  She believed the store clerks who told her that the red lined cloves were better.  That store clerk never lived in real cold.  Plastic in your car breaks.  Your battery freezes solid overnight.  You may live inside but you must go outside to protect your car and clear your sidewalk.  Salt does not help -- you need sand and gravel, an ice pick, and a good shovel.  I have friends who would like to go there and experience it.  Drive in the snow and ice.  I tell them that they do not want to do this.  Go to Michigan (lower), Illinois or Indiana for a visit and then tell me you want to see real cold.  I kid you not -- your eyes can freeze if you do not cover your face.  Antarctica is warmer in December than WIsconsin.  And yes, you will lose part of your tongue if it touches steel -- and it hurts.  And if you must stay outside to survive, get under the snow.

Hot -- Sonora Desert

The desert will kill you. Every part of the desert is dangerous.  Animals, insects, snakes, spiders.  Any of them are dangerous.  But this is about climate.  It gets cold at night in the winter.  Not WIsconsin cold but cold enough that you need blankets or jackets.  But the heat is something that you need to experience to understand.  Plastic melts. Close your car doors and windows and leave off your windshield screen and you can actually return to melted knobs and dash controls.  Not so much any more as we have better plastic but 30 years ago this was a serious problem.  But the heat is real and there and all day long.  Shade helps but the numbers you heat like "130" degrees is in the shade.  In the sun it is hot.  If you stay in the heat, you will die.  Your brain can only accept a limited range of temperatures.  If your feet are cold, your brain is stealing your heat: wear a hat to keep your feet warm.  In the desert, there is no remedy to keep your head cool.  Wear a hat to keep the sun  off your brain. wear a head scarf to get evaporative cooling to your head.  Drink lots of water or your blood will get too thick.  Thick blood does not cool your brain.  Stay in the shade. Sun block is necessary.  Not sun tan lotion.  Look for SPF starting at 40 and go up.  Zinc coat your nose.  Wear long sleeve shirts or gobs of sunblock.  Sunblock will not stop the drying.  You need lotion too,  Sun glasses.  Your eyes will dry out.  Blink a lot.  Spray water on your face.  Do not look at the sun -- with or without glasses.  People die in the desert.  This is a mantra.  A fact of life.

Then there is the dust.  Up north the snow can blizzard and limit your vision.  DOwn south the rain can be so dense that it is like being in a bathtub.  In the desert the sand and dust can get so thick that seeing more than 3 feet is impossible.  And sand hurts.  And your eyes can get sand blasted.  I kid you not.  I have two HEPA air filters running fulltime in my RV.  I have filters on my AC units.  Others screens.  After a dust storm I have maybe 1/16th of an inch of dust all over everything.  And my filters need serious cleaning.  Every couple weeks, I take out my car air filter and shake out the dirt.  It gets changed with the oil every 3500 miles.  And if your are driving during a storm, pull off to the side, turn off the lights, take your foot off the brakes (your lights will become a target to the oncoming traffic).  Do this while you can still see: do not wait for it to be totally dark from the sand.  Even the light sand will remove paint.  Before I learned this, my van had frosted glass and the entire front of the van was bare metal.

Maybe you live where there are tornados.  Maybe hurricanes.  Maybe earthquakes.  Every place has its hazards but the heat and the cold are annual and you either learn to live with them or you leave.  You do not like the other choices and if you have not lived in one of these climates, do not make the mistake that it is just like where you are except maybe warmer or cooler.  The temperature maps do not give you any idea what is going on in those places.

DECEMBER

The Border Patrol and San Luis

I guess I shall never learn.  I had picked up Marisol and Betito for a trip to Yuma for Christmas pickups and presents.  From her house  the San Luis crossing is on the way to Algodones -- so we checked.  The line was very short so we tried to cross.  Bad mistake.  When I got to the kiosk, the guard checked our IDS verified we had nothing from Mexico.  He then told me that my car was "marked" for secondary inspection.  It is not paranoia: San Luis Border Patrol actually seeks me out.  I was never "marked" when I crossed at other check points.  Never.  We took our IDs and drove to the back.  The sign said "Stay by your vehicle".  "By" is not inside so I stood next to the car.  Bad mistake again.  They yelled at me when the finally came out of their warm building" "Get back in your vehicle."  I made the mistake of presuming that Border Patrol people understood English.  Sorry.  After again verifying IDs, they sent us inside the building and ordered us to sit down.  They also informed me that I had to possess my wallet.  Because of their casual attitude and the "marked" car and the wallet requirement, after about 20 minutes I presumed I would be arrested and hoped that they would not also arrest Marisol and Betito.  No.  The entire effort was just one of harassment.  The made a quick perusal of the car during this time.  I know.  I had not sat down since they intentionally place the chairs in a location from which you cannot see what they are doing.  The INS (or whatever they call themselves these days) want everything they do to be a secret.  You have more rights as an American citizen inside Mexico than you have while crossing the border back into the United States.  The INS presumes you are under arrest and guilty until they release you.   It is one of those situations that when they say jump, you ask "how high?" otherwise you may really find yourself under arrest and discover where they have their retention cell.  Every time I cross at San Luis they find some way to harass me.  You learn to hate the INS when you discover it is intentional.

Christmas

As usual I spent too much on Christmas again.  I guess all of the time spent crying in my room on Christmas day while I was young has left an indelible mark.  I worked really hard to make Christmas special for my children.  These days I make it special for my friends wherever I am.  I finally spent Christmas in El Golfo.  Zero tourists this week.  With no school all week, the city looked like an inhabited ghost town.  Christmas in Mexico is celebrated Christmas eve.  Christmas dinner is the night before Christmas.  I promised Maggi that I would have Christmas with her but when I went to the restaurant, she was in San Luis.  I spent the evening with Marisol's family at the house of Angelica's mother in law.  They spent the evening making tamales.  If you do not know, a lot of work that goes into making a tamale.


I went home early.  They open presents at midnight.  Not a chance I would stay awake that long.  I wonder when Santa has time to deliver presents between dinner and present-opening time.

At the Library there was a line of children and adults.  They were passing out candy and toys to the poor children.  Here that is most of them but they know who is really poor and who is not.  The toys are cheap and probably only last the day.  Wrapped in red cellophane.  I did not see what was in the candy package but it was good sized.  Enough to send the kid to the dentist.  I saw a couple of my neighbors in line so I stopped to give them lollipops.  This is before I understood the reason for having the line.  After passing out a few lollipops, I saw most of the line standing at my car door.  I said I was out and left.  The Mexican kids are smart.  They quickly realized that I would run out before the social center did.  They got what they could and returned to the social center line.

In any case, it is two days later and Marisol has returned to San Luis and left me with her puppy for a few days.  It is really a nice puppy although there is no attempt in Mexico to house break dogs.  Dogs belong outside.  Unless it is a chihuahua. Chihuahua s get to stay inside -- otherwise they may be stolen.  Weird this place Mexico.  For two days now it has gotten into the 30's during the night.  Cold.  Really cod.

Next week I shall go out the Algodones gate.  I wonder if I can blame the INS harassment on Bush.  Probably but I shall never know.

Summary

Written:  2008          Updated: December 27, 2008         Back To Top