Thursday, April 10, 2014

Ladies Who Lunch....Oddly

Jenny Hensley's in town for two weeks so we've been eating, drinking, driving, shopping, and laughing. How is it that three grown women can be seen like this in town?  It's San Miguel, I guess.  

Here we are after a comida with the families at Don Tomas, followed by a madcap ride on scooters to see the new Macdonald/Asfour compound on Prolongacion La Quinta. Tom showed up with a stack of plastic cups, a six-pack and a bottle of tequila.  We walked the obra gris of their new house, then headed to the Hensleys' rental to watch the final game of the NCAA tournament.

Tom and Janan
What exactly is Jenny doing?!

What exactly am I doing?  I don't need a cab. Jenny has her moto, though with her at the wheel it's always Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
The two-shoe trivet.  Hey, it's a rental house.  Don't mess up their furniture or your deposit is gone.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Boys Night Out--And Wedding-Ring Tattoos

Sam plays pool on Wednesday with an interesting group of guys.  There's a new guy who just joined them. He's got a lot of tattoos.  He starts a story to explain one of his tats with, "I was living in Vegas and married this stripper."  Sam says, "Hold on.  There aren't many stories that start like that."  So he carries on with how he and his stripper wife got each other's names inked across their wedding ring fingers. It was all great until the divorce.  When the girlfriends weren't crazy about the ex-wife's name still on the finger.  So he got it scrapped off.  It took three months of weekly sessions and hurt a hell of a lot more than the original tattoo.

Sam and I don't have as good a story.  But we did get wedding band tattoos.  One Christmas in Guatemala when the world was supposed to end on December 21, 2012.  Turns out the Mayans knew all along it wasn't ending, but a new bak'tun was beginning--the 13th bak'tun, or long count, or period of 5200 years.  To make our own story even better we just happened to be married 13 years and had been looking for a symbol of the two of us and the three boys.  Here it is, the Mayan numeral 13.

The Sunday Tuesday Market

Redding, our friend Will Hensley, and Mason with their bags
of agua de limon and jamaica, plus steamed garbanzo beans with
lime and chile
Sunday mornings are a big day for our family.  Up early, out to Landeta, the open fields around an often dried up dam with the dogs, then breakfast at the Tuesday Market, a local mercado that is now open on Sundays as well.  It's the breakfast of champions: pizza with hot dogs and a plastic cup of orange soda; waffles with chocolate syrup and condensed milk; or barbacoa and consomme--lamb steamed in banana leaves served in tacos with hot sauce, cilantro and onions.
The DoriLoco cart with condiments

On a special morning it might be DoriLocos: a bag of nacho-cheese Doritos cut open at the topped with toppings poured into the bag: cucumber, Chinese noodles, garbanzo beans, salsa, onions, shaved carrots.

Then we rummage through piles of dead people's clothes, or cast offs from road races and other charity events in the states.  Sometimes you'll find J.Jill, Gap, Ann Taylor, Old Navy, Burberry, and Merrell shoes.  Yesterday I got two lovely summer shirts for $1.52 in total. I'm wearing one now.  They're washed, ironed and always smell like really good laundry soap.  What's not to love.

We also pick up several bootleg movies which invariably disappointment because although they say they're in English they almost never are.  Then there's a bird seller who walks around with a multi-story tower of wooden bird cages filled with parakeets and small wrens.  The fighting cock guy with his dozens of birds in cardboard lettuce boxes pocked by knife holes to give them air.  The pit pull puppy guy, always with a big mamma dog in tow sporting a leather harness and huge steel chain.

Redd always wants a new wallet (which is interesting because he never has any money) or a sleeveless athletic shirt.  Bo is content with nothing with is his way, and Mason angles fo ra baby turtle, a chihuahua, or some other animal that's not coming home with us.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Face of an Illegal Alien

Last week I traveled to Sayulita, on the west coast of Mexico in the state of Nayarit, north of Puerto Vallarta.  After several days in the sun with friends from Los Angeles, drinking way too much tequila but eating just the right amount of mahi mahi and shrimp ceviche, I came home from the Mexico City airport with a driver named Pedro Rios.  Incredibly handsome, 30-ish, fit, dressed in Polo jeans, a light blue and green checked long-sleeved shirt and polished loafers, he took my bag, escorted me to the parking garage, and we left for the three-hour drive back to San Miguel. He spoke no English. I was a bit exhausted from the week but Pedro drives this route six days a week, back and forth, eight hours at a time. He was in the mood to talk.  When I'm tired it's hard for me to speak Spanish well. But Pedro started asking questions and I figured I could find my way to answer.  Off and on for three hours we talked about things, the most fascinating topic being his trip over the border to find work in the States.

He's been a driver for a shuttle company for about four years.  Before that he was a professional soccer player in San Luis Potosi and still plays on Sundays for a team which pays him to play here in San Miguel.  He drives every other day that he's not playing soccer.  But for two and a half years he worked on the railroads in Texas and Iowa, laying rails and maintaining old track, after crossing at Laredo, Texas, not through the river but over a barbed wire fence.  He looks nothing like the immigrants that people are so scared of.  

He told me about the business of getting to the US.  "I went with a coyote from San Miguel.  There were 40 of us. This coyote is muy inteligente, he knew exactly what we should do when the helicopters flew over us. He told us to crouch down, keep your head down, don't look up or the radar will pick up the light from your eyes.  He told us how to run if the trucks came, how to lose ourselves in the desert when the migra came.  He knew the hours when the migra patrolled and told us exactly when we could walk without being seen."

Some facts I learned from Pedro:
  • It costs about $3000US to get from San Miguel to Texas.
  • The coyote receives about $2000 of that per person.
  • The Zeta cartel controls the border.  After you cross they arrive in pick up trucks with AK47s and take a fee from each person.  When Pedro crossed it was 1800 pesos ($120).  Today it is 7500 (about $600). 
  • Forty people left with him in his group but two people didn't make it.  I asked him if they died. He told me he thought no, that they went back to Mexico. But I think he was just saying that. He told me the woman was old and with her male cousin, who could no longer drink or take water.  They left them in the desert and kept walking.
  • The coyote asked Pedro to be his driver, ferrying illegal immigrants from the desert to a second point where they would be met by another truck.  The fee: $300 a person for the 90-minute ride.  The eight-person Suburban, like the one I was driving in, would be filled with 20 people.  That would be $6000 a day, three days a week.  Pedro turned him down.
  • Sometimes, when the American boss on the railroad wasn't around, the Mexican boss would write that the crew worked for 10 hours even though they only worked five.  But they worked so hard they got the hours in to justify the fraud.  Pedro said it was grueling work but that he was very strong back then.

I asked him why he came back.  He said, my family of course.  I missed them.  He is now trying to get a legitimate visa so that he can go back to work.  He won't stay forever but he can still make more than driving me to and from Mexico City.

Questions from a Nightmare

Redding and Bo, uncharacteristically, spat and Bo, who has been sharing a bed, not just a room, with Redding for about the last ten years, wishes he had a room of his own so that he could get away from Reddy for the night. I suggest he go to the casita, an independent house at the back of our garden, outside and away from everyone.  Also uncharacteristically, Bo agrees and goes downstairs, outside, past the pool in the dark, and into the casita. I can see the light on in there from my room.  (Once Bo is upstairs he doesn't like going back down.  He is afraid of the dark and things unknown).  But tonight he  is frustrated enough with his brother to leave. 

I go to bed myself and am surprised when I see the casita lights are off and realize that Bo truly is staying there for the night.  About 30 minutes later I hear some awful sounds from Reddy's room.  I go in, and he is sleeping sideways in the bed, wrapped like a mummy in damp sheets.  Bo is next to him sound asleep, lightly snoring. The room is so hot--it's only early April but San Miguel is already warm and no one here has air conditioning.  There's a breeze in the hallway but Reddy has his windows shut and shuttered so that our dog, Jozi, can't see outside and bark at the night watchman who makes laps around the neighborhood, often standing in front of our house I'm convinced to make the dogs go crazy.  So Redd is warm to the touch and sweaty and crying.  Bo doesn't stir.

He wakes up immediately and starts shaking and telling me about his nightmare: "I had a dream that men came into our house with guns and took you away."  What could be more horrible for a child to imagine?  Of course I try to soothe him with the normal lines but he is inconsolable and opens up about all of his fears of dying and losing our family and not understanding his place in the world.  Almost like he's still asleep or feverish or in some weird state of not being quite conscience he rambles on for nearly 40 minutes: "I can't stand to think about losing you or dad or Bo or Mason.  That's why I had to go to the casita and get Bo.  I couldn't think about him being alone in there or scared or having something happen to him. I needed to have him back with me.  I don't know what I'd do if something happened to anyone of you. I think about it all the time. I think about it when I go to bed. I can't sleep because I think about dying and what happens when you die, what happens when your brain stops.  How does a brain stop?   How does it just stop?  What happens to your body?  Where does it go?  I have so many questions.  There are so many things I don't understand. I know about the universe and I know that the sky spreads out to infinity and that there's no end but I can't grasp that, I can't understand what is after infinity...."  I tell him that the world has been around for so long that the thought of it ending in our short life time just seems so remote. I say, "The whole solar system and all of our life has been around for billions of years..." He interrupts me and says, "4.6."  4.6 billion years he knows from his science classes with Polly at school.  So I try to tell him that even if something happened to the alignment of the planets we'd all die at one time, instantaneously, that we'd all be together in this great big world, snuffed out at the same second.  Somehow this seems mildly soothing to him.  But he continues on about death and fears and the unknown and I just don't know how to help him.  I try to tell him that one day he will have his own family and that I won't be as important to him.  That the world without me will not seem quite so scary.  But he can't believe that day can ever come. He's filled with too much love for me and his dad and his two brothers that the idea that we won't be there with him forever is too much to bear.  We talk until about 11 o'clock, I rub his head which he likes and run my fingers through his hair and finally he calms down and falls asleep.  In the morning we never discuss it and I don't know if he remembers it or not.

What I know is that I must be more careful in this life.