Keith Richards and Me

I was in Nashville doing a voice over back in the days when I had this very nice bass-baritone voice.  For some reason, the recording engineer wasn’t simultaneously drunk and hungover. This was a first for me. This very suspicious sobriety on his part meant I finished all my takes before 10 am.  

I had the time, so I figured I’d wander around Music City. Nashville was struggling after the recession of the late 70s.  I wanted to walk slowly through the city and imagine how the locals managed their lives and life’s priorities, consider their joys as well as sorrows while wondering how they reconciled the considerable gap between their dreams and their realities. So, off I went for a day of exploration through the legendary city of Nashville, Tennessee. 

That lasted about 20 minutes because in the early eighties, other than music, Nashville didn’t have much going for itself. There were boarded-up buildings and quite a few businesses that were out of business.  The streets were constructed using nothing but potholes. Chunks of asphalt were generously distributed for decoration. There were plenty of used tire stores, which, considering the potholes, was good.  Music Row looked like its best days were long over. Young musicians were strewn around performing next to tip-jars, which represented their sole source of income.

I passed a couple of strip clubs with greasy and mostly burnt out neon lights where the proprietors insisted their well-trained, professional staff were quite eager to accommodate any perversion I could possibly come up with.

I couldn’t think of any, so I kept waking until I stopped in front of a very seedy strip mall.  On one side was a bar. The complete other side stood a diner that was turned into a Pentecostal church.  I think the name of the bar was The Bluebird. Blackbird, maybe. The church probably had a name, too, but I never found out because I didn’t make it past the bar. God wasn’t figuring in my equation at the time.

Besides, it was before 11am on a weekday.  The bar was open. The church wasn’t.  

Inside, the bar was dark and smelled exactly like cat urine, only worse.  The floor was covered with some very sticky beer.  The bartender was a Jamaican gentleman named Smokey. Smokey’s outfit consisted of a mini-skirt, a bright yellow tube top, red pumps, and some heavy fluorescent pink eye shadow.  The place was empty except for one person who was enveloped in a thick cloud of cigarette smoke at the far end of the bar. After schmoozing with Smokey for a few minutes, I asked for a double-shot Jack Daniels on the grounds that it’s 7am somewhere.  Smokey pointed towards the smoke cloud and said that the guy in the middle of the smoke purchased the last three full bottles of Jack Daniels.  

“The last three bottles?”

“Yeah, mon. Flassing, fulljoy. Woulda been four if we ha’ dem.”

“Nice guy?”

Smokey replied, with a smile and a shrug, “Give me maad tip.  $100 bill. Nice up. Dat make himma nice guy.”

“Been here long?”

Another shrug.  “All dis morning. Cris, mon. Chatty, not so much.”

“Hitting the bottles hard?”

“Himma jink, naah mean. Suckin’ dem like a sketel at a stag do, yah?”

I gave him a slight grimace. “Smokey, you’re such the romantic type.”

“Yah, I know. Maybe yuh cya aks gi yaah couple shots, mon.”

Seemed like a fine idea. I mean, this guy outright bought three full bottles of Jack Daniels from a bar and threw in an extra $100 for the effort. I thought this was really someone I should meet. I walked towards him. 

As I got closer and could see through some of the smoke, I made out a silhouette wearing a black vest, an untucked button-down white shirt, black jeans, snake-skin boots and a very proper, dark grey fedora. He was fully involved reading a very large book. 

He’d poured himself a generous amount of bourbon in an old-fashioned lowball glass.  Presumably, a shot glass was simply not nearly large enough for this guy.

This scored him big points with me.

I approached until he shot me a sideways glance that stopped me at once.  His glare startled me. 

“Uh, yes, hello, good morning or wherever you are in your day.  The nice transvestite behind the bar suggested I seek you out and establish some reasonable common ground that would result in me taking a couple shots of that fine bourbon off your hands.”

He had three lit cigarettes going at the same time: one in his mouth and one each in two separate ashtrays.

He didn’t actually look my way. He leaned forward to the other side of the bar and pulled another lowball glass.  He filled the glass, handed it to me, turned to me and said, “‘ere. Shee-ahs.”

“Ah, thank you, Sir. You’re very kind.  Cheers to you.”


I then looked at him and saw none other than Keith Richards. My all-time favorite guitar player and leader of what you might consider the greatest rock and roll band in the world. At least, I would consider it. 

Keith was my guy and the coolest human being on the planet. He did look a little worse from wear and tear, but it didn’t matter. Keith Richards was my hero. 

“Hmmm, you look familiar.  Well, this is a pleasure. Here’s to you and your better-half and your 5-stringed guitar in open G.  Long shall you all three prosper and multiply.”  

“Yeh un kee yer [unintelligible mumbling] arse oo the sunseh, heh,” he replied with a knowing smile before we each tossed back half a glass of bourbon.

“Cheers, again” Clink, again.

My first thought was, “I wonder how many times this guy has flat-lined since he’s been here.” 

My second thought was, “I have no fucking clue what you just said.”

Before I said anything more, he refilled my glass. 

“Oh, um, whoa, okay, wow, yes, thank you, gosh, yeah, thank you for your generosity.  Mind if I sit down on this barstool because it’s closer to the ground, so when I fall down, it won’t hurt as much?”

“Eh, ‘ere’. [Unintelligable], wha.”

I took that as a yes.  I sat down but wasn’t sure how to start a conversation with someone who, so far, hadn’t uttered a single word I could possibly understand.

On the wall directly in front of us was a 1950s poster of Buddy Holly singing at the legendary Apollo Theatre located in Harlem, New York.  The Apollo made its name in the first half of the century as a showcase for the great black musicians and singers of the time. It was the coolest place on the planet. How Buddy Holly ended up there is beyond me because you couldn’t get more uncool than Buddy Holly.  

This gave me a great conversation starter because the father of my girlfriend at the time worked backstage at the Apollo during its heyday. In the 50s, the musicians played a rotating schedule of 20 minute sets every hour and a half all night so you could play 5 or 6 sets in one night which meant you had a lot of time sitting backstage at the Apollo while all the other musical acts did their sets.

Now, one thing is true with any theatre in the entire world and that is if you get a bunch of young musicians, actors and entertainers backstage at the same time then they will mingle. 

By mingle, I mean have sex. Lots of sex. And, they do not clown around.  In five minutes, every green room, office, prop room, utility closet, cubicle, bathroom, catwalk, electric room, snack bar and trash dumpster will be filled with 2 to 6 people having sex. 

I mention all this because, according to my girlfriend’s father, when it came to sex, Buddy Holly set the standard.  Raised the bar as it were. Ol’ Buddy could not keep his hands, among other things, off the women. Skinny, dweebie, silly-looking, horned-rim-glasses-wearing Buddy Holly was a completely out of control sex machine.  

I relayed this and a couple other behind-the-curtain stories to Keith.  He enjoyed them and even threw in some witty recollections along the way. For the next couple of hours, we talked. A lot about American Blues, of which he knew….everything.

He described some of the unique guitar playing styles of Blind Lemon Jefferson (a southern bluesman from the early 1900s) and Robert Johnson. Johnson was a mysterious character from the 1920s whose guitar playing seemed almost physically impossible. It was easy to tell Keith was in awe of him. I remember thinking how amazed I was to be getting a guitar lesson from Keith Richards and that my life was now officially complete.

I asked him about his 5 string guitar tuning. I was expecting a very elaborate if indecipherable response. 

“Eh, jus’, ya’ know, foun’ a 5 s’ring banjo, so [unintelligible] off wen’ th’ low E s’ring and jus’ G, D, G, B, D an’ [unintelligible] voila.”

There’s a key in decoding Keith-Speak.  You have to get drunk. He makes much more sense that way.  And, I was getting drunk in a hell of a hurry because, as we talked, he continued refilling our glasses. 

“What brings you to the home of unemployed songwriters?  If memory serves then you’re already in a band with a record deal.”

“Eh’, [unintelligible] on a track, uh, heh, Scotty, ya know, Muh [unintelligible] haven’t seen in donkey’s years, sooo, heh, heh, laid  down a track er wha’, ya know, wha’ [unintelligible].”

I was drunk enough to actually get the general idea of that last sentence. 

I steered clear of mentioning the Stones. I’m not sure why. 

“You met Howlin’ Wolf, yes?  He looked scary as hell on stage.”

“Feckin’ sweetheart, e’ was, heh, right [unintelligible] geezer, love th’ man. ‘Ad class. Son ‘bitch. Giant an’ [unintelligable] gentle.”

We ran through some others. Chuck Berry, as it turns out, was a “‘orrendous shirty pain in the arse. Worse tha’ [unintelligible]. Johnnie Johnson duh all duh [really unintelligible] work. Got [no clue] fuh ‘is trouble.”

Muddy Waters was, without question, God.  He talked about meeting Muddy for the first time. The mention of Muddy Waters caught him off guard. It was probably the only time he held eye contact with me. Waters had been dead for a couple of years, but he probably meant quite a bit to him.

Keith did a concert tour in the late seventies with a band called the New Barbarians, who were probably the world’s most talented garage band. One of the songs he sang lead on was “Apartment Number 9” which was a ballad by a country singer named Tammy Wynette. It’s a lament about her loneliness.

There was bad-ass Keith Richards on piano singing about being alone and broken-hearted. He said, with a little venom, the song was “real,” and that’s all that mattered. Period. The end.


I asked about the significance of his famous skull ring. As far as he was concerned, “tha’s what we all err unnerneath all deh “[unintelligible] [unintelligible] pretense.” He felt was the only thing real with most people. He seemed bitter on that score. Years later, I heard this was around the time Mick Jagger decided to leave the Stones for greater glories as a solo act. It didn’t work out. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had been joined at the hip for the previous 25 years. I’m guessing Keith felt betrayed and insulted. Hence, the bitterness.

Keith was terribly concerned about Johnny Winter (another renowned guitar player) and his, in Keith’s estimation, excessive heroin use. I kept myself from laughing out loud, but I did find this seriously amusing. If Keith Richards is worried about your drug use, then Brother, you’ve got a serious problem on your hands. 

I asked what his dessert island records were.  He said they change every day.  He told me about some very old records by Jimmy Reed, Hank Williams, and the great Robert Johnson.  Those three weren’t shockers.  What surprised me was the inclusion of records by Billy Holiday, Duke Ellington, the Carter Family (traditional southern gospel), and Django Reinhardt.   I remember assuring him that I strongly believed “Exile on Main Street,” a record released by The Stones in 1972, was the greatest record ever made and while, yes, Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” had its moments and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” was fine in its way, they were both, let’s face it, baby-shit compared to “Exile on Main Street.” Further, those who thought otherwise should be immediately sterilized lest they be tempted to procreate.

He liked that. “Weah, boss yer unckuh den, ain’ ee.”

“Couldn’t agree more.”

What did I just agree to?

Another clink.

“Odd question but if there was no Bill Wyman [the Stones bass player at the time] around then what bass player would you want in your band.”

Without hesitation, Keith rattled off six or seven very obscure names. The only one I recognized was James Jamerson, who played bass on most of the big Motown songs. I had to break it to him that James Jamerson died a couple of years earlier.

“Oh, de-ah. Prawley outta scratch ‘im off duh [unintelligible] list, yeh?”

I asked about guitar players he wouldn’t mind having as bandmates. He immediately responded with about ten names.

“Drummers?” It seemed like the next natural question to ask.

This time, he hesitated,  stared at one of the numerous lit cigarettes in front of him before finally responding, “Charlie Watts.”

I wondered if Keith was drunker than I was because Charlie Watts was already in the Rolling Stones. He’d been there since 1961.

Uh, Keith you might be more of a big picture guy and don’t really get caught up in the details but, after 25 years, I’d have thought you’d know the name of your drummer. Shall I arrange an introduction?

I thought that. I didn’t say it.

“Charlie Watts? Never heard of him. Anyone else?”

He stared at his most recent glass of Jack Daniels for a moment and said, “Nah.”°

“To Charlie, then.” Clink.

I know this sounds like an interview and not a conversation, but Keith did ask me questions along the way, such as what I did to make the rent. I told him my main source of income was from singing the National Anthem at street fights.  He felt my conservative appearance belied my complete irreverence for almost all American institutions.

“Yes, right-o. Guilty as charged,” I replied. “I had to clean up my look because I just took a job in the Human Resources department for the Gambino Crime Syndicate, and I’m here at a job fair. Job openings tend to pop up rather suddenly. Are you interested in joining? The benefits are fantastic. The trick is not to get killed. That’s really the key to the benefits program.”*

Keith actually found that statement hilarious.

He asked me where I lived. I explained that I was a man without a country and home was wherever I happened to be at the moment.

“Oh, I do unnerstan. Gypsy [unintelligible], yeh.”

“Did a little time in New York. No, not Attica. New York City. Although, I did escape one night with my socks on.”

“Dun that in ’round thirty [unintelligible] countries. Been out on bail since ’68.”

“Plus, I’m traveling on a fake passport.”

Keith broke out laughing very loudly and said something about wishing he had thought of that twenty years earlier.

We talked about the hallowed musical ground of the Ryman Theater (located in Nashville) and the musicians who planted roots there: Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt, just to name a few. Hell, Helen Keller did a gig there. I’m not kidding. Sold the place out.

Keith was not aware Helen Keller played the Ryman.

“Oh, yeah. She was lead vocalist for Helen and the Hussies. All girl group. They were the Go-Gos of their day. Eleanor Roosevelt on trombone, Mother Teresa on banjo, Indira Gandhi on bass drum and Harriet Tubman on electric cello and Lizzie Borden on chainsaw. Hindu/Mexican punk band. Their big hit was, ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand (Over an Open Flame).’ I preferred ‘(Throw You Off) The Bridge Over Troubled Waters.’ You can’t go wrong either way.”

While laughing, he said, “Thought tha’ was th Andrew’s Sisters.”

My memory gets cloudy at this point because I was approaching the “I love you, Man” stage of insobriety.  This was due to the fact that, for the past couple hours, I had been keeping up with Keith Richards drinking shots of Jack Daniels. 

This is something you must never do.

Our conversation ran amok for a while, although we did agree to propose legislation for the permanent removal from society of the following:

  • Anyone with a Mullet
  • Men wearing pinkie rings
  • The DEA (Keith was particularly passionate about this one)

It wasn’t long after that I knew, thanks to the ridiculous amount of bourbon I’d thrown down, I was in serious trouble and it was best I leave before I descended into the very unfortunate “Let’s crank up the Enola Gay” stage. So, I thanked him profusely for the booze. We shook hands. He said he enjoyed the chin wag and even claimed he was glad I stopped by. I assured him the pleasure was all mine and would, someday, include our interaction in my memoirs. He went back to his book. 

As I staggered past Smokey, I asked for a glass of water as though that was going to undo any of the damage. 

“Uh, um, yeah,  Smokey. Wondering if you can help a brother out.  Do you know when the next flight to Western China leaves?  Because, after two minutes of careful consideration, I’ve decided it’s best for all concerned for me to immediately become a Tibetan Monk. I see no alternative. I’m in deep, and I think I could very well sober up in a Buddhist Monastery in, oh, I dunno, ten years. More water?”

Smokey smiled and gave me a refill. 

“I’ve always been interested in Buddhism.  Is that the one with Vishnu or something? No?  Maybe that’s Judaism. I always get those two confused. Anyway, off I go to become a Buddhist Jew. Could you tell me where the door is?”

Smokey laughed. “Yeah, mon. Dat way. You walk good, yah.”

I plopped down $20 on the bar and walked off singing, “I’m a Poor Wayfaring Stranger.”

How I ever made it back to my hotel room is anyone’s guess. I have no recollection.  I woke up on the floor. The room was very neat. I figured the housekeeping person worked around me. It took a week for my head to stop feeling every air molecule hitting it. 

To this day, I consider having a conversation with Keith Richards a significant resume item. He was very nice, elegant, extremely well-read and very British.  And, he wore his heart directly on his sleeve.

In 2018, I saw the Stones in concert. Keith had on a woman’s blouse, a red and yellow bandana, black jeans, and green sneakers.  Keith Richards is the only adult male on the planet who could make an outfit like that work. 

That night, the Stones opened the show with “Sympathy for the Devil.” Jagger stepped on to the stage and, behind just the percussion and piano, sang the first verse. Keith then sauntered to the front of center stage. As Jagger got to the refrain, Keith let loose with a dozen riffs that knocked the audience back by five feet. When done, he casually walked to the drum riser and lit a cigarette. There was, of course, a law against smoking in the venue, but no one seemed very anxious to tell Keith. This was the same Keith Richards who, upon being told Donald Trump wanted a photo-op with the Stones, brandished a 6″ hunting knife as his way of saying, “No.”

His guitar playing that night was extraordinary.

And, he looked so cool. 

———- THE END ———-

* Those are lines from a Peter Falk movie. They sound lame. They look lame on paper. But, they’re funny when Peter Falk says them.

° [03/23/2022] This was written before Charlie Watts died. It was easy for me to see Keith thought the world of Charlie. He adored him and must have been devastated by his passing. The Stones are carrying on with a new drummer, Steve Jordan, who’s fabulous. But, he ain’t Charlie Watts. And, the band ain’t the same.


Amsterdam – Window Women, Electric Body Paint and the Return of the Thin White Duke

Pictured above: The Biker from The Village People, David Bowie and Anita Bryant.

I have a question.

A simple one. 

Do you remember the first time you woke up in a canoe in the middle of a lake in a foreign country with no immediate recollection concerning the sequence of events that led you to the canoe, currently in the lake, in the foreign country (the name of which eluded you at that moment) and the contributing factors those events may have had on your clothes because, after close inspection, you discovered you weren’t wearing any?

It finally occurred to me I was in Holland. Or, The Netherlands. I never did get a straight answer about the name of the country. There was a North Holland and a South Holland, too. 

That was the first problem. When you wake up in a canoe in a foreign country but you’re not sure which one, it would really help if the country had a name upon which all could agree. Just to help you get your bearings.

I knew I was close to the North Sea.  I didn’t know if I was actually in the North Sea but I considered it a possibility. If I remembered my geography correctly then Scotland would have been to the west. I heard nice things about Edinburgh.

To the east would have been Denmark. I met a couple from Denmark in high school. They were fun. I don’t remember the particulars but, one night, he and I ended up dancing naked in front of our girl friends, much to their delight (beverages were involved). I figured if the canoe and I were to drift to Copenhagen then that would work out just fine. I already had no clothes on so that was good.

I lifted my head and peered over the left side of the canoe. I was in a lake. Not too far from land. I looked at the sky and tried, without much success, to piece together the previous evening. I glanced to my right and couldn’t help but notice a young woman stretched out next to me. She was fast asleep. Her entire outfit consisted of an ankle bracelet. 

Then, I remembered. Well, “remembered” is overstating it. Maybe, “Started assembling the pile of puzzle pieces related to the night before.”  

I recalled meandering around Amsterdam that afternoon with a college friend called Duke and meeting a few good-natured friends of his at a bar. They, the good-natured friends, were going to a concert that night.  We decided to tag along and join them for a drink before toddling off to the show. Just for one drink. One and one only. We agreed to little or no booze because Duke had to wake up early the following day. That was it. One. Maybe, two. Tops. No more. Three at most. Three being the number and the number being three. Four being right out.****

Duke was a fellow college sophomore who lived down the hall from me during school. His real name was Sebastián and he was a proud Hollander of Netherlander or Dutch-ist or Amsterdammit or whatever. He preferred to be called Duke in honor of the Thin White Duke, David Bowie’s alter ego at that time. Duke was different. He was gay and was keen to tell you all about it, including the part about what he’d happily sacrifice for a night in bed with David Bowie. A downight risky thing to advertise in 1977. His boyfriend, Anwar, dressed exactly like the biker character from the Village People. Together, they could have been the inspiration for Mr. Garrison and Mr. Slave from South Park. 

I met Duke while performing in a college production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I was Theseus. Duke was Puck.

He enjoyed the role way too much. When he was cast as Puck, he assured me, “Mischievous, flaming and naughty fairies, Puck and I. Merry wanderers, we! But, I am captain of the fairy band. Mount my steed, Theseus. I know you want to. Hop on board, sailor boy.”

“Yeah, I’m the Duke now, Puckface. Okay? I own you. Besides, you don’t know where that….steed…has been.”

Duke sighed, “Lawd, what fools these heteros be. I will delight in Anwar. And, Thee? What greater glories await?”

I smiled, “Karla, of course. Whiskey and debauch. Debauch, mostly.”

“Little Karlita! That girl will tear you apart.”

“One can only hope.”

The residents of the college dorm, to their credit, never gave Duke and/or Anwar a bad time even though, in the 1970s, the general sentiment in the US was homosexuality was a communicable disease spread throughout the country by gay communists who wanted nothing more than to destroy our great nation by infecting innocent heterosexuals with their gay cooties which was a threat to life, liberty and Bif’s pursuit of Marianne (who wanted no part of Bif due to Bif’s difficulties with personal hygiene) because, once Bif got the gay cooties, he’d give up the idea of procreating (probably just as well) so he could spend all his time having gay sex behind school buildings and jumping in front of young children so he could give them a copy of the Communist Manifesto which was filled with gay cootie dust that little boys would inhale and no longer play with toy trucks because their days would be spent watching cooking shows plus Marianne would no longer want to follow the great American tradition of marrying some guy who’d cheat on her, beat her up and claim it’s her fault. Instead, due to the gay cooties, she would flaunt her new-found hatred of our All-American family values by wearing an “Equality Now” t-shirt, getting a tattoo of Lizzie Borden and going to an Indigo Girls concert.*

In fact, in 1977, Dade County, Florida, passed an ordinance that legalized discrimination against gays. I’m not kidding.

Florida is good at doing stupid shit like this.

And, when I say “passed,” I mean “PASSED.” To the tune of almost 70% in favor. The person who led the charge was called Anita Bryant who made a name for herself by doing orange juice commercials on TV which, as far as she was concerned, qualified her to be the country’s moral arbiter concerning everyone’s sex life. 

She insisted the survival of heterosexual families was at stake, that All-American family values would disintegrate due to the gay cooties, that children had to be saved from said cooties because they needed to learn about happy, wholesome families from a Mommy (currently throwing down her 6th Thorazine of the day), a Daddy (currently in bed with the 16 year old girl across the street), a big brother (currently locked in his bedroom with a copy of Playboy magazine) and a big sis (currently dating Marianne) so they, the children to be saved, could grow up and marry someone of the opposite sex as heterosexual marriages were the most sacred and the holiest of all institutions. 

She got divorced a couple years later. 

Not kidding here, either. 

No clue what old Anita is up to now. My thought is she could come up with her own line of Anita Bryant dolls that, once you pulled her string, would tell Barbi to keep an eye on Ken because he’s watching too many cooking shows.

Back to Amsterdam….

We were in the part of town with naughty bookstores and dames du soir who drummed up business by posing behind full length windows.

The women behind the windows looked cute. They came in various sizes, shapes and colors. Considering their chosen profession, their poses were a bit conservative. A few women dressed as cute Catholic school girls. I saw a dominatrix or two, a couple Playboy Bunnies and one woman dressed as a nun holding a large sorority paddle. 

They all looked fairly friendly. 

Except for the nun. 

Seems paying in public for sex was, and is, legal in certain areas of The Netherlands. If you felt the urge then you’d step up to the window and explain to the nice Window Woman what you were hoping to accomplish while in her company. She’d let you know how many guilders (the local currency at the time) you needed to cough up before taking you to a room that had no windows. 

I’m guessing the entry fee (so to speak) was somewhat inflated because the men, after hearing the cost, all hesitated and took a step backwards. The men would try to cut a deal but the Window Women weren’t having any of it. Probably because there were 10 to 12 men closely congregated in front of each Window Woman. Many of whom were, no doubt, willing to pay above the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price for a little comfort and joy.  

So, hey, Stud. Market forces are market forces. She’s got the negotiating leverage and you’ve got….nothing. This is the original service industry and when supply ain’t meeting demand, you’ve gotta make a hard decision (so to speak). Are you prepared to take some of your son’s dialysis money to make up the short-fall and give it to the nun-lady so she can slap you around for a while?

(That’s a rhetorical question. We all know the answer. Looks like Junior’s gonna have to miss a few treatments.)

It makes all us Americans from the good old USA of America proud because this is the business model upon which we built our great country. You don’t need to read The Wealth of Nations to figure this one out.  It’s real simple. America developed into a super-power based on the concept of a woman dressed up as a naughty Catholic school girl in front of 12 guys drooling on the other side of a window.

The Window Women didn’t look like their American equivalents at all. Your standard American card-carrying sex worker in the late 1970s wore an outfit that made her current profession altogether clear. She was the one sauntering down the street in the t-shirt purchased from the “girls 2-to-3 years old” aisle, spray-on hotpants and thigh boots. Plus, she’d use a spice for her professional name: Paprika, Licorice, Peppermint, Catnip and so on.

You didn’t need her business card to know what she did for a living. 

Plus, in order to elicit service from Peppermint, you had to meet her at 2am behind a dumpster to discuss terms and conditions. Then you’d slink off to consummate the relationship in a place that smelled worse than the dumpster.  

Duke said the Window Women got the same government protection as any other worker and the rooms without the windows were very nice. Plus, they received their professional certifications. Now, how does one become government certified for sex? No clue. Maybe it’s like a driver’s test you have to pass before you’re allowed to proudly represent your country in bed. I have thought about the guy responsible for handling the certification exams. I’m guessing he was pretty excited when he got the gig but if they’re trotting in an eager new candidate every 30 minutes then he may be losing his enthusiasm. If he’s having certification-sex with 60 women a week then the novelty must wear off rather quickly.  By the third week on the job, he’s most likely stuck in a wheelchair. I’m sure his wife is long gone and he’s now spending his weekends sitting in a bathtub full of ice, sucking his thumb, watching Harry Potter movies and reading Plato’s Republic. After 90 days, assuming he’s not dead, someone will probably drop his catatonic body off in front of a hospice care facility with a note taped to his forehead saying, “Check for a pulse before investing too much time with this one. If he’s not dead then tell him God forgives him and thank him for his service to our country (whatever we’re calling it this week).”

Duke said the Window Women offer their services in 15-minute increments, which seems like a really tight time frame to accomplish everything you might have on your to-do list. Maybe you get 15 minutes and then have to go to the back of the line and wait for your next 15 minutes. I don’t know how that works. Despite Duke’s best efforts to convince me otherwise, I didn’t take the plunge. 

Not due to any moral prerogative on my part. I just thought having sex with a pro meant I had to measure up (so to speak) to her standards. I mean, she’s a 100% government certified sex worker. What if I did a substandard job and she had to report me to the authorities? I could’ve gotten deported.

To say nothing of the reputation of my entire country. I’m from the good old USA of America! We got standards and shit. I don’t want to be responsible for the headline in the local newspaper saying –


With my picture underneath and the caption, “Would you have sex with this man who represents all of America? ‘No,’ says government employee #352A! ‘More trouble than he’s worth!'”

Duke kept pushing the Window Women idea. “Feeling shy, Dear?  They won’t bite. Unless you ask them to. Go. You’re in need. I can tell.”

“Karla and I split up so I….”

“Oh, no! Karlita! Oh, I love her, the tacky little tramp. I would go straight for a day with little Miss Karlita. What did you do?”

“We tried having a conversation.”

Duke feigned indignance. “Call her right now. This instant. A little make up sex. It’s time. Bring Sir Duke.Three in a bed? Four with Anwar. ‘Let’s do it. Let’s fall in love.'”

“Can’t. Sorry. Anita Bryant said I wasn’t allowed.”

“That cow? C’mon, Sugar Plum. Call little Karlita and I’ll get my beau. It’ll be such fun. You don’t know what you’re missing.”

“Don’t call me Sugar Plum. Not in front of the guys.”

“May I call you Sweetie Pie?”

“No you may not!”

“Mon petit chou?”


“Gawd, straight men are such a bore. Fine. Go knock on a window and get a little. Please. That little Catholic girl would do you nicely. Go. My treat.”

“Oh, hush. Besides, I’m suffering from SCD. Severe Coffee Deficit. We must find a coffee shop. Post-haste. Recommendations?”

“Oooooh, yes. I know a place that’ll change your life forever, Princess.”

“Life changing coffee! Well, why doth thou tarry, Lacelot? Let’s go. And, don’t call me Princess.”

“May I call you Pookie?”

“No, you may not!”

“Cuddle Bear?”

“Stop that.”

Duke and I continually had this sort of dialogue. Much to our amusement and, probably, no one else’s.  

We walked a bit and Duke stopped, pointed to the coffee shop, and proclaimed, “But soft, what light from yonder window breaks? It is the coffee and Juliet is the cream!”

“Juliet’s been called worse. So, this is the house of life changing coffee. Or, something.”

“Or, something.”

We walked in and were greeted with a considerable blast of pot smoke. People were lounging around drinking coffee and smoking joints. Right there. In public. They were being quite casual as though it was perfectly legal to smoke pot in a coffee shop. Duke immediately said we should see the barista and buy a little pot for ourselves. 

I assumed this meant having a very hushed conversation with the barista, sneaking around behind the shop, making a surreptitious exchange of money-for-pot and hoping no one noticed which was how these sorts of things were done in the States. During the late 70s, in the good old USA of America, getting caught with a couple grams of marijuana could mean a sentence of 5-to-10 years in the clink where you’d enjoy a happy existence with mass murderers named Tombstone Giggles, Sliced Tumor and ADC (Anthrax Death Colon).

However, in this coffee shop, buying ganga and/or hashish involved selecting what kind you wanted from a menu. The menu had items such as Purple Haze, Cottonmouth Boo-Boo, Mash Stash, Doobie Drool and Wacky Kush Buzz-Buzz Butt. 

I think we went with the Purple Haze. It was highly rated on the menu. 

The point of confusion for me was marijuana and hashish were considered illegal drugs in The Netherlands or Holland or whatever. The government must have decided enforcing possession laws against selling pot was more trouble than it was worth. So, it, the government, let some coffee shops sell weed and agreed to look the other way because if you can’t beat it, tax it. Besides, if you’re high as a kite then you probably aren’t a menace to society in as much as you’re too busy laughing and eating cheeseburgers. The most harm you’re going to do is to yourself when you fall on your face because you were walking back to the coffee shop and forgot how to put one foot in front of the other. 

Purple Haze, by the way, did not disappoint. By the time we left the coffee shop, Duke and I were stumbling around having a grand old time trying not to fall into one of the numerous canals that run through Amsterdam although it caused our snappy banter to take a large step backwards:

ME (attempting to quote Jaques from Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”) – All the players in the world are….merely….players…uh, to stage…. and women have many….parts…and…


DUKE – What?

ME – Huh?

DUKE – Purple Daze…I’m nompletely mucked fup.

ME – Is Purple HAZE, diploaf….ha, ha, ha.


DUKE – Huh?


ME – All the players in the world in…stages…are merely….players…

DUKE – YOU’RE the diploaf.


ME – What’s a diploaf?

[Extended pause]

DUKE – What?

ME – Canals.

DUKE – Canals……? Where?

[Lengthy pause]

ME – What?

DUKE – Canals.

ME – Canals……? Where?

[Extremely long pause]

DUKE – What?

ME – Look out…..

DUKE – Look out for what?

ME – Uh…, canal.

CANAL – SPLASH (after Duke falls in)

ME – What?

DUKE – What? 

After Duke dried off, we found a pub where we came across Duke’s friend, Jeroen. Jeroen was at a table holding court with a half-dozen women. The women were very amused by Duke, who was playing the flamboyant gay role for their benefit and rather intrigued by his American friend (me). Jeroen was trying way too hard to keep the focus on himself. Two of the women struck up a conversation with me. One was Linda from Berlin. The other was Hannah from Bern. Linda could speak a little English. Hannah couldn’t. 

The entire conversation was as follows:

LINDA and HANNA – [Quietly conferring together]

LINDA to ME – My friend is wonder if you’re homosexual.

ME to LINDA – Pfffffffft….[spitting beer in all directions]. Wow. Okay. As ice breakers go, that’s now in my top five. 

Linda and Hannah stared at me. 

ME to LINDA – Uh, no. Straight. Heterosexual. Hopeless case. Appears to be terminal. How about you, Sunshine? Any particular gender or species do it for you? 

Linda and Hannah whispered back and forth for a minute. 

LINDA to ME – So, why you being with Sebastián now?

ME to THEM – I’m visiting. We’re friends from school. Oh, and I’m fine. Thanks for asking. And, you?

[Whisper, whisper, whisper]

LINDA to ME – So, it’s, um, you’re not sexing on Sebastián yet.

ME to LINDA – Sexing? Really? My name is Drew. Thanks for asking. And your names?

More dead fish stares from both.

ME to THEM – No. Not sexing on Sebastián. Not sexing on anyone. Altogether unsexing. And, you two? Sexing well these days, I trust.

[Extended whispering between the two]

LINDA to ME – Good. Maybe, okay. Sometimes. We maybe meet someones with the concert. Girlfriends, how many you have?

ME to THEM – To the best of my knowledge, zero at the moment.  No girl friending. No Sexing.

[More whispering]

LINDA to ME – Okay.

That was it. End of conversation.


By the time we staggered to the little concert venue, we were all in a fairly barbaric state of insobriety. Four, as it seems, was not right out.

During the walk, Jeroen wouldn’t shut up. He was desperately trying to impress us all with how he was about to open a large studio and create some avant-garde experiential artsy type “environment” that was supposed to offer enlightenment to those passing through. What sort of enlightenment? No clue. Jeroen took about 20 minutes to explain it to us but I fell at the first turn.  My feeling is if you can’t clearly explain what you’re doing within 30 seconds then maybe it’s time for Plan B.

Maybe not. The larger issue could be I’m too dense to get my arms around most things avant-garde. 

Well, not everything. Books, I can handle.  I read Kafka’s “The Trial” and found myself seriously relating to Joseph K. I don’t know if Jean-Paul Sartre qualifies but I used to read his books and quite liked them. Hell, I acted in “No Exit.” William Burroughs, Ginsberg, TS Elliott and all the others Bob Dylan talked about. I enjoyed Anaïs Nin so that’s got to count for something.

When it comes to avant-garde “experiences,” not so much. Electric body paint. Jeroen mumbled something about electric body paint. I guess if your body is covered in paint that actually conducts electricity then you will be in for an avant-garde experience. As experiences go, it might have its merits. Depends on the voltage, probably. And, where you paint yourself. And, how many coats. If you’re obliging the woman in your life and you’re out of emotion lotion then you could trot out some electric body paint and see how that works out for her. She might find the experience rather rewarding. Depending on the voltage. And, the number of coats. 

The concert was in a quaint little theater with, if I remember correctly, stained-glass windows. An altogether unusual place for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to perform. When I staggered into the concert hall, I wouldn’t have known a Tom Petty song if it bit me on the ankle. I had no idea how good he and the band were. 

This was before they hit big and well before Tom got all mellow and laid back. He was a live wire that night. Aggressive, angry and, in terms of mental hygiene, appearing altogether unwell. 

I’m sorry Tom Petty died so young. He seemed like someone who finally slayed the demons and was ready to enjoy being a grandfather. He is one of the great American songwriters. Up there with Hank Williams, Smokey Robinson, Carole King and Richard Rogers. The ones who took a lot of swings and almost never missed. 

One Tom Petty song that always brings me a smile is “Last Dance with Mary Jane.” One interpretation of the song is that it’s about someone who has decided to get high one more time before giving up the drug life.

The first time I heard it, I thought about a friend of mine who had to check into a drug rehab facility. He hit me up for a ride. I said sure. The facility was about 4 hours away. Easy enough. It was around 9pm when he called. Then, he casually mentioned he needed to be there no later than 6am.

The following day. 

Before I could say anything, he told me the good news was he had over three grams of some very high quality cocaine we could split on the trip and if I couldn’t give him a ride then he’d have to take a bus and do all the cocaine himself.

I’d have given him a ride anyway but this really was good news because this meant I could do my part, as a friend, to keep him healthy by not allowing him to do all the coke himself. By relieving him of this burden, I could make his transition to a drug-free life so much easier because he’d be checking in after only snorting HALF AN 8-BALL of top-shelf toot instead of the whole thing. 

The only ride I had was an ancient Honda 750 motorcycle. But it was a nice enough night so….hell, why not.

We left around 10pm, making numerous stops along the way so I could help my good friend get well by snorting half of his stash. 

By the time we got to the place, you could have peeled us off the ceiling. At 5am, we were singing “Heartbreak Hotel” as loud as possible. The residents were thrilled. The person admitting him to the facility immediately recognized we were both coked to the gills. Evidently, it’s not unusual for people to show up in various forms of disarray. The admissions guy shook his head and said if I didn’t get out of his sight in 30 seconds then he was going to call the police. He was laughing when he said it but I took him seriously enough and got the hell out of Dodge. 

Now, in retrospect, I can see how this whole adventure was an all-around bad idea and any number of things could have gone sideways. I understand that. I really do.

The very good news is he walked away clean and hasn’t touched the stuff since. 

(Neither have I, now that I think about it.)

Back to Amsterdam…..

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were fabulous. The crowd was fun. Jeroen kept talking over the music to impress the women with his avant-garde who-ha. After about three songs, the women scattered in all directions, looking for true love elsewhere. Duke was flirting with a gentleman wearing gold-glittered short, tight pants, white knee socks and a muscle shirt that had a picture of Cupid carrying a rifle. Hannah and Linda, the ones who interrogated me earlier, stood next to me. Linda was fondling a guy she found in the crowd. 

Jeroen jumped in and tried to impress Hannah and/or Linda by assaulting them with ten minutes of excruciating verbal diarrhea about something. Linda, before she took the opportunity to molest the guy she was with, told me Jeroen had just asked her to act in the avant-garde movie he was writing. She turned him down. I asked her why she said no. With a straight-face, Linda said it was because she didn’t want to have sex with a horse.***

That’s what she said. I’m not making that up. 

Hannah decided it was time for her and me to dance to the music which was a lot of fun because we recognized we had one very important characteristic we had in common:

We danced like shit. 

Just awful. Horrendous. Unspeakably, unforgivably bad. We knew we were terrible dancers but we tried until we stopped because we were laughing too hard to keep dancing.

Linda walked over to us, turned to me and said, “I think my friend want you to do sex on her.”

So, yes. Hannah and I slipped away. We did sexing on each other at Linda’s flat and then, for giggles, in Linda’s canoe.

During one of our more exuberant moments, we managed to capsize the canoe. Even in the freezing water, Hannah insisted we continue exchanging recipes (so to speak) while clinging to the side of the canoe. 

I found this very impressive on her post. I mean, that’s dedication. Something that really comes from the heart. 

Or, somewhere.

——————THE END—————–

* Yes, I realize the Indigo Girls were not a going concern in 1977. I was using humor to make comedy. I attended a few Indigo Girls concerts.** At one, they did one of the greatest versions of “The Weight” ever. EVER. 

** I noticed a fundamental behavioral difference between women at Indigo Girls concerts as opposed to women at all other pop/rock concerts. It relates to public bathrooms. 

It’s behavior I’ve seen enough times that I can comment on it. 

At any large event, the line to the women’s bathroom can be, at times, a hell of a lot longer than the one to the men’s bathroom. No great insight on my part about this. 

There are those times when a woman recognizes that if she tries waiting it out in the line to the women’s bathroom then very bad things might happen and she’s forced to come up with Plan B. Sometimes, Plan B is to race into the men’s bathroom before nature takes a very ugly turn for the worst. 

And, fair enough. Women have to deal with a lot already. So, sure. If it’s either use the men’s bathroom or have an accident in front of a few thousand spectators then come on in. You’ll be doing everyone a favor by going ahead with Plan B. Men really don’t lose any sleep about it. It’s not like we spend much time socializing in the men’s bathroom. When we’re in the men’s bathroom, our single focus is to get the hell out of there as fast as possible. 

Well, at an Indigo Girls concert, where 10% of the attendees are men, the line to the women’s bathroom can get really long. It’s not unusual for more than a few women to resort to Plan B.

Which brings me to the behavioral difference.

At a non-Indigo Girls concert, women tend to kick the men’s bathroom door open and yell, “Woo-Who! Look at me! I’m in the men’s room! Aren’t I cuuuuute?! I’m soooo cool! Get outta my way, I gotta go potty right now!!! Woo-who! I got, like, the worst case of diarrhea, like, ever!! This is so awesome! Aren’t I cuuuute?!?!”

In case you’re curious, the men in the bathroom are never impressed by this. Our inclination is to not stop what we’re doing and to tell the woman involved to stick her head in the toilet.

Whereas, women at an Indigo Girls concert will knock on the door, open it about two inches and politely say, “Yes, hi. I’m so sorry but, um, I have a bit of an urgent situation. May I come in and use one of the stalls? Only if it’s okay. I understand if you’re uncomfortable. I’m so sorry. I wouldn’t normally ask but this is a tiny emergency. But, please let me know if you’d prefer I not…..”

To which we men will actually stop what we’re doing (to the degree that we can), cover any offending parts and say, “Yeah, okay.”

I told my niece she should mention all this in her gender studies class.

She didn’t seem anxious to take me up on the offer. 

*** Is “avant-garde” French for “needs therapy?” Have you ever seen an avant-garde movie? I saw one. Once.


There may have been a plot. It was hard to tell. At one point, some woman was killing young girls and taking a bath in their blood which led to the discovery that the Pope had a daughter who amused herself by having sex with her brothers, uncles, cousins and any other family member who happened to be in the neighborhood. 

Firstly, what’s the point?. 

Secondly, the guy who came up with this needs to be removed from society.  

And, finally, stop all that. 

**** When in doubt, steal something from Monty Python. Learned that in English Lit 101.



Mexico, Part 6 – Your Secret Garden’s Safe With Me


As we drove off somewhere into the forests of Chiapas, Mexico, I did manage to fall asleep on the flatbed of Luke and Sara’s jeep for 20 minutes. I was still sleeping when I started hearing the sounds of waterfalls, wind chimes and whales singing….or, talking…or, whatever whales do to make that single atonal noise. And, people slowly chanting, “Ohm.” Their “ohm” sounded closer to “ooooooooohhhhhmmmmmm.” They said it alot. 

They made it sound pretty serious. About what, hard to say. They mumbled indecipherably between “ohms.” I thought they may have been Tibetan Monks. Tibetan Monks who’d been hitting the hash pipe hard, which may have explained the lack of detectable consonants.

I was still half-asleep and was having a rough time sorting out the monks, the wind chimes and the singing whale (who must have truly lost the plot to have ended up in the middle of a Mexican forest). My mind, as it tends to do when I’m half asleep, wondered:

What the hell are monks from Tibet doing in Southern Mexico? They must be smoking some serious shit and they’re probably too stoned to notice they’re on the wrong continent. 

Maybe they’re on a mission trip. I don’t know if Buddhism is gonna fly in these parts. What’s involved in getting a Mexican Catholic to become a Buddhist Monk? An exorcism? Nah, they probably just have the guy smoke some of their hash and tell him they’ll give him a cheeseburger if he converts. 

Why is there a whale in the middle of a jungle? 

I wonder what a Buddhist exorcism’s like. Bong water instead of holy water. Instead of shouting Bible verses, they just have someone read Siddhartha aloud until the evil spirit dies of boredom. 

“Whale in My Jungle” sounds like a song title:

“Baby, yo’ lovin’ used to make me crumble / Now I stumble ’cause you got a carpuncle / Ain’t no way we ever gonna have a con-jugal / Not ’til you go find yo’ self some antifungal / Guess I’m just gonna play with my peduncle / Til I see who put dis whale in my jungle. Babe.”

I could start my own discount exorcism business. Instead of buying pricey holy water, you could probably get away with a couple bottles of Mad-Dog 20/20 and just offend everyone’s sensibilities so badly the naughty demon says, “You people are totally disguising. What’s next, Pat Boone’s Greatest Hits? I’m gone.”

Maybe a bottle of Andre for the problem cases. 

Okay, these monks need to shut up. Oh, yeah, take these wind chimes and shove them up your silo. Sideways. And, put this poor, dumb slob whale back in the ocean. 

A whole chain of exorcism stores. “Satan Slappers: Home of the Mad-Dog 20/20 Exorcism. Deliverance at a discount. Unsightly horns coming out of your forehead got you down? Had it with your head spinning on that special first date? Have you had it with losing job after job because you accidently vomited on that important client, levitated him and threw the poor bastard out of the 10th story window? Then give us a call today! In by 9, redeemed by 5. 10% off for students and seniors, Group discounts available. No pets. Pay in advance. Bring a bucket. Extra charge for personal accident attorneys.

Who thought inventing wind-chimes was a good idea? If you’re outside then you already know it’s windy. If you’re inside then what do you care? You probably went inside to get away from the wind. 

Maybe the whale’s here for the exorcism and the cheap wine…Mexican Buddhist Whale Monk Exorcists. Good name for a band…whole thing….not good…gotta….wake…uh…

I finally woke up.

Unfortunately, I was still hearing the monks, the whale and the wind chimes. Only now I was also hearing a meandering cacophony of noises, a woman whispering something and a cello. I assumed I was having a severe psychotic episode and would soon find myself in a padded room eating jello with my fingers.

But, it wasn’t psychosis I was suffering from. 

It was New Age Music.

New Age Music was being played in the jeep’s cassette deck. Luke had become a connoisseur of this sort of thing and enjoyed playing it loudly when driving in his open air jeep so all those around could derive full benefit of the joys and wonderment of New Age Music. 

I found the music blaring from the jeep troubling on a couple of levels. The person responsible for supplying the melody forgot to show up for the recording session. Most of the band forgot to bring their instruments and were reduced to finding any piece of hardware that made noise. One person who did show up was the one supplying the weed and the tranquilizers because the songs were being played at a crisp four beats per minute. 

The result was a confluence of monks droning on about something, a meandering piano playing the same eight notes, people fondling some wind-chimes, water rushing, women whispering, a whale passing wind and someone playing an out-of-tune cello for 45 minutes. This was a new experience for me. I had no idea what the hell we were listening to. 

“What the hell are we listening to?” I asked this once we stopped for a moment so we could all make number one in the great outdoors. 

Luke was amused. “What rock have you been living under? You’ve never listened to New Age Music?”

“Not intentionally.” I wanted to say it sounded like the kind of thing a zombie would listen to after a long, hard day of being brain dead but I didn’t. 

“We listen to it all the time.”


Do you remember when Nancy Kerrigan, the Olympus figure skater, got knee-capped by a baseball bat and sat on the floor crying, “Why?” That’s close to how I sounded. 

“Whadda you mean, ‘Why?'”

“Does the government make you listen to it? Did you get convicted of multiple homicides and, instead of being lenient and giving you the death penalty, the judge decided to come down hard and said you had to listen to New Age Music?”

“You really are a simple, simple creature. This is music about the spiritual energy in everyone and everything! It helps you find oneness with nature’s sacredness.”

“What’s that mean in little words?”

“C’mon, Big Guy. We’ll have to expand that narrow little mind of yours. Listen….really listen….to the lyrics.”

“The singers don’t use consonants. How am I supposed to understand the lyrics?”

We walked back to the jeep. With an exaggerated sigh, Luke gave me a lyric sheet to one of the songs on his cassette tape. 

There must have been a mandate from the UN stating lyrics for New Age Music needed to be as indecipherable and incoherent as possible. Failure to include random nymph references was, I guess, some sort of criminal offense

I tried to read the lyrics but I got lost after the second word. The words went something like this:

“Vestal cherubs in the sybaritic captivity of Athena’s licentious ascendency / Doth Daeira’s scent waft with the air of her Elysian prurience of transcendency / Oh! Selene, why does thou submerge thine imposing moon within the saturated silkiness of modesty / Flowing into thine sacred tissue of your velvet fundament with the blissful ingress of my extremity / A phalanx of Demeter’s jewelry floating within the harmonious symbiosis of thine caressing cavity / Ooooooohhhhhmmmm.

(Okay, fine. Those weren’t the actual lyrics. I made those up. But, I remember the actual lyrics being even more pointless and obtuse than what I wrote.)

In an effort to rule out the possibility of hallucinations, I reread the lyric sheet. Same words. Same sequence. Holding it upside-down didn’t help. Luke was waiting for my reaction but all I could do was stare into the distance because my brain reviewed the lyrics and immediately decided to close up shop. To hell with it. Turn out the lights. Put a sign on the door saying, “Closed. I’m done. May return someday. Or, not. Too soon to tell. Need lots of bourbon. Goodbye.” 

Luke shot me a very quizzical look. “Well. Whadda you think now?”

“What’s with all the nymphs?”

“They’re metaphors.”

“No, they’re not.”

“Yes, they are.”

“Okay. Why are the metaphorical nymphs strewn across the horizon?”

“Read the lyrics again, Big Guy!”

“Do I have to?”

“It’s a love song! Can’t you recognize a love song, you cretin?”

With that question, any remote hope of my return to reasonable cognitive functioning was over. “Wait, this is a love song?”

“Dense. You are so dense”

“This guy came up with all this just so he could get laid?”

“Love songs aren’t all about sex, okay?”

“Yes, they are.”

“No, they’re not.”

“Is he professing his undying love so the two of them can figure out where to put the nymphs? No.”

“You are a simple, simple person. He is looking for meaningful, spiritual, pure love. Real love. Godly love. He’s not interested in meaningless sex.”

“Is too.”

“Is not.”

“New age. Old age. Any age. The guy’s not singing love songs to his mechanic. Why? Simple. He doesn’t want to hop in bed with his mechanic. He’s singing love songs to the girl wearing the tight jeans who happens to be, and here’s a surprise, hot.”

Luke was laughing. “Stop listening to AC/DC for once. Please. Great love songs over the centuries never mention sex. That’s just your dirty mind…”

“Puh-leese, I read Lord Byron. That was a man willing to say anything in order to get laid. All that disingenuous psycho-drool about his girl friend’s nameless grace and innocent heart and sweet thoughts emanating from her pure dwelling place? Oh, he had a dwelling place in mind, alright.”

Sara returned from her tinkling adventure. “What are you two blathering about now?”

Luke jumped in explaining, without ever looking at Sara, we felt differently on the topic of love songs and went into a very long who-ha expressing his feelings that love songs from a man are about emotional connections, spiritual convergence, unquestioning commitment, purity of thought, innocent hearts and sans any unspoken motive. 

When Luke was done, fifteen minutes later, Sara looked at me. “And, you? Do tell. What’s our hero trying to express to the young lady?”  

“Do me now.”

Sara and I looked back to Luke but he was already walking away. Sara stormed after Luke. Ten minutes of hostile whispering between them ensued. 

Before moving ahead, let’s discuss love songs. I had a dim view of love songs back then. My father spoiled them for me, I think. In 1967 or so, when I was 9 years old, you’d see hippies sitting in large groups. Some of them held signs saying things along the lines of “Free Love” or “Make Love, Not War.” I asked my father what those signs meant. His very helpful reply was, “Love? What a crock of shit. These bastards would know love if it bit them on the balls. Love, my ass. They just want to make fucky-fucky in public. Hear all those songs on the radio about love, love, love? Donkey shit. That’s not love. That’s fucky-fucky. Where the hell did your mother put the damn screw drivers? Nothing is where it was two days ago. The important thing to remember is love and fucky-fucky. Not the same. It’s too much to ask to have one screw driver in this house.”

He really did say fucky-fucky. I’m not making that up.

Armed with these insights, I had long-held the belief that every love song, love poem, love sonnet, love haiku and love memo ever written by any man to any woman had the same message. A simple message. Under it all, the man was making one very clear statement to the woman. That statement was: 

Take your pants off. 

It was a generalization. I understood that. However, I believed this to be an unassailable truth. You just had to read between the lines to translate the lyrics. For example:

Exhibit A – You Are the Sunshine of My Life.

Lyrics –

“You are the sunshine of my life / That’s why I’ll always be around / You are the apple of my eye / Forever you’ll stay in my heart”

Reading between the lines –

“Take your pants off.”

Exhibit B – God Only Knows 

Lyrics –

“God only knows what I’d be without you / If you should ever leave me / Though life would still go on believe me / The world could show nothing to me / So what good would living do me”

Reading between the lines –

“Take your pants off.”

New Age songs, I figured, were no different. I understood the song writer had, allegedly, transcended the world of sexual gratification and attained great spiritual insight into pure love.

Here are some lyrics to an old New Age love song:

“Show me the world with an open heart / Looking inside everything you are /Hold me there where I learn to trust / Trying to make sense of us”

Now, the New Age girlfriend may have been touched by this but I couldn’t help but think he didn’t want to learn to trust and he really didn’t want to make sense of us.

He wanted her to take her pants off. 

Right. Back to Mexico.

During the remaining drive, I tried starting a conversation with the young lovebirds but received nothing more than one-word responses for my trouble. I wasn’t only concerned by the sheer loathing between the two. There was the issue of being in the middle of nowhere with no idea of our destination. All I knew was we were bringing supplies to people who had nothing. And, spending the night with them. “When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” That may be the most important line, other than those in the chorus, of the greatest song released in the last sixty years and it was all I thought about during the drive because I wasn’t sure what we were driving into. 

If the folks we were meeting had nothing then what steps would they take to get something? If I had nothing to lose then the rules of etiquette probably wouldn’t be high on my list of concerns. My guess was it wouldn’t be high on the list of those we were about to meet. I was concerned:

Starving people see fat, rich Americans waddling towards them pretending to be great men and women of conscience. What’s to stop them from robbing us, stealing the jeep and leaving us for dead? Were I in their shoes, that’s precisely what I would do. Wouldn’t think twice.

In those days, there was no handy GPS-based app you could download off the Play Store or App Store onto your mobile phone to report your whereabouts to your twelve best friends on their mobile phones. There were no mobile phones. There was no world wide web, no centralized database, no Zoom Meetings, no nothing.  Computer systems communicated over point-to-point wired connections or, and this one could really test your sense of humor, copper phone lines. Just to make things more fun, the likelihood of one country’s computer system being compatible with another country’s computer system was zero. No chance. Countries couldn’t communicate with other countries and, even if they could, there was no Google Translate. If you were an official with the United States and you wanted to locate a US citizen in Mexico then, after contacting your Mexican counterpart, the conversations went something like this:

United States: Yeah, I’m looking for this guy who’s in Mexico. 

Mexico: Que?

US: Huh?

Mex: No entiendo.

US: Do what? Look. I….am….looking…for…some….one….in….your….country.

Mex: Que?

US: What?

Mex: Yo no, uh, speak-eh Inglesh. 

US: No speak-eh? Well, find someone who do speak-eh English, Pedro!

Mex: Pedro no here.

US: Look, we gotta find a US citizen in your country. It’s urgent! Get me someone who speaks English now!

Mex: Esto es México.  Hablamos español en México.  Ve a buscar a alguien que hable español y llámanos, imbécil.

US: Pedro, does anybody speak English in Mexico? We’ve got a crisis in your country. English! English! Need-eh speak-eh English!

Mex: Pedro no here.

US: Shit! Is….anyone….else….there? Uh, persona…..aqui?

Mex: Si, yo mama.

US: What the hell’s your name?

Mex: Que?

US: Nombre! Nombre! What yo nombre?

Mex: Mi nombre?  Mi nombre es Vete a la Mierda.

US: What?

Mex: [click]

Point is, unless you told someone where you’d be (and, I hadn’t), you were on your own. You weren’t just off-the-grid because there was no grid at the time. You were long gone. Out of everyone’s life. Desaparecido. Even if someone was moved to look for you (and, in my case, I doubted anyone was) then he/she wouldn’t know where to look. Could be in Montana. Could be in Phnom Penh. Maybe Tierra del Fuego. Hard to tell. 

The towns we drove past were few and far between. Some looked deserted. Others looked barely functional.  All looked, and I’m being mild here, impoverished. 

Then we arrived at our destination for the day:

Chanal, Chiapas.

I don’t know how to adequately describe what I saw in Chanal, Chiapas.  “Destitute” doesn’t suffice. “Horrifying” might be a good way to start. Adjectives that could have been added to an understated narrative on the subject include “depraved”, “deplorable”, “sickening”, “shocking”, “you can stop me any time now”, “malignant”, “rancid” and those are just the ice breakers. 

To give you an idea of how poor Chanal, Chiappas, is, here is some illuminating census data from 2020:

  • Percent of homes with Internet access – 0.4%
  • Percent of homes with washing machines – 1.33%
  • Percent of homes with refrigerators – 8.93%

That’s as of 2020. Forty years earlier, a few houses may have had something that passed for plumbing. I’m not sure any house had electricity. Perhaps someone had landline phone service but I tend to doubt it.

According to Luke:

  • The median age of a Chanal resident was a little under fifteen.
  • If you made it to thirty-five then you were living on borrowed time.
  • Eight percent of the population made it past fifty.

Were I one of the lucky residents of Chanal, I’d be in a pretty inhospitable mood at all times and hardly beyond hijacking a jeep full of food. Happy to do it. Why not? “When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.” Killing a few Americans for something to eat would have been, to my way of thinking, a very reasonable course of action. 

However, that was not the case for the folks we drove past. People were friendly. Children smiled and waved at us while kicking soccer balls around. No bad vibe to be found. Top-shelf juju all the way. It probably spoke to their character, which I found quite annoying because they had much more character than me. One reason I regularly walked around annoyed at my current condition was because, as far as I was concerned, everyone had more character than me.

We stopped at a church where we met other young American do-gooders doing do-good things. They were scurrying around like waiters at a very busy restaurant. Luke, Sara and I toted the boxes from the jeep to the church. The young Americans were working together in the classic way we Americans from the good ol’ USA of America have always collaborated on any project – each person assumed he or she was in charge of the entire operation. Just to make it more embarrassing, each young American was making sure everyone else knew how generous he or she was and the great extent he or she sacrificed in order to provide aid to the “less fortunate.”  

(“Less fortunate.” Yes, that was the ridiculous phrase being thrown around. Political correctness isn’t a recent development. We were taking ridiculous and convoluted linguistic leaps to tap-dance around confronting any cold, hard truth long before it became fashionable. We Americans weren’t “rich, fat, selfish pigs.” We were just a little “fortunate.” You weren’t “poor.” You weren’t “starving.” You weren’t “impoverished.” You were just a little “less fortunate.” You’re feeling better already, I’m sure.) 

I was standing in this church with boxes upon boxes of food and medicine stacked on top of more boxes of food and medicine. Nothing much was happening. Instead, you had twenty young, white people stumbling around ordering colleagues around and playing the “I sacrificed more than YOU sacrificed so that I could be here to save the less fortunate” game. Winning this game must have meant quite a bit because that’s all I heard. These were poor little rich college students who hadn’t sacrificed anything in their entire lives. The only reason they were there was because their parents had the money to send them there just to get them the hell out of the house for a while. Also, they may have been hoping the experience of mingling with the “less-fortunate” would transform their selfish, mean, unaware, uncouth, arrogant, self-entitled, whiny children into people who didn’t suck as much. 

Well, parents are allowed to dream, aren’t they?

Don’t get me wrong. I was no better than anyone else. Probably worse. I recognized that. My sole virtue was I didn’t prance around pretending to have any virtue. 

I found Luke and Sara speaking with a gentleman wearing a two-piece beige leisure suit, platform shoes, a half-unbuttoned plaid dress shirt and a mood ring. 

Who invited Disco Boy? Son, you made a serious wrong turn along the way. If you’re looking for Studio 54 then go north for about 3,000 miles. You can’t miss it. 

I took an instant dislike and was ready to hear him say something so I could truly hate him. He didn’t disappoint.  

I listened to him drone on about his superlative qualities and high character. The pointless gasbag followed this with an inane  monologue concerning the ways he controlled his girlfriend into supporting all his goodwill. Then he inflicted us with a list of all he’d done for the betterment of humankind. It was unbearable. I stood next to Luke who didn’t acknowledge me but I could tell he wanted to kill Disco Boy. I didn’t acknowledge Disco Boy. Sara didn’t acknowledge Luke. Finally, I told Sara I was going to hand out some of the coloring books to a group of children standing outside the church. 

“Okay, Dearie. Be careful with the little girlies. We don’t need anymore paternity suits. Okay?”

“Yes, Mother.” 

Disco Boy continued self-aggrandizing and expanding on all the things “I’ve done” to help humankind, which (reading between the lines) was more than the rest of us will ever do. I started walking away but stopped when I heard Disco Boy say, “Do I know you?” He sounded accusatory. 

I slowly turned around and looked him up and down. “There is that possibility.” I gave him a deadpan stare. I’ve always enjoyed acting dismissive towards people I don’t like. I’m good at it. After a pause, I said, “Any additional questions or have we officially concluded this line of inquiry.”

“May I ask what you’re doing here?”

“Yes. Yes, you may.” More deadpan gazing.

“Well? What are you doing here?”

“Checking property values. Thinking of buying a second home. You?”

Bad move to have asked because, for the next 5 minutes, he rehashed all he, and his highly obedient girlfriend, had done in the name of a brighter future and a better tomorrow for all the downtrodden in the world. The less-fortunate were, from his learned perspective, appreciably less less-fortunate thanks to him.  

It was the worst 5 minutes of my life. He then had the temerity to ask me, in his antagonistic fashion, “What have you done?”

“I slept with your girlfriend.”

During the prolonged silence that followed, Luke stared at the floor, Disco Boy looked incredulously at Sara who was doing her very best not to laugh out loud. 

My parting shot was, “Well, this conversation has certainly been the highlight of my day. Enjoy Disco night. Love the mood ring. Don’t forget your coke spoon next time. Ciao.” I started walking away. 

Disco Boy shouted something. I turned around and said, “Give your girlfriend a kiss for me and tell her I’ll write.” I pirouetted towards the large box of coloring books and crayons I dragged to Mexico. The 15 or so children just outside the church looked to be elementary school age. I was skeptical about the youngsters receiving the coloring books with anything approaching exuberance but Luke insisted they’d enjoy them. 

I picked up enough coloring books and crayons for each child and, just as I advanced towards them, it occurred to me I hadn’t actually checked the content of all the coloring books. For all I knew, these kids would be coloring in outlines of Dick and Jane on their wedding night which would have been something they’d be eager to discuss with their parents during dinner.

I learned to check these things after a very weird episode a couple of years before this trip:

One of the things I did in college was read books aloud on a radio station that broadcast specifically to those with impaired vision. Quite a few people did. Sometimes we’d read live over-the-air. Other times we would record ourselves to be played back as the station’s schedule dictated. Marie, the nice lady, also blind, who ran the station would hand out books for us to read. She liked how I read children’s books. She didn’t actually pay anyone but she let us use the recording studios off hours to make audition tapes. I had a nice, fairly deep but kid-friendly voice in those days and was comfortable reading to a young audience. The book she gave me was The Secret Garden along with an urgent request to start reading it now. Owing to a scheduling mix-up, the live reading needed to start in 5 minutes. 

Which was fine. Better, actually. This way I don’t have to waste precious cycles thinking about what I’m going to do.  I did remember The Secret Garden featured Mary-Mary-Quite-Contrary who was a whiny, judgmental, insufferable jackass. I was looking forward to bringing out the worst of her in my reading. I stepped into the studio about 3 minutes before going live. I planned to have jolly good fun reading The Secret Garden.

Looking at the first couple pages, I saw chapters that seemed just a bit out of place. Chapter Three, “What Do Women Fantasize About,” caught my attention. As did the items listed in chapter three, which included:

  • Domination
  • Masochism 
  • Other Women
  • Prostitution 
  • The Zoo

Well, there are some layers to Mary I really wasn’t aware of.

Turned out the book Marie gave me wasn’t THE Secret Garden. She’d mistakenly given me MY Secret Garden. Not that it was her fault. She was blind. Someone must have given her the book, told her it was THE Secret Garden, she gave it to me and expected a nice reading that would help the youngsters learn some important life lessons.

The little hurdle at that moment was the profound difference between the two books. 

THE Secret Garden is about Mary, the miserable little self-centered bag of puke, and Colin (I think that’s the name), who’s no bargain himself, getting into the locked garden and learning to become somewhat less offensive people in the process. 

MY Secret Garden is a detailed retelling of womens favorite sexual fantasies.

I looked at one of the fantasies in the book and discovered, at my tender young age, the ultimate difference between men and women.

A young man’s most elaborate sexual fantasy runs along these lines:

  1. There’s a woman.
  2. She has her clothes off.
  3. That’s it. Done. We’re all set. Simple.

A woman’s sexual fantasies are closer to a Broadway play. And, we’re not talking about “Waiting for Godot,” either. Uh-uh. These things are major theatrical productions with a minimum of six acts, fifteen elaborate set designs, wardrobe changes (a LOT of wardrobe changes), very complicated props, fully-developed roles, intricate relationships among all the actors (even ones who aren’t in the production), 500 musicians in the orchestra pit (one musician for every unspoken story line) and a dream sequence. Don’t forget the dream sequence.

The name of this play would be, “Fifty Shades of Moulin Rouge’s Sex with the City’s Chorus Line which includes Evita and Hamilton and the Lion King and the Phantom of the Opera and the Music Man and Miss Saigon in the South Pacific via Oklahoma with the Guys and Dolls (Guys, primarily) and the Dreamgirls where Anything Goes on 42nd Street so Annie Get Your Sponge because No No…YES YES…Nanette it’s time to go to Chicago and Tame the Shrew.”

Well, that was the book I had and, in 90 seconds, was about to be read live to an audience of 8 year olds who were, no doubt, with their parents. Parents who, instead of expanding on the notion of how love can make positive changes in one’s life, will have to explain to their young daughters that wearing fur handcuffs while having sex with two naked strangers at the top of the Eiffel Tower at midnight on Bastille Day in the soft Parisian rain during which Marcello Mastroianni is singing “There’s a Place for Us” and THEN including the little adventure in their “What I Did On My Summer Vacation” essays for school might be best left as an experience deferred. 

Give it a couple decades before running that one up the flagpole, Muffin.

I was in the studio and my microphone was going hot in about 30 seconds. I dashed out, grabbed the first item that looked like a children’s book and scrambled back into the studio just as I saw the engineer’s cue to start. I sat down. I looked at the book thinking, “With the way things are going, I’m probably going to start reading ‘Death of a Salesman.'”

It was The Phantom Tollbooth. 

So that was good.

Back to Mexico….

I took a look through the coloring books. After verifying Dick and Jane weren’t misbehaving any more than usual, I stepped outside, proudly stood in front of the youngsters and showcased my exemplary grasp of the Spanish language with the following statement:

“Buenas secuelas  Quieres hacer libros de color, así que tienes que dibujar con una mierda de crayón?”

What I meant to say was, “Good afternoon. Would anyone like a coloring book and crayons?”

What I actually said was, “Good aftermath. You want do books of color so you have to draw with crayon shit?”

The kids stood there with their mouths wide open. They looked thoroughly lost with facial expressions that all said, “We, the children of Chanal, can unanimously assert on the record, with a clear conscience and without fear of recourse, that we have absolutely no fucking clue what you just said.”

One obvious reason was my statement made no sense. Zero. None. The other reason was that nobody in the region spoke Spanish. I wasn’t aware of this minor detail. All that diligence and devotion to perfecting my Spanish-speaking artistry was all for nothing.  

So, I shrugged my shoulders, held the coloring books in front of me and indicated, as best I could, they were available if anyone was interested. 

They were.

In unison, the youngsters instantly went from the stunned, bewildered silence (courtesy of the magnificent stupidity of my painful attempt at speaking Spanish) to glee. Joyful, unfiltered, exuberant glee. They each grabbed a coloring book with a box of crayons. They circled around me and gave me a collective, sincere embrace. They ran around with smiles that could light up a large city before dancing away in small groups to play, laugh and truly enjoy themselves with their new treasures.

Coloring books. These were coloring books. They weren’t ponies. Or, 60″ televisions. Or, first bicycles. American kids would have used the pages of the coloring books to line the birdcage. For the children there that day, those coloring books meant everything. 

Whenever I’d been hit with a wave of conflicting emotions, my instinct was to shut down, thereby feeling as little as possible. A life of emotional non-involvement was, to my way of thinking at the time, much easier. This time, shutting down wasn’t an available selection on the menu. The dam broke. The emotional onslaught was on. I was laughing while tears poured down my face. I rarely cry and I don’t think I had ever cried in public until that moment. I was ecstatic that simple coloring books brought so much happiness to these children. I was devastated that simple coloring books brought so much happiness to these children. My legs shook. My arms were wrapped around me but they provided no relief from the tidal wave. 

Young boys and girls sentenced to a short life of poverty. No hope. No food. No peace. Considered disposable. By everyone. Desperate for any little charitable act. Proof of life. Proof someone cares. Any evidence, even fleeing, to know they’re considered important enough to merit a stupid coloring book.

I brought the coloring books because Luke asked. I thought it was a silly request and, when I bought them, I really didn’t care if any child actually wanted one.

It didn’t matter.

Until it did.

These children had nothing. Anything, for them, was significantly better than nothing. Maybe, in that moment, they convinced themselves that they weren’t invisible to the rest of humanity.

The emotional tornado subsided and I flashed back to a childhood moment. In a doughnut shop. After being told, by whatever adults were in the room, that I was stupid, fat and, in their learned view, useless, a grown-up (no idea who) took me to doughnut shop, bought a Boston Creme doughnut and gave it to me. We sat down somewhere. I don’t remember what we talked about. I do remember how much I enjoyed that doughnut. It made my day and pulled me out of a very deep hole. For a little while, at least, I was as content as any child could possibly be.

I thought about the guy who took me to that doughnut shop. I wondered how he felt when he saw me react the way the children reacted with the coloring books.

He probably felt pretty good.

Looking back at these youngsters racing around, I felt pretty good, too.

It made their day.

It made my day, too.


Mexico, Part 1 – The Chicken & the Glory

Everything I learned about driving I learned in Mexico.

While transportation in Mexico City is a thorough fuster cluck, you can, eventually, get from Point A to Point B. The same can’t necessarily be said for the rest of the country. 

The more rural you get, the more exciting the adventure.  

If it’s your first time in Mexico and you’re stupid enough to drive a car while you’re there then there are a few helpful driving tips I can offer. 

(These driving tips were learned long ago but I just have a feeling they still apply. Last time I was in Mexico was 2002. The conditions were the same as they were in the 1980s. Worse, actually.)

Lesson 1: If you come across a “road hazard” sign in the States, then what follows, should you keep driving, is something, or a series of somethings, that make driving extremely dangerous or, sometimes, almost impossible. Huge craters in the highway or large rocks that fell off the side of a mountain or mangled pieces of cars strewn along and aside the road. Any of the above would constitute a “road hazard.”  

Well, in Mexico, that constitutes “the road.” 

The roads in large cities are a mess.  The roads in the rest of the country are a catastrophe. 

The key is don’t look back and don’t look sideways because what will kill you is generally straight ahead. Usually, in the form of a pothole on a bridge. Pretty much every bridge in Mexico has required urgent maintenance since the Mexican Revolution. 

Potholes in Mexico generally run 10 yards in diameter and you only have two ways to navigate them:

Plan A – Build a ramp right in front of the pothole, backup up a mile, then put the hammer down, accelerate to about 200mph when get to the ramp and fly over the pothole just like Evil Knivel used to in his motorcycle when he’d fly over 25 school busses parked in a row.

This results in a total catastrophe and instant death because, when Evil Knievel jumped over all those busses on his motorcycle and landed on the other side, he’d always lose control of the motorcycle, crash and tumble down the road for a mile or so breaking around 250 bones, crushing his spleen, collapsing both lungs, puncturing a kidney, suffering permanent hearing loss and cutting himself up to the tune of 2,500 stitches.

And, HE knew what he was doing. 

You don’t. 

So, you don’t stand a chance

Plan B – Drive 3 mph and slowly, carefully navigate through the pothole.  This, also, results in total catastrophe and death because the pothole on the bridge is so deep that it has gone all the way through the bottom of the bridge so you and your car just ends up falling through the hole on the bridge. 

Your death won’t be quite as sudden because there’ll be a brief lag between falling through the bridge and landing on the meth lab 800′ below. 

It doesn’t have to be a meth lab. Could be anything.  It doesn’t matter.  Because once you’ve crashed into the ground, it’s over. In terms of vital signs, you’ll have none. 

Lesson Two: Chickens. Be alert for chickens. You know how, when you see a ball roll into the street, you immediately hit the brakes? That’s because you assume a child will appear 3 seconds later chasing the ball. You’re usually right, of course. 

In Mexico, it’s a simple answer to, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”

“To get the hell away from the child who’s chasing it.”

In Mexico, the kids run around and learn safety tips on the fly.  No Mexican parent specifically tells a child not to run into the street.  A Mexican child learns not to run into the street without looking because he or she was already hit by a car once while running into the street without looking and learned it was an experience not worth reliving.  

So, if you see a chicken run into the road then you can assume a child, one who hasn’t yet been hit by a car, is chasing it. 

The reason the kid’s chasing it in the first place is strictly due to the following equation:

Chicken = Dinner

If you manage to run over a chicken then etiquette requires you to buy the chicken-owner, and his or her family, dinner. The average Mexican household consists of forty to fifty family members so this is one reason you should bring some cash before getting in your car.

This is not information you see in Fodors so it’s a good thing you’re reading this. 

Lesson Three: Don’t run over the child who’s chasing the chicken. 

Residents of rural Mexican towns practice something you might refer to as “self-policing.”  This is useful knowledge because, while Mexican parents allow their children to “live and learn,” they take the “live” aspect personally. 

A fine example of self-policing was the National Hockey League 50 years ago.  In those days, the last thing the referees did was enforce the rules. The players did. Each team had “enforcers.”

One rule in hockey back then was, “If you hit my best player then I will have my enforcer pay a little visit on your best player.”

You didn’t need a referee for that.  

Mexicans are smart enough to understand that involving the police only slows the wheels of justice.  Besides, if the police happen to show up then they’ll just take everyone’s money and leave. Better to resolve matters without the needless delays of a jury trial. 

Mexican villages have their enforcers, too, you see. And, when it comes to self-policing and enforcing the rules, these guys are no less subtle than the ones playing hockey. One particular rule reads, “If you run over one of our ‘niños’ then we will ‘kill you very completely.'” 

This means, in terms of fitness and longevity, yours is limited. This is because the “trial” only lasts a long as it takes to kick you around for a while, drag you up to one of their bridges and drop you through a pothole. 

Having seen the inside of a rural Mexican jail, I can assure you death is a much more rewarding experience.

So, in a way, they’re doing you a favor.   

Lesson Four: If you are an American then everything is your fault. Everything. You could be legally parked somewhere with no other cars within 200 yards. If someone goes out of their way to find your car and then drives into the side of your car at 180 miles per hour causing the driver and all passengers to fly through the windshield because seat belts are prohibited in Mexico then it’s your fault.

You don’t even have to be in the country. It’s still all your fault. 

Here’s another fine example:

Let’s say some guy comes staggering out of a bar after winning an all-day gin guzzling contest, falls down 300 yards from your parked car and dies of cirrhosis of the liver because he also won the gin guzzling contest for the past 856 consecutive days.

It’s still your fault. 

You see, there is a geopolitical aspect to this because Mexicans, as is the case with almost all countries these days, blame everything on us ‘Mericans from the Good Ol’ USA of America where the bombs are bursting in air so we can form a “more perfect” union which is an interesting phrase because either you’re perfect or your not and there ain’t no such thing as “more perfect” than perfect. 

“Extra virgin” is another one. Extra virgin olive oil. What exactly is that? How does one get classified as extra virgin? Either you is or you isn’t. Maybe it’s an attitude thing. Let’s say a lovely lady propositions you and you respond, “Thank you, no. I’m extremely not having sex yet.” Does that qualify?

Anyway, I’m not sure why the rest of the world hates us. One possible reason is the shared view among the 8,000,000,000 non-US citizens on this planet that we Americans are rude, whiny, self-indulgent, hypocritical, thoughtless, uncouth, mean, willfully stupid and uninformed, cowardly, dishonest, self-entitled, shallow and pampered pigs-in-clover who possess an unconscionable unwillingness to do anything that we might consider an inconvenience especially if it’s something that might help others because we have no character.

I simply can’t imagine where they got that idea. 

Fortunately, in almost all countries, Mexico included,  “personal liability” runs in a very clear indirect variance to “the amount of American money you have on you.”  In Mexico’s case, it doesn’t have to be a lot of American money because, thanks to the Mexican government’s spectacular intrusion into the country’s financial matters, the Mexican Peso is worth all of 5 cents US.

Drop $100 American on the ground and you are generally no longer considered at fault. You might call this a scam but to quote Marlon Brando from a movie called The Freshman, “Scam? This is an ugly word. This is business. And, in business…this is what you do.”

Lesson Five:  If you are an American then every road is a toll-road. The road’s not necessarily marked and, for your convenience, there are no toll-booths. Instead, the police identify a car driven by an American, pull you over, stand next you with a gun in one hand while extending the other hand, palm up, towards you. That’s your signal to pay the toll. 

How much is the toll? You have no idea. Last time I was there, $20 US generally covered it. I never got any change back from the upstanding police people so I must have guessed right. 

If your IQ is hovering around room temperature and you contest the toll then, in the spirit of protecting and serving the community, the conscientious officer will hold the gun to your head, tell you a kilo of cocaine was found in the trunk of your car even though the trunk was never opened and let you know the toll is now $100 US.

You’ve heard people talk about a “come to Jesus” moment.  It’s an epiphany of sorts where your general view on a subject changes from a macro level to one at a very…, very, personal level. There’s a saying, “Everyone has a game plan until they get punched in the mouth.” I’ve been punched in the mouth. Trust me when I say that’s an experience which can easily change your thoughts on any number of subjects. In this case, our “come to Jesus” moment involves reality punching you in the mouth. And, you need to make a hard decision quickly.

Well, Tex, welcome to your “come to Jesus” moment.  Are you going to stand on principle and refuse to give in to blackmail thereby compromising your personal health or are you going to fork over the $100 and get the hell out of there with your socks on?

I have no doubt integrity can occasionally come in handy but I’d cough up the cash, get back to my hacienda and throw down 12 shots of tequila. 

The alternative is not quite as uplifting because the cop will drag you out of the car, arrest you and announce the following:

“Tú fornicando, idiota perro cerdo americano, no puedo esperar a patearte el trasero, rata bastarda bolsa de vómito!”

I don’t know what that means but it ain’t good because you’ll then be locked in a jail cell with 15 guys who, for ease of identification later, are all named Juan Garcia.

Oh, and how did the cop know your American in the first place? Because you were stupid enough to obey the stop signs and traffic lights. 

Don’t ever do that. 

Especially at night. 

If it’s night and if you ever want to see your family again then do not stop. Period. If you stop then you’ll be descended upon by:

1) The helpful police person looking for some toll money.

2) The carjacker wanting to drive you to various ATMs so he/she can withdraw all your cash.

3) The lovely and very friendly dama-de-la-noche trying to take you to her boudoir where you will get assaulted by the pimp who takes your wallet and clothes. 

4) The kidnapper hoping you’re worth something on the open market. 

5) The town’s mayor making sure, regardless of outcome, he/she gets paid.

One more thing: when someone is honking at you it’s because the driver wants you to know the car’s brakes don’t work. 

Here endeth the driving lessons.

I’m able to speak on this subject with clarity because I lived the nightmare that is driving in Mexico. My first experience was driving about 600 miles southeast of Mexico City to an unlovely municipality called Arriaga in the highly confounding state of Chiapas.  

In the States, assuming you keep the stops to a minimum and the terrain is fairly flat, you can go 600 in just about any direction in well-under 9 hours

In 1980, that 600 mile drive took me almost 20 hours on accounta I had to dodge all the potholes, boulders, dead people, enormous chunks of asphalt, roadkill, children (not yet dead but not for much longer), garbage, broken tequila bottles and father-of-the-year candidates blocking the way attempting to have me marry one or more of their daughters.

And chickens. 

What the hell is it with all the chickens? 

Everywhere. Chickens. Darting around moving vehicles and moving children chasing them. 

Mexican chickens have issues.  You could probably do extremely well opening a chain of psychiatric chicken hospitals (Casa de Pollos Locos) because these were a unique breed of suicidal, attention deficit disordered, drunk, hyperactive, speedballing, Mexican Idiot Chickens.

I only got pulled over once. I was completely guilty in that I had to stop in order to not run over some child. Total stupidity on my part. Mister Policeman was nice and only it only cost me $10 which, at the time, probably amounted to 1,326 pesos.  Which I considered a bargain.

There was a reason I went to Arriaga.  I mean, it wasn’t because I thought it’d be fun to summer there. I went to visit my friends Sara and Luke. They were a couple. I met them in college. Luke was an earnest, model-citizen who made it a point to view all things in a highly positive light.  Sara was grounded, easy-going and provided a calming influence on Luke. I had known Sara for a couple years and we developed a good-natured, comical flirty banter which was easy to do because we had no romantic interest in each other. 

Luke and Sara were serious do-gooders doing do-gooder type things through some do-good agency committed to helping children of families who didn’t have 2 pesos to rub together. They were 6 months into an 18 month commitment. In return, the agency would finance some of their grad-school once they got back to the States. Something like that. 

I liked them both. I was interested to see what they were doing. 

The pre-trip planning was mostly done by mail because working phones were hard to come by in Arriaga. 

They had to drive some place to get a phone that actually worked for more than 5 minutes. 

Our last call before my visit was awkward.

“So, Lukey. What trinkets can I bring you from the Mother Country? Soap? Guns? Toilet paper? You do have toilets in Arriaga, correct? Bail money?”

“Coloring books,” was his reply. “Kids here love, love, love coloring books. You’ll love it here. It’s great. You’ll love the people. The beach is amazing. We love it here. We might stay longer.  Sara’s happy we’re living here. Together. I think she’d stay here forever if she could. We might start a family here, too.  Um, so, yeah, coloring books. As many as you can find. The kids love coloring books.”

Hmmm, somebody’s trying way too hard. I’ve heard better sales pitches at mattress shops. Plus, Sara’s letters didn’t seem nearly as enthusiastic about the place. And, she never hinted at starting a family. 

“Coloring books. Message received and understood. I’ll see what I can scrounge up. So, how’s the government oppression coming along? Any college students left in the country?”

“It’s not that bad. I mean, where we live. You’ll see. The government is really pretty helpful. You know better than to believe the news. The ocean is amazing. People here are great. The best. Like I told you, we love everything about this place. Really. It’s beautiful. I really think we may end up living here.”

Yes, I do remember you mentioning that already. Why are you trying so hard? Selling time-shares? Stop all that.

“Ah, paradise, is it? Can’t wait to case the joint. What’ll ya’ll do with yourselves once you set up permanent shop?”

Luke paused. “It doesn’t matter. As long as Sara’s with me. That’s the…..”

“Jolly good. And, how is the Better Half? Eating well? Good coat? Not going outside the litter box, I hope. “

“Sara’s fine. Here.”

Well, that was blunt.

He gave Sara the phone. 

You’re there because pretty much everyone lives in total poverty but it’s beautiful.  The government, who is currently at war with its own citizens, is ‘really pretty helpful.’  You’re ready to live there forever but have no idea why. And, oh, yeah, Sara’s fine

For Luke, the glass was always half-full but he sounded like someone trying to convince me all was well in his kingdom even though, deep down, he knew something wasn’t. 

Sara sounded much better than Luke. 

“You naughty, naughty man.  Get down here right now.”  I heard the smile in her semi-whispering. 

“Yes, Dear.  So, what night do you plan on wining and dining me just so I can say, ‘No.'”

“We both know you could never say ‘no’ to me.”

“Now, look here! I’m perfectly capable of telling you, uh, you n….n…., I’m willing to consider the possibility of telling you n….., I can stand my moral ground and tell you, unconditionally, that I’m prepared to, um, say my, uh, it’s like, okay, ‘yes.’ When do I start?”

“Miss me?” She was still speaking quietly.

“Terribly. I’ve been pining at the border. Built a statue of you in El Paso. Quite stunning. Are you wacky kids really thinking of laying down roots in Tierra del Fuego or wherever it is you are. Is that what one does with roots? Lay them?”

“Sure. I guess. Are we still handicapped with that unsuitable girl friend?”

“Sure, I guess?” And a sudden change of subject.

“Alas, we parted. These days I comfort myself by arising with thoughts of thee. You’re really thinking of staying in Muerte, Mexico?  Or, whatever?

“Why not? Luke really wants to. So, yeah, maybe.”

“What am I going to do with your statue?  Actually, I need to do something with it because it’s a nude. Very tasteful.  Would you send me some highly inappropriate clothes I can put on your statue? She looks cold.”

She maintained the low volume. “You’ll just have to come down here for some of the real thing. Love me?” 


What’s with the hushed tones?

I got the feeling Luke was rushing her off the phone.  “Good. I love you. I’m getting hairy eyeballs. Get your little butt down here now. Bye-yee.”

” Au revoir, mon cher.”

Odd. Very odd. What was the whispering all about? Was there something Luke wasn’t supposed to hear? Why was Lukey blowing so much sunshine up my silo?  

Nah, reading too much into this one. Gotta quit looking for something that isn’t there. Probably too many people standing around listening to the call. Made it uncomfortable for them. If everyone seems happy and everything seems fine then just accept things as they are.

But, I was pretty bad at accepting things as they are or were. Besides, I understood, with very little reservation, nothing is ever as it seems.

Never was.



Mexico, Part 2 – The Chariots of Fire

Mexico, in 1980, wasn’t the healthiest place to do business. The Dirty War was still going on. Key government officials, in the name of keeping peace and tranquility throughout the country, dispatched death squads to capture the hearts and minds of the citizenry by torturing and killing thousands of people they didn’t like. These days, the PC-police prefer we refer to these as “extrajudicial executions” instead of “mass murders.” I don’t know why, either. 

If you can get past the mass murders then you’ll see Mexico’s ruling party for most of the 20th century, the PRI, was exceptionally successful in providing its beloved citizens the benefits we generally associate with large, high-functioning dictatorships: economic chaos, thorough corruption, voter fraud, unbelievable incompetence, extreme poverty, property destruction, domestic terrorism and the standard repression of free speech. I figure, at some point, half the population was under arrest. They weren’t charged with anything. It was just the PRI’s go-to strategy to spread the misery. 

I don’t know if this is still true but, at the time, you could get tossed in the clink if you didn’t sing the Mexican national anthem the “right” way. I think that’s really all you need to know about the country’s government.

And, killing journalists. Oh, man, they had “extrajudicial journalist executions” down to an art form. You got your throat cut before you could even get your press credentials. It’s a tradition that the Mexican government proudly maintains to this day. In 2020, The Guardian voted Mexico, once again, the most dangerous country in the world for journalists. 

The police didn’t have time to investigate any of the murders because they were too busy committing most of the murders. The police recruitment posters must have said, “Tired of the day-to-day humdrum of being a decent human being? Do you enjoy killing people? Would you like to make fun new friends and torture them to death? If you said YES to any of these questions then do we have the job for YOU! So, come on by and learn more today! Bring proof of criminal insanity, a positive ‘can-do’ attitude and your prison record. Experience in homicide, arson, assault, rape, theft, B and E, kidnapping, extortion, child molestation, false imprisonment, terrorism, drug dealing, wreckless endangerment and property destruction preferred but we’re willing to train the right candidate. EEO.”

The word, “Feminicidio,” entered the Mexican vernacular in 1980 due to the horrifying increase in women and girls being murdered for the crime of being female. The Mexican government does nothing to discourage this. Never has.

I knew the sad state of affairs when I decided to visit but thought it was a risk worth taking. 

When packing to fly to Mexico in 1980, I had to keep a few things in mind if I didn’t want to get thrown in a Mexican jail cell with 15 guys all named, for the occasion, Juan Garcia. No music cassettes on accounta rock and roll was banned what with it being subversive and having naughty sex stuff in the lyrics.  No books because, depending on the mood of the customs agent, a copy of “Anne of Green Gables” could be considered porn and “The Little Engine That Could” might be viewed as a direct threat to the Catholic Church. No magazines, no newspapers, no t-shirts with words or numbers on them, no jewelry, no drugs (prescription or otherwise), no cameras and no electronic devices as bringing any of these things would indicate my obvious intent to overthrow the government and I’d end up in the big house with my 15 new best friends. 

I had a year of Spanish as a freshman in college but forgot most of it so I brought an English/Spanish translation book for the trip. That was my light reading on the flight.  I thought about that Monty Python skit where some person writes an English/Hungarian translation phrase book but intentionally screws up the translations. As a result, this Hungarian guy walks into a British shop to buy some cigarettes, looks at the book with the intention of saying, in English, “May I buy a pack of cigarettes?” But, he ends up saying, “Please fondle my buttocks.”

I think the airliner I took to Mexico City was called “Bueno Como Muerto (Good as Dead).” The pilot must’ve had an acute central nervous system disorder. He couldn’t keep the plane straight. He’d veer to one side before over-correcting to the other side before over-correcting the other way for the entire flight. My coffee kept spilling left and right onto my shirt the entire time. Plus, altitude maintenance was a challenge. The plane would drop straight down 200 feet for no reason other than it was exactly when I was attempting to drink the coffee so, instead of going into my mouth, the coffee went up my nose. Of course, the pilot would immediately over-correct causing me to spit the coffee out of my nose directly onto my pants. The flight attendant (referred to as the air hostess at the time) was nice enough to sell me eight shot-bottles of vodka. I had pretty much come to terms with the idea that this flight wasn’t going to end gracefully and I was fully prepared to die. 

I could have prepared for my certain death by asking God to forgive my multitude of sins. I could have written a goodbye note asking everyone I knew to forgive my multitude of sins. I could have asked the air hostess to forgive me for the lovely sins I contemplated each time she walked by. 

Instead, I got drunk. 

Flying was different in 1980. The cabin was completely filled with smoke because airlines allowed smoking back then. Cigar smoke, cigarette smoke, pipe smoke and blue smoke because someone forgot to check the airplane’s oil. Seat belts were pretty much optional which enabled anyone under 8 years old to scramble around on the aisles and over the seats in attempts to steal food from the food-cart and from the other passengers. The pilot was able to land the plane on his 2nd try but slammed the brakes so hard that anything not nailed down flew to the front of the plane and caused the rest of my coffee to spill on my shoes.

When it came to getting off the plane, there was none of this courteously-waiting-for-the-people-in-the-row-ahead-of-you-to-exit nonsense. People just ran over each other to be first off the plane which caused a great crush at the door. 

Unfortunately, we had to wait while airport employees threw all the luggage from the plane onto the tarmac which meant all the suitcases, crates, boxes, livestock and children were now in one big pile.

No one actually opened the door. I think the law of physics finally kicked in and the door just broke off its hinges due to the force of the crowd. Once the door broke off, people burst out of the place where the door used to be, fell down the stairs and landed on the tarmac. Then they made a mad dash to get their suitcases from the luggage pile. People were crawling all over the pile looking for their stuff. Fights broke out as people tried stealing each other’s suitcases.

Thanks to my 8 little vodka shots, I wasn’t looking real sharp. I was covered with coffee stains, my shoelaces were untied, my sunglasses were crooked, half of my shirt was untucked and I had a cigarette hanging off my bottom lip. Plus, I still had coffee coming out of my nose. I wasn’t walking with a whole lot of purpose, either: two steps forward, one step sideways to get my balance, two steps forward, one step backwards to make sure I didn’t fall on my face, two steps forward and so on. 

I found my suitcase and meandered on over to the customs line only to discover there was no line. It was another pile of people crawling over each other to be next to get through customs. I was in no rush because I understood that, as a Yankee-Pig-Dog-American, I’d be getting special treatment from the very happy customs guy who, once we finally met, pointed at the table and said, “Bolso. Ahora. Ahora! Abrelo! Ahora!!”

I put the suitcase on the table and opened it. He tore through everything while maintaining a look of total disgust. Then he got to the approximately 70 coloring books I bought per Lukey’s request. He looked appalled. He picked one up, looked at me and said, “Que carajo?!?!”

This is where my rust with the Spanish language, as well as my extensive inebriation,  became an issue.  I knew what I wanted to say but couldn’t figure out how to say it in Spanish. 

I said, “Libros para colorear, uh, uh, mierda.”

What I meant to say was, “Coloring books.”

What I actually said was, “Books to color your shit in.”

The customs guy asked, “Por qué?”

I replied, “Well, uh, a, uh, proporcionan muchos orgasmos a los niños.”

What I meant to say was, “Kids really enjoy them.”

What I actually said was, “They provide many orgasms for the children.”

The guy looked confused. “Por qué traes estos? Huh?!”

I tried to explain, very slowly, why I was bringing coloring books. I semi-smiled and said, “Uh, yeah, uh, see, engo amigos que quieren, um, enseñar y y y niños y niñas porque, uh, like, hmmm,  quieren colorear los libros con crayones, so,, en los libros donde no dejan arena en la ropa interior.”

What I meant to say was, “My friends teach young children. Coloring books and crayons help them teach the children.”

What I really said was, “I have friends want to teach and and boys and girls because they want to coloring the books with crayons in the books where they keep sand out of their underwear.”

The guy was clearly dazzled by my grasp of the language. He stood and stared into the distance for about 30 seconds and finally said, “Maldito idiota. Empaca tu mierda y piérdete. Maldito Americano.”

I’ll spare you the translation. 

“Right-o. Well, Muccous garcias, et tu, Bruté.”

I always try to be polite. 

My point-of-contact was a teenager called Diego. He was supposed to be holding up a sign with my name on it. I walked around for a long time before spotting a half-asleep, petulant looking young man leaning against a pillar with a cardboard sign at his feet that said, “Draw.”  

I tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he was Diego. He looked at me, pulled a Polaroid picture from his pocket, studied it, studied me and, with the formal identity verification process concluded, took my suitcase and motioned me to follow. He led me through this tangled mess of cars, pedestrians, chickens (dead and/or alive) and street vendors before we approached something that, from a distance, looked like an antique metal sculpture. Up close, it sort of resembled a car.

Actually, it really was a car. Well, “car” might be stretching it. It was a 1972 Ford Pinto and, as such, was really more a “crime against humanity” than an actual “car.” 

In the 70s, American car manufacturers churned out plenty of wretched cars: the Plymouth Violator, the Dodge Fallacy, the GMC Discharge, the Jeep Languisher II and so on.  But, none of these car models came close to the dumpster fire that was the Ford Pinto. 

Some unique features of the Ford Pinto were:

  1. The entire car body was made out of tin foil.
  2. The available horsepower averaged between zero and negative four.
  3. Sometimes the steering mechanism worked. 
  4. If you gave it a mean look then one of the wheels would fall off.

What really separated the Pinto from the rest of the field was the fact that if you hit the back bumper of the Pinto at a speed in excess of 2 miles per hour then the car would instantly catch on fire and, soon thereafter, explode.

As we stood silently admiring that worst car ever produced, Diego pulled a ring of keys out of his pocket, tossed them to me and said, “Usted conduce.  Estoy muy cansado.”

“Do what? Me? Drive? Uh, I mean, no puedo, no debería tener una licencia mexicana, no tengo una y la policía con pelos en la nariz terminará en la cárcel con muchas cosas Juan Gracias, malo, no es una buena, apesta.”

What I meant to say was, “I don’t have a Mexican driver’s license. I don’t want to get pulled over and end up in jail with a bunch of guys called Juan Garcia. Not good.”

What I actually said was, “I can’t shouldn’t Mexican license don’t got one and police with nose hair will dead  end up jail with many plenty Juan thank-yous, bad, not good, sucks.”

Diego shrugged, opened the passenger-side door, threw my suitcase in the back seat and hopped in. 

I think the car started out white but that’s a total guess. It was held together with an abundance of duct-tape to cover up the rust and coat hangers to keep things like the hood from flying off the car while driving.  I thought it would have made a for a great coat hanger TV commercial:

Woman: “Hey, Bob. Look at all the Johnson Coat Hangers holding the neighbor’s car together!”

Man: “That’s right, Becky! No driver should ever be without a 50-pack of Johnson Coat Hangers! You can use ’em to hold down the hood, be a state-of-the-art antenna, keep the rear doors from falling off, hold the wheels in place, secure the top from flying off, make sure that darn engine doesn’t fall out and so much more!!!”

Woman: “Gosh, Bob. Every car owner needs plenty of Johnson Coat Hangers!”

Man: “Heh, heh. You’re so right, Becky! Johnson Coat Hangers are also great for relieving constipation, clearing your sinuses and hitting the kids on the side of the head whenever they’re being total jackasses!”

Woman: “You know, Bob. That’s real value! They’ll make the perfect Christmas gift this year!”

Opening the driver’s side door involved me putting my foot flat on the side of the car and pulling the door as hard as I could which caused a creaking sound that could have been heard in Honduras. 

The car continuously shook, rattled, belched and backfired. That was before you even started the engine. 

It eventually started and I drove while Diego drank beer, slept and gave occasional directions by pointing at the next turn about 8 feet before I needed to make the turn. I think I ran over 12 taco stands and 40 chickens on the drive. I thought it best to stay away from the beer while driving so I opened a can of the Mexican version of Coca-Cola which tasted like two-week-old carbonated cat litter. I took one sip, spit it out and yelled, “Cerveza, cerveza!!! Por favor!!! Ahora!!!”

Diego gave me a beer. I slammed it. He gave me another.

As mentioned in the previous chapter, there was no road. Just one continuous road-hazard which took over forever to navigate. The car bitched and moaned the entire time. There was a severe latency issue.  When I hit the brakes, nothing would happen for a couple of seconds before the brakes would start screeching causing the car to shake violently until it stopped which would then cause the engine to turn off.  The steering mechanism, when it worked, had a 5 degree turning capability so making a right hand turn was a 10 minute proposition which meant numerous stops which resulted in the engine turning off. Hitting the accelerator caused the engine to produce the kind of noise you’d associate with 300 jackhammers. The zero-to-sixty speed could have been timed with a sundial.  Plus, all the coat hangers rattled like crazy, smoke came through the air vents, the glove compartment door kept falling off and the horn would randomly blast just before the engine shut off. There were no shock absorbers so every dip in the road resulted in a huge shock which resulted in the car backfiring followed by the engine shutting off.  

The only thing in the car that worked correctly was the AM radio which Diego insisted on playing way too loud. This was highly unfortunate because the popular music in Mexico in 1980 was some of the most hideous crap you could imagine. Every song was a ballad with a very bad opera singer bellowing over a few trumpets and an out-of-tune string section. The subject of the songs were women all named Maria. Maybe it was just a coincidence. Perhaps they were all singing about the same woman who happened to be named Maria. If that was the case then she must have been quite a girl. Anyway, the storyline of every song was how Maria kicked the singer to the curb for a guy who who was deceitful, mean, selfish and ugly but made up for it by being rich so Maria, being quite shallow, fell in love with the rich guy who was only interested in naughty things like doing drugs and having premarital sex. However, the day would come where she’d realize how miserable she was because the rich guy didn’t really love her the way he, the opera singer, did and she’d return to him which is why he would spend every night standing under the moonlight in his cow pasture because he just knew some enchanted evening she’d come running back into his arms. He, the bad opera singer, just knew this day would come. 

Well, I mean, I dunno, perhaps Maria wasn’t a total ditz, after all. Maybe she completed a cost/benefit analysis and came to the conclusion that a life of endless sex, high-class cocaine, expensive vacations and designer clothes was preferable to standing in a pasture with cow manure between her toes in the arms of a pathetic loser.

“Hmmm,” Maria probably thought. “Would I prefer eating caviar, drinking champagne and taking in a Broadway show every night or am I better off in a house with lousy plumbing, eating beans and farting all night with Loser-Boy while watching Celebrity Bowling on a 13″ black and white TV?”

Some decisions are easier than others. 

Anyway, the drive just to get out of Mexico City took a little longer than 4th grade. 

Most of the roads in the city had the requisite markings indicating specific lanes. Lanes on a road are pretty easy to understand. You get in one and you drive in it. If you want to make a left turn then you get in the left lane. If you’re on a two-lane highway then you don’t want to take your half in the middle. Easy.

Well, no, actually. Lanes, at the time, meant nothing in Mexico. If there was room for your car between two other cars then you shoved your way in there. You could be in two different lanes, on a service road, shoulder, slip road, emergency road or half-way into oncoming traffic. Didn’t matter.

To me, this seemed to present a challenge because if you’re on the far right side of a highway that indicates there should be four lanes and you want to turn left soon then you have to navigate across multiple cars none of which are in anything resembling a lane. Turned out the locals were able to overcome this by not caring. When it was time to turn left, you turned left. You could be on the right shoulder of an eight lane highway and immediately turn left. It really didn’t matter. This made intersections a lot of fun because you had cars coming at you from all directions. 

Which brings me to my next point. Intersections, in Mexico, weren’t called intersections. They were called, “Encrucijada de la Muerte [Crossroads of Death],” mostly because half of the traffic lights in Mexico City didn’t work. Mexicans developed a clever way to manage this by, again, not caring. Every driver assumed the traffic lights were there for decoration only. So, the traffic light could be out, could be blinking, could be red, could be green, could be pink with a stripe down the middle or, and I did see this, could be on fire due to faulty wiring. 

So, driving through the intersections was a Mexican version of Russian Roulette except Russian Roulette is much more humane because you have only one bullet for six chambers. The chance of you not blowing your brains out is 83.33%. That’s pretty good. And, okay, let’s say things didn’t turn out as well as you hoped and you failed in not blowing your brains out while playing Russian Roulette. Fine, Negative Nancy, be that way, see if I care. But, look, assuming you’re holding the gun directly on your head, the time between you pulling the trigger and you entering the homeland, so to speak, is really limited. It’s quick. Done.  No mas.

Mexican Roulette was a bitch because you had cars coming at you from all directions whose drivers had no intention of slowing down or stopping because no one’s brakes worked. 

Which brings me to my next point. The cars being driven in Mexico appeared as if they’d been active participants in World War II but hadn’t been serviced since World War I. They all looked like that one weird piece of bacon on the bottom of the package. You had cars with crushed front ends, crushed back ends, crushed doors, dents, rust, missing sideboards, broken mirrors, cracked windshields, no windshields, rear bumpers dragging on the road, bald tires, broken headlights, smoke belching from where the exhaust system used to be, mufflers dragging on the road, more smoke coming from under the hood and sparks flying what with no brake pads (on those very rare moments when someone actually applied the brakes). 

Once we got outside city limits, Diego immediately suggested a little side trip to Acapulco where we might complete a rather complicated transaction that involved me giving Diego some American money, Diego giving some guy the money and the guy giving us a healthy amount of weed. Acapulco Gold. I was delighted to oblige. I had heard nothing but good things about Acapulco Gold. I remembered Cheech and Chong’s advertising jingle on the subject:

“No stems, no seeds that you don’t need / Acapulco Gold is [long toke] bad-ass weed.”

As the crow flies, it may be a little over 200 miles from Mexico City to Acapulco. Owing to the Mexican Government’s excellent upkeep of the highway system, the trip took seven hours. 

The first time we stopped for fuel was in the sticks. The gas station consisted of one gas pump next to a very old house with three elderly gentlemen sitting, side-by-side, in front of the house. They could have easily passed as the Three Stooges. Curley had a shotgun on his lap just to ensure a satisfactory customer experience. 

I got out of the car and walked towards the gas pump. The only indication that actual gasoline that might come from the pump was a sign saying, “Ga ol na.”  Seemed close enough for our purposes. I went to pull the nozzle and noticed the guy who looked like Moe from the Three Stooges was standing about 10″ to my left and giving me a deadpan stare. 

Now, this is 1980 and self-service gas stations in the States were just becoming all the rage. Until the late 70s, some poor, dumb slob employed by the gas station had to pump the gas for you and was required to take a 400 year old squeegee so he/she could slop some muddy water onto your windshield and attempt to remove the water by scraping the squeegee across your windshield. Because the rubber side of the squeegee no longer had rubber on it, the net effect was you now had a muddy windshield with long horizontal scratches. Then, for reasons I never understood, he/she insisted on checking the car’s oil level by popping the hood, pulling the dipstick, wiping it off with a towel that hadn’t been washed since the Spanish/American War, putting the now very dirty dipstick back from whence it came and dropping the hood as hard as possible in order to break the hood’s latch.

Fortunately, you now had enough gasoline to drive to a repair shop to get a new windshield, a new hood and an oil change. 

I guess you can see why market acceptance of self-service gas stations was so strong.

It seemed the self-service concept hadn’t reached Mexico which explained Moe standing next to me at point blank range. We stood facing each other in silence, nose-to-nose, for 10 seconds like boxers before a fight. 

I broke the ice. “Sí, oye.  Entonces, necesitas gasolina muy rápido…[no response]…¿Llenas la grieta o hago gas?….[silence]…Uh, ¿ahora tengo gasolina o después?…[still nothing]….Right-o. ¿Monies America es aceptación de dólares?…[more deafening quiet]…Okay. ¿Dónde está el baño con los hombres?”

What I meant to say was, “Hi. We need gasoline. Do you fill the car or do I? Do I pay now or after? Do you take American money? Where is the men’s bathroom?”

What I actually said was, “Yeah, hey. So, uh, You need gasoline alot quick. Do you fill the crack or I make gas? Uh, now I got gas or after? Monies America is dollars acceptance? Where is the room with the men?”

The entirety of Moe’s response was, “¿Qué?”

I pulled $3 out of my back pocket and said, “Gasolina?”

Moe grinned, grabbed my money and filled the car with something that may have resembled gasoline. 

After we got back on the road, Diego said he traded a couple beers with Larry for a pack of cigarettes which seemed like a fine idea until I smoked one. It was a Mexican cigarette. I think the name of the brand was “Caca de Bebé [Baby Poop].” If you took a rotting corpse, set it on fire, stood over it and inhaled the smoke then you’d get an idea of the taste. I got ⅓ of the way through the cigarette, pulled over, jumped out of the car, threw up, gargled with some beer, grabbed a pack of Marlboros out of my suitcase and smoked 2 in a row just to get rid of the rotting corpse taste.

At dawn, we arrived in Acapulco. Diego toodled off, with my money, to score some Acapulco Gold. I was still wearing the clothes I wore on the flight and I’m sure I smelt dreadful.  I jumped into some gym shorts and went to the beach.  I started swimming in Acapulco Bay at sunrise. This still qualifies as a lifetime highlight. The sunlight bounced off the bay. There wasn’t a soul in sight. No sounds other than those of the waves rolling into the shore. The water was pristine. I thought about telling Diego to drive to Chiapas by himself and come back to pick me up in about 5 years. I swam for a while and dreamed of a new life on the beach in Acapulco. 

I did finally manage to pry my way out of the bay and started walking back to the car.  I made a stop at a little tiled area where there was a hose, soap, shampoo, conditioner and a mirror. I don’t know who thought to put this little cleaning oasis on the beach but I thought it was a nice touch.

I got back to the car but saw no sign of Diego. I was lying in some grass near the car when I saw Diego sprinting to the car, large brown bag in hand, speaking a mile a minute in Spanish. Clearly agitated and making frantic gestures indicating we needed to get out of Acapulco right now. He threw the bag into the back seat and jumped in the driver’s seat while continuing his Spanish psycho-babble and his spastic arm movements. 

I barely made it to the passenger’s seat before Diego hit the gas.

Not that hitting the gas in the Ford Pinto returned any immediate benefits but, eventually, it managed to pick up some speed. 

Diego continued his ranting in Spanish. Do you remember the I Love Lucy sitcoms where Ricky Riccardo would start a rapid-fire monolog in Spanish whenever Lucy did something supremely stupid?

Well, that was Diego.

I picked up pieces of what he was yelling. I heard him exclaim, “Dios mío,” every 10 seconds or so.  “Mierda,” made an appearance four times per sentence, at least, as did the exclamation, “Está muerto.” 

“Diego, no mas. Stop. Who’s dead? Uh. I mean. ¿Quién está muerto, I mean, muerto dead?”

Diego kept stammering, “Él estaba muerto.  Muerto.  No lo sabía.  Disparo.  Muerto.  ¿Qué puedo hacer?  No lo sabía.  Mierda, mierda.  Esto es malo.  Mierda!”

“Whoa, whoa, hang on, Sparky. Who’s dead? ¿Quién está muerto?”

It took awhile before I could piece together the story.  It seems my boy, Diego, went to see his pot-dealing friend with the intention of buying an ounce of Acapulco Gold. Easy enough. The door to his flat was ajar and music was playing. Probably a song about Maria. A song where you want to gently tell the singer, “Amigo, Maria ain’t coming back. She’s outta your life. Gone for good. Not gonna happen. There are, evidently, plenty of Marias in the ocean. Stick your little pole out there and see what you can catch.”

Anyway, Diego walked in and saw his friend, Paolo, lying on a sofa but not looking too well what with having been shot in the head and all. Diego’s expert assessment was his friend was quite dead.

Now, at this point, I might have called a family members or, at least, a mutual friend. I mean, someone really should have gotten an update on old Paolo’s current metabolic state.

Instead, Diego, being a really good friend, rummaged around the flat until he found the dead guy’s entire stash, dumped it into a grocery bag, left, had second thoughts, went back to the flat, took a couple bottles of tequila and left again. Only to return and steal any cash he could find. As he left his good yet extremely deceased friend to begin decomposing, he heard someone telling him to stop. That scared him so he ran as fast as he could.

I didn’t know the Spanish way to say, “You are a 100% morality free zone.”

After driving for half, Diego began developing a guilty conscience. He even considered going back to provide aid and comfort to his dearly departed friend. 

I didn’t think that was a solid idea. I clearly explained this to him, “¿Qué estúpido puedo traerte? ¿Qué vas a hacer, irte a la cama con él para que tengas una historia?”

What I meant to say was, “How stupid can you get? What are you gonna do, read him a bedtime story?”

What I actually said was, “What stupid can I get you? What are you go do, go in bed with him so you have a story?”

Diego spent a long time trying to figure out what the hell I just said and forgot all about going back to Acapulco.

I looked in the shopping bag. There was around a pound of high-grade pot and two large sealed bottles of top-shelf tequila. Also, as a nice touch, my boy stole two shot glasses which was, all things considered, rather considerate on his part. 

We weren’t being followed so that was good. Diego rationalized away any guilt by saying that he, Diego, didn’t kill anyone and if Paolo had already shuffled off this metal coil then he, Paolo, really didn’t mind Diego taking all his pot and tequila. Besides, God was probably cool with everything since the only sins he committed were against a guy who was dead so they didn’t count nearly as much. And,  let’s face it, Paolo was most likely going to Hell so it was quite unlikely that God would give a rat’s ass in the first place. 

After much back and forth, Diego agreed we needed to dump the pot. In return, I agreed to not mention any of this to Sara and Lukey. I poured us a couple shots and we toasted the fact that we weren’t dead. I laid back in the passenger’s seat while Diego navigated the continuous road hazard. I could see the Pacific Ocean from time to time. Everything seemed peaceful. There were no signs of death squads or poverty anywhere. Okay, it wasn’t the Upper East Side. I didn’t notice any Jags on the road but the modest houses were in good repair, people moved around at a leisurely pace and the ambience was hardly threatening. Plenty of open space.  The people we drove past looked fine. Happy, even. 

Maybe all the reports about pain and suffering were blown way out of proportion. Most likely by the aid agencies wanting more donations. 

After a while, I closed my eyes and contented myself with profoundly naughty visions vis-à-vis that air hostess. 

I must have slept quite awhile because, when I finally woke up, we were in another hemisphere. There were no ocean views and definitely no cute haciendas with contented families in front of them. We were in a thick forest. In the mountains. I wondered if Diego missed a turn which explained why we ended up on the Appalachian Trail somewhere in the middle of West Virginia.

“Uh, Diego. ¿Dónde the hell estamos?”

Diego, looking very tired, “Oaxaxa. You sleep. Largo tiempo. ¿Conducirías el coche? Por favor.”

“Sí,” was my entire response. And, as requested, I took over driving duties. Oaxaca is the state next to Chiapas so we were heading in the right direction. However, according to Diego, we had to go up country due to a road closure. I figured out was probably due to a half mile long pothole.

We were definitely in the sticks. Plus, the road we were on was built by people who must have been blind because the entire drive involved a rapid series of ridiculous hairpin turns. We drove passed plenty of cars that tried and, based on the condition of the cars, failed to navigate one of the turns. The occupants of those cars probably just stayed in the cars until they dropped dead because a slow death would be much more rewarding than driving on this road.

Scattered along the way were little towns and communities that were in ruins or headed in that general direction. This was the first time I had an unfiltered, first-hand view of abject poverty. Stark, frightening, hopeless, humiliating, crushing poverty. Now, I’m not going to pooh-pooh urban or rural poverty in the States but, in terms of scale, depravity, danger and severity, this was something for which I was utterly unprepared. 

I saw people with nothing except a house that looked like it would cave in at any moment. No money, no shoes, no hospitals, no sanitation, no electricity, no businesses, no food and no hope. Nothing. Those we drove past looked devastated. Their facial expressions were blank but you could see the desperation in their eyes. Some folks were slowly shuffling around. Others were sitting near the side of the road and staring straight ahead. The only people walking around with any purpose were those with guns. 

In a panic, I woke up Diego and said, “¿Que the hell esta pasando aqui? This is a nightmare. Uh, pesadilla.”

His casual response was, “Socialism suck. No money. Muchos barrios marginales. Much poor. Malo.”

“Is it this bad in Arriaga?”

“Sometimes. Depends.”

That really wasn’t the answer I was hoping for.  At that very moment, the Pinto backfired. I thought, Yup. Couldn’t agree more. 

Diego gave me a beer. 

“Ah, yes, right, thank you. Don’t mind if I do.”

Once the shock wore off, my mind ran in a million directions but would always return to one thought:

What the hell have I gotten myself into?

—End of Part Two–

a a p


Mexico, Part 3 – A Rememberance of Sombreros Past

Ask a card carrying Mexican how to get to Hidalgo Street/Calle and you’ll get a look that says, “Uh, care to elaborate, moron?” That’s because there are around 14,000 Hidalgo Streets in Mexico. It’s true. Look it up. 

At the time, there was no handy GPS app and the maps were worthless because you couldn’t figure out where you were and which of the 14,000 Hidalgo Streets you were on. 

If we weren’t on Hidalgo Street then we were probably on one of the many Juarez Streets or 5 de Mayo Roads or Allende Avenues or 16 de Septiembre Ways or whatever. Mexico can take the example from the Good Ol’ USA of America and name every road based on whatever was there before we tore it down so we could put in the road. Twin Oaks Highway, for instance. There are no twin oak trees to be found on Twin Oaks Highway. They used to be there. Sometimes there’s a little sign with a picture of the two oak trees before we bulldozed them in order to put in the road. There is no creek at Cross Creek Lane. There’s a housing development called Cross Creek Village at the end of Cross Creek Lane which is where the creek used to be. There’s probably a Starbucks there, too. And, a gas station that sells sushi-on-a-stick. And, an all-natural, organic, unprocessed, raw, high-fiber, locally grown, gluten-free, ketogenic, macrobiotic, new age, shi-shi, pretentious food store called Zen Eco Leaf Goddess LLC.

When we hit the fourth Calle 5 de Mayo, I asked Diego if they actually celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico. I’m not sure why I asked. Maybe just to get a conversation started. 

Diego gave me a look that clearly said, “Why?”

End of conversation. 

In the States, every year we celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Religiously. We have no clue why but we put on Sombreros, drink Margaritas, eat authentic Mexican food such as Doritos, chili dogs, Campbell’s Hearty Tortilla Soup (with all the goodness of real tortillas*) and Fritos dipped in “Homemade** Guacamole.” We drink the house tequila (which is a very bad idea…story for another day) and stagger around attempting to perform the Mexican Hat Dance. Instead of a hat, we beat up a golfer and take his visor. We circle around the visor and attempt to dance the flamingo which originated in Spain, not Mexico, but who cares. The first person in the Mexican Visor Dance to die from alcohol poisoning wins the visor and two parking passes to last night’s hockey game. It’s a tradition and that’s what makes the US such a great country. 

* – No tortillas. None. Zero.

** – Not homemade. Definitely, not homemade.

And, just to make the occasion even more special, we sing “I Want to Live in America” and “I’ve Just Met a Girl Named Maria” from West Side Story which has no Mexicans in it because West Side Story has absolutely nothing to do with Mexico.

You see, we Americans from the Good Ol’ USA of America don’t hyperventilate over irrelevant details. We figure Puerto Rico and Mexico are pretty much the same in that Puerto Rico is probably the capital of Spain which is part of Brazil located on the continent of Mexico in South America. You can’t miss it. It’s near Peru. Or, Portugal. One of the two. Begins with a P. Pakistan, maybe. 

Look, the point is we don’t know and we really don’t care. Doesn’t matter. We’re busy. There’s no time for us to figure out where Mexico is. Besides, there’s a wall involved, isn’t there? Or, there was? Hard to say.  We could check but we are too busy keeping our economy strong by buying our cats 60″ flat screens with money we don’t have and signing eight year contracts for a Cat TV subscription services that starts at a low, low monthly rate of $2.99 for three months before the standard monthly rate of $119.99 kicks in which, for our convenience, is billed upfront for the next seven years and nine months which comes out to $18,599.07 plus a 15% convenience charge thereby maxing out our third credit card this month for which we will make minimum payments but will never make a dent in the balance because, per the contract we signed but never read, interest on the balance due is compounded at 2% every hour plus a 15% convenience charge just before we lose civil judgments for breach of the contracts we never read so we now have to pay the bill (which is now sitting at $45,000) plus court costs, lawyer fees, interest fees on the judgments and a 15% convenience charge so we end up blaming society for “making” us run up all this debt during our second bankruptcy hearing this year. 

As you can plainly see, we are too busy to concern ourselves with geography, international affairs, the neighbor’s wellbeing, books, independent thought or pretty much anything else because running up enough debt to file bankruptcy twice a year is a lot of work. We barely have enough time to binge watch our favorite TV series, “The Further Adventures of those Lovable Pandas, Sump-Pump and Yung-Dung.” 

I’m told it’s a fascinating series. The show takes place at the National Zoo in Washington, DC. It stars the two Pandas who’ve been flung into captivity, of course, along with 25 of the sickest people on the planet all of whom were hired by the National Zoo. These 25 deranged and perverted social deviants spend their waking hours trying to force these two poor, dumb, slob Pandas to have sex. 

Now, here’s the sick part. The Zoo put Webcams all over the place so millions upon millions of Americans can watch this entire nightmare 24 hours a day. 

Anyway, back to Mexico. 

It turns out most Mexicans, according to Diego, don’t give a rat’s ass about Cinco de Mayo and quite rightly so because May 5th, 1862, was the day of the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War.

That’s right. France. 

What self-respecting country would bother celebrating a win over the French? EVERYBODY has beaten the French. France’s military is the Detroit Lions of militaries. If you gave the French Army a mean look then half of them would roll over and play dead. The other half would hide under the desk. 

Okay, you might say, “Hey, Moron! France has a history of winning wars. More than You Americans.” I might say, “Oh, yeah, they have a glorious history of winning wars against big time powerhouses like Morocco, Crete, Madagascar and Cameroon. I mean, come on, they went to war against Sweden. Sweden!!! Stop that!”

We drove through a couple of decaying ghost towns before Diego announced, “Next stop, Arriaga.” I asked what the story was with these deserted towns.  Diego assured me the towns were hardly deserted. Far from it. There were plenty of people. They were all just hiding from the government mercenaries at the moment so I shouldn’t worry. Everything was fine. 

Didn’t sound fine to me. I asked what the fine representatives of the Mexican government do when they decide to visit. Well, in Diego’s experience, they, the fine representatives, were a little unpredictable when it came to human interaction although a common thread during their visits was quite a lot of violence.  Sometimes death, destruction, mayhem and consensual sex by gun-point were involved. But, not always so there was a silver lining in there. Somewhere. 

Once in Arriaga, Diego said we really should go to his local church and pray for his dear friend Paolo and Paolo’s precious soul. This would be the same Paolo from whom Diego, after verifying his dear friend was quite dead, stole all his pot, a couple bottles of his top shelf tequila and bolted. Yeah, THAT Paolo. 

My thought was, spiritually speaking, Paolo’s train had already left the station a while ago and it was a little late in the game to ask his Maker to give good old Paolo a break. Not that I was an expert on such things but I was thinking anyone who can create a universe wouldn’t have a tough time making decisions about Paolo. My guess is it’s not like a referee in the NFL. I don’t see God calling the New York Office to make sure He got the call right the first time.

Presumably, the Mexican government’s goon squad hadn’t stopped by Arriaga recently to spread the cheer and good news because it was pretty crowded. We were in a business district. The building facades, most of them crumbling, were about two feet from the curb. The streets were beat up. Some buildings had phone lines. Most didn’t. The cute phrase the World Bank would use to describe the economic conditions in Arriaga is “Relative poverty.” Well, if’n this here poverty is relative ‘n all then to what is it relatively relative?

Excellent question. Glad you asked.

Last time I checked, the World Bank seemed to think if your average household income is half your country’s average individual income then you’re living in relative poverty. The measurement is arbitrary and stupid because if the average household in your country is flat broke then that “relative poverty” looks mighty close “total despair, deprivation and destitution…relatively speaking.” (Wait, there’s more. If you want something really arbitrary and unbelievably stupid then we can discuss “absolute poverty” which, per the World’s Bank, is currently a daily income on or below $1.90 when translated to US currency.  Think about living in the land of milk and honey on $1.90 per day. At the moment, close to a billion people on the planet are living in absolute poverty.)

In 1980, I think the average monthly individual income for Arriaga’s residents was a little under $100 US. So, chances are, you were living in relative poverty. Now, you can index it or determine the present value however you want. You can make up inoffensive phrases but, at $100 US per month, you’re not having a “temporary solvency issue,” or a “negative cash flow,” or an “asset insufficiency” or a “trend towards reverse resource abundance.” You’re definitely not in a “state of penuriousness.”

You’re broke. Period. No money. Outta cash. Screwed.

In the States, we would have classified Arriaga, or the parts I saw, as something much more severe than “relative poverty.” “Hell-Hole,” maybe. It could have passed as Skid Row but without all the tents. 

Those living in the Arriaga version of a hell-hole were much more friendly than the ones in American hell-holes. Perhaps that’s changed over the last 40-odd years but I tend to doubt it. The locals we came across were nice and polite. In fact, there was an intangible quality about them that ran contrary to their surroundings. Folks had a sense of personal pride and dignity despite their highly undignified circumstances. Their country’s government was dedicated to oppressing and humiliating those living in “relative poverty” but all outward appearance of the good people of Arriaga was one of confident optimism. Diego told me a few times that Mexicans are generous which was something I discovered a couple years later. Gangs, according to Diego, were the exception when it came to generosity or anything else resembling acts of kindness but that’s true of gangs in every other country on the planet. 

We found a place to park, got out and walked a few blocks to the church where Diego would have his talk with God about having Paulo not burn in Hell for all eternity. 

Got a lot of Catholics in Mexico. Figured I should let you know that. Arriaga was no exception. I say that based on the number of Catholic churches we passed by en route to Diego’s church of choice. These weren’t like American churches built with stone, stained-glass windows and a big sign in front. In the good old USA of America, the signs in front of churches are never digital so someone has to slide letters into the sign in order to say something clever. It’s an interesting and little known fact that, once America declared its independence, the religious leaders in the country met and, after eight or nine jello shooters, decreed that every church in the country had to find the stupidest person in the congregation and give that person the job of putting the message on the sign. No one can get the spelling correct and they can not get their message across very well. So, you get signs saying:




Stuff like that. 

One church sign I saw said:


I’m not kidding. That’s what it said. I have a picture of it somewhere.

There are very, very few subjects upon which we all agree. By “all,” I mean everyone on the planet. Conceptually speaking, “Men are straight because their mothers got in their knees,” is a place no one, NO ONE ON EARTH, ever wants to go in a million years.

It’s a safe bet that church folded mighty fast. Attendance probably went down (no pun intended) 100% in a week.

I understand the point Dude is trying to make but come on! Maybe people were too embarrassed to say to the guy, “Listen, Chief. Let me just paint you a figurative picture of what that sign is saying….”

Another actual church sign:


I wonder what attendance was like that Sunday. Probably increased just because people would be interested in hearing exactly where that sermon would go.

Anyway, the churches in Arriaga were the same dumpy buildings as all the other buildings except for the crosses and some impassioned orators standing in front of them. 

We walked past a row of very utilitarian businesses: a law office, an electronic repair company, a couple clothing stores, a check cashing place, a consignment shop and dentist’s office.  In the States, this stretch of road would have been classified as “absolute, unbelievably absolute, absolutely absolute poverty.” The experts at the World Bank, United Nations and the like would have classified it as, “Kinda eh’, relatively speaking. At least it’s not Camden, New Jersey.” Then, they’d formulate an effective strategy to improve conditions in Arriaga with the following bold initiatives:

  • Issue a press release saying,  “Someone really ought do something about this.”
  • Blame everything on America.
  • Buy new office furniture. 
  • Go to Morton’s for lunch and don’t forget to order an extra bottle of Dom because that company expense account isn’t going to spend itself. 

We found Diego’s church which actually looked like a church from the outside. Inside it was sparsely but elegantly decorated, exceptionally well maintained and unpretentious. Diego asked me to sit next to him in a pew, he knelt and recited prayers for quite awhile during which he crossed himself about eight hundred times. When it comes to praying aloud, Catholics talk really fast. At the time, I thought maybe they figured God probably had a lot on His plate and was getting pulled in a lot of different directions so they were being considerate of His time. Rather thoughtful of them.  

In the middle of his prayers, Diego started to cry. If you have two guys who don’t know each other too well and one of them starts crying then the other wants to run like hell in the other direction. It’s kinda like standing side-by-side whilst tinkling in a public restroom. It’s awkward. If you have a row of four hundred urinals then the first guy will always make use of urinal #1 (no pun intended) and the next guy will walk all the way down to #400. Same thing with crying. The first guy who’s crying goes to #1 and the guy goes to #400. I learned very early in life that if I didn’t know what to say then it’s better to keep my mouth shut. So, I patted him on the back while leaning away as far as possible. 

We finally went back outside and walked back to the car, such as it was. In the US, there’s always a slight sense of danger when walking in a poor part of town.  The mood of the residents isn’t always uplifting. A thick cloud of anger, sometimes rage, hangs in the air. 

During our little romp through Arriaga there was no sense of anger or danger at all. None. The people were easy-going and, outwardly at least, content.  Deliriously happy? No. It was easy to see that every day was a struggle for most folks. Their eyes told that story. But, that didn’t alter either the dignified persistence required from the town’s citizens just to make it through today or the resolve to believe tomorrow would be better.

On the walk back to the car, Diego said, “I sorry.”

I thought he was referring to crying in the church. “Es Bueno. No problemo. Perder amigo fue….sad… triste”

“No, no. No he sido amigable. Not….nice with you. Lo lamento. Is sorry. Tan cansado ahora.” 

He felt bad about not being friendlier to me during the drive. He was clearly exhausted.

“Gracias. Y gracias por conducir…driving so long.”

I planned to stay with Luke and Sara. I’d take the couch and they could carry-on in the bedroom. So, when we stopped in front of a building with “HOTEL” painted on the front and Diego pulled my suitcase from the car, I said, “¿Por qué?  No entiendo.” Diego didn’t share my perplexity. He assumed I knew there was some issue with the place where Luke and Sara lived so they decided I should stay here. The hotel owner and Luke were friends. Luke gave the owner some American dollars so I could stay there. Diego figured I’d quite like the hotel because he had sex there a couple of times and found the experience highly rewarding. He said, as far as amenities go, there was a  phone at the front desk and the shower usually worked pretty well. Plus, the hotel had a restaurant that served frejoles which were really good especially after sex. 

I was put off about being dropped off at a hotel. I gave Diego an incredulous look. He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Orders are orders.” I asked what the issue was with Luke and Sara’s place. Another shrug. I was too tired to inquire further.  Diego left my suitcase at the front desk, gave me a hug that lasted way too long, and said Sara and Like would come over in the morning. I asked what time in the morning. His answer was, “Before 12pm.”

In our back and forth before my little excursion to Arriaga, I did ask Luke if I should find a place to stay which brought an immediate response from him saying absolutely not, no way, they had plenty of room for me and I shouldn’t think about staying anywhere else. 

Furthermore, all I heard before the trip from them both was, “Oh, we can’t wait to see you. Just get here as soon as you can. Oh, oh, oh, please come soon. We can’t wait [blah, blah, blah].”

Well, I guess the could wait.

The hotel owner, Rick….Something, was very nice. He wanted me to know the room was really clean and that he put new sheets on the bed. He didn’t say the sheets were clean. Just new.  I figured as long as they weren’t the ones Diego used, I could manage.

Oh, yeah. Girls. Rick wanted to know how I felt about girls. I said, overall, I was in favor of the gender but if he would give me a little context to work with then I could give him a better answer. Well, Rick was offering, in the name of good customer service and for a reasonable fee, to dispatch a couple girls to my room so the three of us could have a full and frank exchange of views for the night. 

I guess I was looking “spoken for but available” although neither was true. Before I could say anything, Rick said both the girls had recently gotten rave reviews and, since they were only fourteen years old, were quite energetic. 

“Catorce?!?! Oh, hell no! De ninguna manera. Not happening.”

Rick said not to worry. The age of consent was fourteen in Chiapas so this was my lucky day although, yes, if you really wanted to get technical about it then it’s eighteen but that’s only in extenuating circumstances. Rick said there was a very simple work-around because, as long as you’re not trying to be tricky or deceitful about it ahead of time, the green field of fourteen-to-seventeen year old girls was open to all. I guess ìn Mexico you can’t ask a fourteen-to-seventeen year old girl, “Wanna come over to my cheap hotel room with potentially clean sheets and see my watercolors?” As a prelude to making whoopee, this was strictly out of bounds. I guess when the princess turned eighteen, you were allowed to lie through your teeth. But, according to Rick, I’d get a pass because there would be no deception at all. Hey, the girls would be coming to me and I’d be paying them to have sex with me so it wasn’t like they planned on coming by just to look at my watercolors. He felt I should sit back and enjoy the hospitality. In Chiapas, it was like the NBA: no harm, no foul. Plus, I shouldn’t disregard the rave reviews or the fact they were really energetic. Rick felt Mexico was rather progressive about these things compared to us tight-assed Americans. 

Now, I’m not a prude. I really am not. I’m definitely not holier than thou. Quite the reverse. At the time, I figured my worldwide holiness ranking was in the bottom two percent. But, come on. Fourteen? These are 9th grade school girls. I’m not sure any fourteen year old girl really understands what the hell she’s consenting to when she’s giving that kind of consent. I’ve been with thirty year old women who really didn’t know what the hell they were consenting to.

I let Rick know I would have to give the youngsters a miss. He frowned and wondered out loud if men were more my speed. I let him know of my blatant and, most likely, terminal heterosexuality but that I really wasn’t open for offers these days. Rick seemed to take that to mean I had a little señorita back in the States so that did put an end to any magnanimous future offers to send minors to my room.

I got a carafe of water from el restaurante and staggered to my lovely hotel suite which consisted of a bed (with clean sheets), a wooden chair, a wooden desk, a lamp and, thankfully, a working window-unit air conditioner with a bucket underneath to catch the water occasionally dripping from it. I went down the hall, took a very cold shower and fell onto the bed. Looking at the ceiling,  I thought about the two girls Rick was pimping and how their lives had probably gone to pieces. I thought I might help Rick accessorize his wardrobe by having half my boot shoved up his ass. Then I wondered what was up with Lukey and Sara who weren’t all that anxious to see me after all. Then I fell asleep. For fifteen hours straight.

I woke up still wearing a towel. It was sunrise. The town didn’t look any better than yesterday. For the first time, I wondered why I made the trip.

It was probably around 9am when I decided to walk around the neighborhood which was in serious disrepair. Most of the businesses were out of business. There was a bar, of course. It looked open. As did a gas station and a small store with quite the eclectic selection of goods. Beans. The store has lotsa beans.  Piles of them. Sorted by suspiciously bright colors. I thought they were spray painted. Next to the beans, bullets. A pile of bullets. Beans and bullets – useful but hardly interchangeable. After the bullets, there was a pile of what may have been burritos. Hard to tell. They were long and cylindrical with something resembling food inside them. Beans, probably. Or, bullets. There was a little fluorescent green ooze on them that might have been nuclear waste or the product of a severe sinus infection. 

After the disgusting burritos, vibrators. What else would you have expected? Long and cylindrical. Larger than the burritos. Much larger. Burritos and vibrators – useful but hardly interchangeable. They weren’t in a pile. I think they were sorted by feature set. Some had attachments that defied my most bizarre imagination. Anatomically speaking, they didn’t accommodate any female with whom I was familiar.

Well, you go, Girl. Whatever flips your pancake. Your very weird and, I guess, surgically altered pancake

I left the emporium and walked back to my humble hacienda. I was not sure when, or if, Sara and Lukey would pop by. I fell onto the bed just in time for a knock on the door.

“Hi-yee! Open this door right now! Your Auntie Sara is here to save the day-yee.”

I opened the door. It was Sara but not quite as I remembered from 8 months earlier. In college, Sara, by and large, looked like an unmade bed: baggy clothes, early-model sneakers and fairly wild hair pinned in random places. The Sara in front of me was in a very short t-shirt, a pair of black spray-on jeans and pink tennis shoes. She’d even put on a little makeup.

“Whoa! Aren’t you the gorgeous one!!!”

“I thought you might say that, you naughty man.” With that having been said, she jumped into my arms, squeezed her legs around me and we hugged. She rested her head on my shoulder and whispered, “Thank you sooooo much for coming. I’m soooo happy you’re here. You have no idea.”

“No place I’d rather be.”

For the next 30-odd seconds I stood with Sara wrapped around me during which we remained silent. I could feel her heart. I was holding her tightly. She and I had never slept together or even headed in that general direction. So, this probably should have felt awkward but it didn’t. It was a very comfortable moment and one certainly worth living in. 

She disembarked and panned my very meager and seedy room. “Looks like Ricky got you into the honeymoon suite.”

“Well, he did offer me the services of two fourteen year old girls for a night of spiritual insight and meaningful conversation.”

“Thought so. I told him that wasn’t your style. Twins.”

“The girls?”

“No, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Yes, the girls. Oh, now you’re interested. Uh-huh, I see.”

“Uh, no. Sex with children is way, way, WAY down on my to-do list. Right after bobbing for chain saws. Do they have names? I mean, ones that can be repeated in public?”

“Laverne and Shirley. I dunno. They’re the talk of the town. Four out of five former husbands agree the twins caused the divorce.”

“Their parents must be very proud.”

“They’re in business so they can take care of their mother. She got hit by a car and the family couldn’t afford the medical bills. Now they can. They can probably buy the hospital. Luke disapproves. He would.”

“Speaking of Lukey…..”

“Off to save the world, of course. But, you’re here now, so….”

Another lengthy, quiet embrace just before Sara announced, “Mama’s hungry! Your treat? Why, thank you! Let’s go!”

“And, where would mademoiselle care to dine?”

“Downstairs, of course. Where else is there to eat?”

“There’s the market up the street where you can have snot-covered burritos filled with florescent beans.”

“Did you see the vibrators?”

“Indeed and I have a few concerns about those.  And, some logistical questions that I may not want the answers to. Have you….”

“Oh, no. I’m sticking to my little white girlie ones. Those look too dangerous for little old meee.”

The food, much to my surprise, was really good. Sara decided to try something spicy. It must have been hot as hell because, after one bite of whatever it was she ordered, she was drenched in sweat, her nose was running, her eyes were watery and her lips were bright red. We were less than thirty minutes into lunch when Sara turned green and announced, with some urgency, she needed to find the nearest bathroom. The only unoccupied bathroom was next door to my room. She scurried off. I paid the bill and went back to my room. The wall between my room and the bathroom was probably made of cardboard because I heard some of the most horrendous noises imaginable emanating from that bathroom. At full volume. Noises that haunt me to this day. 

If you are interested in losing all possible notions of the feminine mystique then listen to a woman suffering an industrial-strength case of lower gastrointestinal distress. Oh, that’ll cure you.  It sounded like she was passing either live organs or live animals followed by the delicate sound of thirty whoopee-cushions going off simultaneously. There was the periodic reverberation that plastic explosives make upon detonation. Then more whoopee-cushions. I was about to ask if she’d inadvertently left an incendiary device in her bottom but she didn’t seem in the mood for much dialogue.

Thirty minutes later, a very pale Sara emerged and walked into my room. She appeared to have been run over by a truck. She stared straight ahead with a sad-puppy facial expression.

“Oh, dear. Would you like a little lie down?” She nodded.

“Does el baño need some tending to?” Another sad nod before she flopped onto the bed. 

I did clean up duty in the bathroom which, considering all the pandemonium, didn’t look that bad. When I got back to my room, Sara was fast asleep. I put my hand on her forehead. She wasn’t running hot. I put some water on the nightstand. I wasn’t sure what to do next. A book had fallen from her handbag. It was in English. I grabbed a couple pillows, found a place to lie down on the floor next to the bed and thought I’d give it a read.

The book was, “Sophie’s Choice.”

If you’re going to read Sophie’s Choice then my strong suggestion is to have a support group in the room with you while reading the book. Make sure a psychiatrist and a grief counselor are present at all times. Wouldn’t hurt to have someone practiced in suicide-prevention because that book is brutal. If someone gives you a copy of Sophie’s Choice then do what I should have done which was drop it on the floor and quickly back away. 

Sara didn’t move for four hours. I occasionally checked to make sure she wasn’t dead. 

So, that’s how I spent my first full day of daylight in Arriaga: looking at vibrators, listening to someone deal with the worst case of diarrhea on record and reading Sophie’s Choice.

I figured things would turn for the better that evening.

Well….no, actually.



Mexico, Part 4 – The Scream of the Wild

It was a little after 7pm. Sara was still fast asleep on my bed. I stopped reading “Sophie’s Choice” because I thought it might look tacky  to kill myself in front of a guest. The sun had set. The temperature was probably 85°F. I had done periodic wellness checks on Sara and confirmed that, while she wasn’t dead, she wasn’t smelling very good. 

Ten minutes later, I woke her up. Without saying a word, she sat up, drank the entire carafe of water I left on the nightstand and flopped back onto the bed. Staring at the ceiling, she looked puzzled and asked, “Did I pee on myself?”

“Yes. Yes, you did.”

“What’s that smell?”

“That would be you.”

“Really? That can’t be….oh…..Mama Bear’s very embarrassed.”

“Here, take a few towels. Take more than a few. The shower’s a couple doors down from the bathroom where, based on the sound effects, you had your supernatural encounter with the Colon Fairy.”

“Okay. Thank you. Oh, ick, ick, ick.”

“I believe a mandatory wardrobe change is in your immediate future.  I present to you the latest in very fashionable t-shirts and gym shorts. You shall be the Belle of the Ball. You’ll shame all the other girls. All the boys will be enchanted and will serenade you with songs of their eternal love and admiration.”

She was gingerly walking down the hall to the shower carrying a white polo shirt and black gym shorts while muttering,”Ick, ick, ick, gross, ick, ick….” 

Did you and Lukey have a tiff? You hardly mentioned him. And, since when did you start wearing skin-tight jeans and half a t-shirt? Who are you trying to impress with the white-trash, trailer-park wardrobe?

I wondered how Luke felt about it. Luke had a heart of gold and was built specifically to provide comfort and joy to the world. He was Dudley Do-Right in thought and deed. But, he was controlling in his effusively positive and highly proper way. Luke was very conservative in manner and appearance. When they first started dating, he mentioned admiring Sara for not dressing provocatively and for wearing no make-up. I thought the new look would have gotten under his skin.

Luke liked to control his environment and the people in it. Sara never seemed to be someone who wanted to be controlled. She was smart, independent and didn’t care what anyone thought of her.  Luke was smart, highly dependent and deeply concerned about the opinions of others.

I didn’t see Sara lasting very long as the demure,  semi-subservient girlfriend. On the other hand, they were nauseatingly gaga for each other which can mitigate many conflicting agendas. 

Until the day comes when it can’t.

Sara re-emerged from the shower. My polo shirt went down to her knees. She was wearing my gym shorts but they were covered by the shirt. I found this look much more endearing than the “Linda-Lou-Looking-to-get-Laid” outfit she had been wearing earlier.

I smiled at her and said, “I do like this ensemble on you very much.” 

She twirled and imitated a runway model as she strutted down the hall.  

“Should we track down your lesser half?”

“He’s going to be sooooo mad at me-yeee. Told him we’d be back after lunch. Mama’s in big trouble.”

“Well, I’ll testify on your behalf vis-a-vis the religious experience you had in the bathroom. He’ll understand.”

Sara shot me a grimace that said he wouldn’t. 

“He worries. Then his imagination goes wild. Then he gets insecure. Then he thinks I’ve left him forever. Then he thinks I’ll have sex with all the men in town because they’re better at it than him. Then he thinks everyone’s lying to him. Then he gets angry. Then he pouts. Then he won’t talk. Then he’ll tell me how tormented his life is when he has to wonder if I’ll ever come back. Then we’ll have sex. Then he’ll tell me he’s going somewhere for an hour but some back two hours late just so I can experience the same torture which I don’t. Then he gets insecure again because I didn’t suffer. Then he says he loves me more than I love him. Then we argue….”

“Well, at least there’s a little love making amidst the drama.”

She shrugged. “He tries too hard. I wish he could relax and play and just let it happen. He puts too much pressure on himself.”

“Sounds like our Lukey. He’s going to grit his teeth and achieve inner peace no matter how many times he has to beat his head against the wall.”

“I know….”

She hugged me. I hugged back. She began to cry. We kept hugging and she kept crying. This went on for a few minutes. I didn’t know what to say so I didn’t say anything. There’s a great line from the movie Glengarry Glen Ross when All Pacino tells Kevin Spacey, “You never open your mouth until you know what the shot is.” 

This is excellent advice. 

And, at that moment, I had no idea what the hell was going on. Whatever was weighing on her far exceeded the standard annoyances that accompany couples navigating the tunnel of love for the first time. I figured she’d elaborate if she wanted. 

We hit the road to Sara and Luke’s place in their open-air World War II Jeep. Sara drove which was unfortunate because she drove like shit. It never occurred to her that one might gradually disengage the clutch when changing gears. As was the case for every other driver in Mexico, she only applied the brakes as a last resort in order to keep the jeep from flipping over because she was taking sharp turns at 90 miles an hour.  Plus, the jeep, as was the case with every other car in Mexico, had no shocks. The road to their place, as was the case with every other road in Mexico, qualified as a road-hazard. Sara did a magnificent job finding every pothole and driving directly into it which was an experience made even more rewarding by the fact that the springs supporting the seats had completely rusted. 

One hundred yards from a huge police station, while driving 150 miles per hour, Sara turned right and slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting a tree. Things went flying forward, me included. My forehead hit the windshield. After stopping, Sara, without saying one word, immediately backed up, navigated past the tree and we arrived at a small house shaped like a box.

Sara glanced at me. “They really need to get rid of the tree”

Do you mean the tree 20′ left of the driveway? The driveway you’re supposed to be driving on?

“They really should have someone read you your last rites before letting you drive.” I muttered that to myself. 


“Oh, nothing. Am I bleeding from my forehead?”

“Yeah. Seen worse. You’re fine. Gives your pretty little face some character. Welcome to the Emperor’s Place. His Hiney might be asleep. Poor Dear left to save the world at 4:00 this morning. He’s probably upstairs.”

“Will I be disturbing the Emperor?”

“Nah, he wants to see you.” She opened the door and yelled, “Oh, Ricky, I’m home! Babba-Lou! I got some ‘splaining to doooo.”


I tried, loudly. “Yes, hi. I’m your regional Angel of Death. Our records indicate you should have died nine months ago. Bit of a clerical error on our actuarial table. So, I mean, it’s totally not your fault for still being alive….so that’s good. And, uh, just wondering if you might come down for a, uh, word.”

Deafening silence. 

Sara shrugged. “Guess Mama needs to wake him up. Cerveza in the fridge. Food galore. Don’t go away-yee.”

Again, acting the part of a runway model, she sashayed upstairs. I grabbed a beer, sat on an exceptionally comfortable bean bag chair and listened to fifteen minutes of emphatic whispering. I was too comfortable to care and started drifting to sleep. A very contrite and weepy Sara came back down, told me Lukey was really angry and she felt it was all her fault.  She was upset and apologetic. 

“It’s not your fault. The fault falls squarely upon the hand grenade you had for lunch.”

“I’m soooo sorry. I need to talk to him but I can give you a ride back to the hotel later if that’s okay. I’m soooo sorry. I’ve been a terrible…..”

“You’ve been wonderful. Not terrible in the least. I’m happy to see you and, someday…, hopefully…, Lukey. I’m incredibly relaxed and incapable of moving. All is JFG. Go ahead and straighten out the young man. You’ll know where to find me.” 

She bent down and kissed me on the lips. Not a long kiss but not a quick one, either. She followed up by taking my hand and kissing the back of it. She stood up and asked, “What’s JFG?”

“Jolly Fucking Good, of course.”

She laughed and shook her head. 

I smiled. “Bonne nuit, ma Chère.” 

“Night, night…and…love yeeeew.”

A kiss on the lips, a kiss on my hand and an awkward, “Love you.” 

I considered all this very seriously for about eight seconds. Then, I fell asleep. Only to wake up an hour later listening to the young lovebirds who had, evidently, resolved their differences and decided to mark the occasion by having sex. Loudly. Their bedroom door was open and the bed springs sounded like they were connected to speakers you’d normally use at a Metallica concert. The entire house had no carpet so the sound of every breath, utterance, groan, kiss, thrust and position change ricocheted off the hardwood floor at full volume.

Speaking of the cartoon noises people make during sex, I remember another time I was in Mexico. It was the early 2000s. I was in Mexico City on a business trip.  I was on the top floor of a 40 story hotel.  I had eaten the guacamole earlier that day and I was sick as a dog. I couldn’t even stand up due to nausea. I couldn’t crawl more than five feet from the bathroom for fear of throwing up all over the hotel’s carpet. It felt as if I had a fever of 135°. I had my head on the tiled floor in hopes of cooling off. My entire body felt like I was being visited by the Cactus Fairy.

Guacamole on the rebound, by the way, leaves a lot to be desired. It doesn’t taste any better the second time. Thought I’d let you know that. If you intend on throwing up later in the day then best to steer clear of the guacamole.

Based on the noises coming from the next room, I must have been in the suite next to the honeymoon suite.

The couple occupying the honeymoon suite were busily consummating matters but I think they were new at this sort of thing because this was a very unrefined attempt at love making. It sounded like one of those professional wrestling matches where one guy gets body-slammed, then the other guy crashes onto a table, then they hit each other on the head with folding chairs, and then they try to pin each other. Pictures were falling from the walls, luggage was getting knocked off tables and the nightstand was getting kicked around the room. 

The dialog wasn’t terribly enlightening:

Her: Hey, wait.  

Him: What?  

Her: Not so fast. 

Him: Ouch.

Her: Not there.

Him: Oh, sorry.

Her: Ouch.

Him: Oooof.

Her: Not yet.

Him: Argh!

Her: Look out.

Him: What?

Her: The lamp.

Him: Lamp?

Lamp: CRASH.

Him: Oops.

If you’re arranging the furniture in the honeymoon suite then I’d suggest against putting the headboard of the bed in the honeymoon suite flat on the other side of the wall from another resident’s bathroom. The sound coming from one side of the wall doesn’t necessarily enrich the lives of those on the other side of the wall.  

They must have heard me throwing up and continuously flushing the toilet. I can’t imagine that was terribly inspiring for Romeo and Juliet on the other side. 

Their headboard kept banging into the wall. But, not in the rhythm you’d expect. It was more along the lines of, “bump, bump……bump bump bump….bumb….CRASH…..bump bump……bump…bump….CRASH….”

What in the world are you two attempting to accomplish?

I thought that. I didn’t say it. But, I did laugh out loud at one point. I quickly flushed the toilet in hopes they didn’t hear me but I had a feeling they did as it was followed by a minute of silence before they went back into action. 

Then, we had an earthquake.  The hotel was swaying back and forth, I was throwing up and losing my balance while Caveman and Cavewoman carried on with their tackling drills.  

Next morning, I walked out of my room just as they were walking out of theirs. They both looked pretty beat up. Caveman had a black eye. I looked at the woman and said, “The earth really DID move, didn’t it.”

She smiled but looked highly embarrassed.

Anyway, while Sara and Luke were making high-volume whoopie, I tried not to listen. I made some noise by coughing, yawning with gusto, walking loudly to the refrigerator and grabbing a beer thinking that might motivate them to close the door, at least. It didn’t. As I mentioned before, a puritan I’m not. I don’t worry about what the rest of the world is getting up to in bed. Plus, I went to college. I lived in the dormitories. Except for “Parent’s Weekend,” you heard people having sex all the time. 

When I was in college, three freshmen were shoved into rooms built for one. People slept in alcoves, closets, utility rooms and any other space that would fit a bed. Privacy concerns were eased by the fact there was no privacy. For the first few weeks of the fall semester, people would attempt to have sex quietly. By the time midterms came along, nobody cared enough to be quiet about anything. 

It was during a Parent’s Weekend that I experienced a painfully awkward moment. One of my roommates, Jason, set up his bedroom in the walk-in closet. Bed, portable TV, small refrigerator and a lamp. And, a girlfriend. A very loud girlfriend. Amy. That was her name. She was affectionately referred to as Screech due to the occasional screams emanating from the closet.

You probably have an idea where this is going. 

It was early Sunday morning. I was staggering back to my dorm room after visiting my girlfriend’s walk-in closet for the weekend. I hadn’t slept in two days and could barely keep my eyes open. In front of my room was a well dressed, middle-aged couple who appeared to be rather appalled. They knocked on the door. As I approached, my temptation was to keep walking and pretend I didn’t live there but I was exhausted and in desperate need of sleep. 

The closer I got to the room, it became very clear, based on the moaning and groaning, Amy was having a grand old time with Jason in their little love-closet. I stopped at my door, indicated to the couple I lived there and asked if I could be of assistance. By this point, Amy, in her very loud way, was letting the rest of us know she was about to reach the top of Olympus, as it were. 

The couple and I stood looking at each other for a moment before the woman started the conversation:

The Woman: “Are you Jason?”

Me: “No, sorry. I’m Drew. Would you like to speak with Jason?”

(Amy in the background: “Faster!!! FASTER!!!”)

The Man: “No. No we would not.”

(Jason in the background: “I’m going as fast as I can!”)

The Woman: “We’re Amy Grayson’s parents. We were told she might be visiting someone named Jason.”

Me: “Ah, yes. We do have A Jason. I’m not sure if he’s….in….I mean, the one you’re looking for. I just got back myself and, uh, well…not sure….”

(Amy in the background: “Oh, oh, Jasonnnnnn, OOOOH!”)

The Woman: “Amy wanted to meet so we could go to church together.”

(Amy in the background: “Oh, God, oh, God, ohGod, ohGod, OHGOD!!!”)

Me: Ah, yes, I do see. Right-o. Indeed. Well, uh, let me just pop in and have a look.”

The Woman: “Do you know Amy?”

(Amy in the background: “Ooooohhhh, ooooohhhh! ARGHHHH!!! YES!!!”)

Me while fumbling with my keys: “Amy? Me? No. Well, I know of her. I mean, we’ve met. But, I don’t know her. Not in the Biblical sense, at any rate. We speak to each other. It’s casual. Completely. Like, I’m not her boyfriend or anything and…. Right. Would you like to come in?”

The Man: “No. No we would not.”

(Amy in the background having hit pay dirt, so to speak: “AAAAHHHHHHHH!!! YES!!! AAAAHHHH!!”)

During Amy’s screaming orgasm, the three of us stood silently looking past each other. That was the awkward part. Her mother looked mortified. Her father looked homicidal. This is where my fatigue became a factor because, when I’m really exhausted, everything seems hilarious. One of the greatest challenges in my life was trying not to laugh in front of Amy’s parents. It was not easy. I was biting my lip, tears started forming and I was praying to get in to the apartment before losing my resolve.

I mean, it really was funny. Here were the proud parents ready to share spiritual time with their young, innocent, delicate, God-loving and pure-as-the-Arctic-snow daughter. Traditional family time in chuch, to be born-anew, sanctified, purified and to reclaim the child-like innocence that comes from true faith. Instead, they have to listen their precious little Amy hammering way with some sleaze-bag in her unholy pursuit to satisfy desires that were definitely, and I’m being mild here, earthly. My very real temptation was to say, “It’s fine. Amy generally let’s us all know when she’s having a good time.”

I really did want to say that just to see their reactions but I was too tired to start that conversation.

Instead, I gave them a smile and said, “Well, let me just take a quick peek to see if you’re daughter…., Amy, might be here….visiting, uh, Jason. Altogether unlikely, to be sure. But, uh, one never knows, do one. Right. Don’t go away.”

I walked into the room, quickly shut the apartment door, grabbed a couch cushion, held it over my face and laughed as quietly as possible. I pulled myself together long enough to loudly announce to the closet door, “Hi, Amy. I hope all is well. Listen, I hate to interrupt your study session but you’ll be delighted to know your mom and dad are here. Now. Right now. You mentioned looking forward to attending church with your parents….who are here. At this moment.”

I heard them both scrambling around trying to pull themselves together.

I opened the apartment door very slightly and told the parents, “Well, turns out Amy….your daughter….is here. Surprisingly so. Shocking, in fact. Of all places. It’s not like she is ever, uh, here. So…, you know. She may be a minute or two. Just needs to, well, get her bearings, and, well, so….uh…..right…..bearings. She’s getting them. Currently…. Would you like to come in? She should be….”

The Man replied, “No. No we would not.”

“Right. Right. Well. I hear Amy’s is doing extremely well. Academically, I mean.  You must be very…..proud. Right. Well, pleasure meeting you both. Uh, yeah….”

I shut the apartment door, flopped face-first onto the sofa and let Amy’s parents seeth in peace in the hall. Amy had flung herself together and was headed out the apartment door. She said, “Thanks, Drew. They upset?”

“Fuming. Good luck with this one.”

“I’m gonna need it.”

“I’ll put some beer on ice for when you get back. From church.”

“I’m really gonna need that.”

“It’ll be waiting for you.”

She left and I could hear the three of them walking down the hall. 

No one said a word.

Where was I? Ah, Sara and Luke. I tried to fall asleep while they were having their full and frank exchange of views but no luck.* 

The weird part was Lukey making very loud and enthusiastic statements to Sara about how in love he was with her, how lovely she looked with her clothes off and how fabulous she was in bed. Sara wasn’t replying in kind.  She kept whispering at him to keep his voice down but he still occasionally chimed in with a statement loud enough for me to hear.

It finally occurred to me Lukey was trying way too hard to make sure I knew what a happy couple they made. But, he didn’t sound happy. He sounded contrived, obvious, insecure and unconvincing. I heard Sara say she wanted to close the door but Lukey insisted they continue their blissful love making uninterrupted. 

Am I in the Twilight Zone? What is going on in my boy’s contorted, cluttered and obtuse mind? 

At that time, I was still clearing off the charred remains of a relationship that exploded a month earlier. Long story, that one. Went by the name of Carolyn. She was looking for someone who’d devote himself to the care and feeding of her voluptuary psychosis. I didn’t meet her expectations in that regard. While listening to Sara and Lukey carry on, I remembered one early evening with Carolyn. Carolyn was a screamer, too. And, she let loose with a scream loud enough that the two retired nuns living next door called the police. 

I’m not kidding. I had two elderly, retired nuns as nextdoor neighbors. They thought I was a total boy scout because I did their household repairs, snow shoveling and whatnot. Plus, I’d pick up the older of the two off the floor when she fell and couldn’t get up. They were two of the nicest people on the planet. As far as any understanding of the unholiness in the carnal world around them, they had none. No clue whatsoever. 

We heard some commotion next door and saw the police lights. The bedroom window was open.  As the neighbors started gathering, we heard the nice nuns speaking frantically to the police.  Both were mortified and terribly concerned for this “poor girl.” Neither one heard a gunshot so they posited the girl screamed while being stabbed to death and asked, with much indignation, who could do something like that to a sweet, young girl. 

We heard the police call their HQ to discuss next steps to locate and save this poor, frightened girl who was, no doubt, the victim of a heinous and violent crime. 

I smiled at Carolyn. “I believe you are the poor girl in question.”

“Huh? What? Huh?”

Carolyn wasn’t exactly a MENSA candidate so her response wasn’t terribly surprising. 

“You came. You screamed. They heard. They called the police. I think that’s the sequence of events. Before they bring in the bloodhounds and helicopters, maybe I should let the police know….”

“Nooooo, don’t, don’t, don’t. Pleeeeeze? This is, like, private. Okay?”

This was the same Carolyn who liked having surreptitious sex in public venues (story for another day) so I’m not sure how privacy became a major consideration. I explained it was best to put the fire out now before the entire neighborhood goes up in flames but I’d be discreet about it. I suggested she put some clothes on just in case. 

She agreed. I meandered outside and spotted a female police officer. Figuring she’d be more discreet and professional about this than her male colleagues, I took the matter up with her. After quietly explaining the key events, she stepped into my house to see that Carolyn was doing just fine, said she’d handle it from here and even volunteered to tell my nextdoor neighbors Carolyn saw a mouse.  

“They’re retired nuns. I don’t think you’re allowed to lie to nuns, retired or otherwise.”

The officer said she’d let them know everything and everyone was fine. She wished me good luck explaining what really happened to the nuns. 

Anyway, Sara and Lukey eventually went to sleep as did I. But, not before wondering if all my future trips would be as strange as this one. 

The answer, as it turned out, was yes.


* As far as euphemisms for sex go, “Full and frank exchange of views” is my absolute favorite. It’s brilliant. I pinched it from one of John Le Carre’s books. I can’t remember which one. Le Carre rarely mentioned sex in his books but, when he did, he had the perfect turns of phrase. “…she astonished him with a joyous and refined carnality…” I mean, how great is that?


Mexico, Part 5 – You Are So Mediocre To Me

Everyone’s a Winner!

“Well, I dooooo declare! Mr. Andrew Lowry, as I live and breeeeeeeth! Time to riiiiise and shiiiiiine!”

That was Luke. He was being loud while standing over me with a sloppy grin.

“Was I not asleep ten seconds ago? Who are you? Who am I? What time is it?”

“Yes. Luke. Drew. 6am. You have sixteen questions left. Let’s go, Bro! We need to put you to work.”

I was not pleased.

Get lost. I traveled two days to get to this dump. Almost died getting here, could’ve gotten tossed in jail for dragging around a couple pounds of weed (courtesy of your half-witted errand boy), ran over who knows how many chickens on the drive, spent a few hours in a church mourning the loss of some flea-bag pot dealer and got assigned a hotel room so as not to disturb your domestic bliss, such as it is. Shove off.

“You are evil and you must be destroyed. Coffee. Must find coffee….”

“Café is in a thermos in the jeep where you need to beeeeee! We have a long drive. Rick dropped off all coloring books from your room.”

“Rick? Who’s…., oh, the hotel guy who really, really really wanted to send me two 14-year-olds for some all-night mattress testing. And, no, I didn’t take him up on the offer.”

Luke laughed. “Ah-ha, that’s why he told me you’re gay. So, now that we have solved that mystery, get up. Time’s a wasting.” 

You couldn’t be bothered to come down stairs last night to say hello. Now it’s time for me to be free labor. 

“Yes, Mother. May I, pretty please, go tinkle first?”

Luke pretended to be annoyed. “Oh, sure, fine, there you go. Putting yourself ahead of needy children, as usual. Go ahead. Oh, I forget to mention, it’s great to see you, Big Guy.”

“And, you, my friend. This’ll be an express tinkle. I’ll do the self-service option.”

“Hi-yeeeee!” Sara entered the room. “While you two were busy fondling each other, your Auntie Sara got everything loaded in the jeep. What’s up, Sleepy Head?”

“Oh, me. I’m astonishingly refreshed after my nine solid minutes of sleep. My immediate plan is to go do number one. I shan’t be long.”

Sara jumped up and down in mock-excitement. “I wanna watch, I wanna watch! Pleee-yeeez?”

I feigned grave concern.  “I’m worried about you.”

“Well, join the club!” Sara looked at Luke. Luke looked back and abruptly walked away. 

Two minutes later, we were destined for parts unknown in their 300 year old open-air jeep filled with boxes including the coloring books and my suitcase with all its contents. 

The jeep looked like this except the one I was in had bald tires, a missing grill, dented bumpers and the passenger’s door occasionally fell off.

Luke casually mentioned, “We’ll be staying overnight. It’ll be fun. You get to pass out the coloring books. Every kid in the forest will love you.”

“Every kid in the what?”

“Forest. Listen, why don’t you get some shut-eye. We’ll stop in a couple hours and get you some food.”

The forest. Well. Isn’t that….jolly.

So, I slept. Jammed between boxes on the flatbed of the jeep while Lukey announced ways to fix Mexico problems, improve the lives of the downtrodden plus return peace and love to the valley. 

Well, that’s fine. You fix the entire country’s problems in five minutes. 

Which reminds me, I am currently working on two critically important projects to better the lives of my fellow citizens. One will, in a matter of weeks, exponentially increase the  country’s GDP. It involves urine.The other will finally unite the political parties in pursuit of one common goal. It involves hats. 

When these projects are complete, I guarantee this here “Land of the Free of the Brave” will ascend to unthinkable heights of wealth and happiness. 

It’s the least I can do for my country. 

This first one is ingenious.  When you apply for a job in the good old USA of America, you have to provide a urine sample. This is because we want to make sure you aren’t taking drugs. This is very important. You can be a violent criminal. That’s fine. We’re good with that. You can storm into work with a machete and threaten to kill all the administrative staff. The worst that’ll happen is a manager might suggest you contact Employee Assistance. However, thou shalt not bring thine filthy drugs to our holy and sacred workplace on accounta drugs are bad.

This fixation with drugs in the workplace is, of course, ridiculous and a complete waste of time. Drugs aren’t the problem. People are. Plus, it doesn’t keep anyone from taking drugs after getting the job. If you stood up in a corporate office and said the drug testing will start in five minutes then 80% of the employees will immediately urinate on themselves. 

There’s a reason for that. 

What corporate America urgently needs is a urine test for stupidity, willful ignorance, laziness and corruptibility. Just think what your company could accomplish if you got rid of those kinds of people. 

Anti-Jackass Urine Test

If you had a urine test that identified the losers ahead of time so you could avoid hiring them then your net earnings would quadruple. 

This is where I come in with my breakthrough AJUT (Anti-Jackass-Urine-Test). I’m getting close. We completed an initial trial with the Nestlé Company. Unfortunately, all the employees at the company tested positive. All of them. Perhaps Nestlé wasn’t the best company to run our beta. It turns out that a consortium of Mafia families refused a merger opportunity with Nestlé on the grounds that, “Yes, fine, we’re criminal but we’re not THAT criminal.”

It needs a little fine tuning but we’re getting there. 

My other project relates to the pathetic state of politics in this country. You see, in the good old USA of America, politicians aren’t elected based on qualifications, accomplishments, experience, expertise or personal conduct. Even the political ads are meaningless because they all say the same thing: “Vote for me and I’ll give you whatever you want. PS, my opponent sells child porn to finance his campaign.” No rational person takes these ads seriously.

Now, before you get tuned up, I’m neither Democrat nor Republican. I’m Independent. Primarily, because Democrats and Republicans tend to scream the answer at you before you’ve even had a chance to ask the question. Plus, this entitles me to change my mind because I might receive new information that may cause me to reconsider my position on certain topics.

This, I’m told, is a potential impact from a process researchers refer to as “learning.” I classifies me as a DIBWOC (Duplicitous Incontinent Bed-Wetting Obtuse Centrist). Which is fine.

For those unfamiliar with the major political parties in the Land of Milk and Honey, Democrats are the ones who keep making the same stupid mistakes because they refuse to learn from the past. Republicans are the ones who come off as knuckle-dragging morons because they refuse to stop living in the past. The only thing they agree on is they should make it impossible for a third party to get anywhere.

When it comes to politics in the USA, everything that should be meaningful isn’t. Everything. 

Look at Donald Trump. What public policy experience or political expertise did he have? None. Other than filing bankruptcy a lot, what did he actually accomplish? Not much. Did he mention any specific domestic policy? No. Entire foreign policy? Build a wall. Personal conduct? The guy is an HR manager’s worst nightmare. 

However, Donald had a hat. It was a baseball hat and it said MAGA (Make America Great Again) on the front. Other than the hat, he had nothing. But, he became president because of that hat. Half the people who voted for him probably didn’t know what MAGA stood for. It didn’t matter. People rallied around that MAGA hat. Hillary Clinton didn’t have a hat. Case closed. 

All you need to do is determine a unifying thread. A notion upon which all Americans strongly agree. Identify that one issue, make a ridiculous slogan about it, pull an acronym out of your whatnot, put that acronym on a hat and you, my friend, can be elected president. 

And, I think I found the perfect acronym: 

MEGA – Make Excellence Go Away.

I believe all Americans are prepared to vigorously defend the country against anyone’s pursuit of excellence. On this point, we’re solid. We are resolutely….uh, resolved….in our WASTE (War Against Striving Towards Excellence).

MEGA will unite all Americans to a single cause.

I kid thee not. 

Exhibit A: The MIAC (Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), who govern collegiate sports for the state, recently threw STU (St. Thomas University), a member school, out of its football conference because their football team kept beating the other teams in that conference and those other teams didn’t like it. 

You think I’m kidding.  

I am not kidding.

It made the students with other schools feel bad about themselves. They were sad, probably all ended up in therapy, were immediately diagnosed with PTLD (Post-Traumatic Loser Disorder), put on medication and remain unemployed because they can’t pass the drug test.   

Now, I know there may be some lowbrow, mouth-breathing, radical, anti-slothers out there right now asking, “Gosh, wouldn’t the people on the other teams be motivated to work harder, work smarter, improve their performance and become a better team so they can beat St. Thomas University?”


Hell, no.

Are you out of your mind? This is America! Where Amber waves her grain upon these fruited planes [sic] over Dawn’s early light in the home of the bombs bursting in air! We have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of feeling good about ourselves without having to do anything to feel good about! Says so in the first amendment of the Constitution which we refer to often but never actually read.

Did you hear about the professor who was fired because his class was too easy. No, you didn’t. Because it never happened.

Exhibit B – Public Schools. Schools in the States teach all children that everyone’s a winner. Everyone. No one is a loser. Ever. This includes giving all children trophies saying they are winners. 

Of course, there are some flatulent free-market types who’ll make threatening and demeaning statements to the effect of, “If EVERYONE is a winner then no one’s a winner. Stands to reason.”

Fine. Fine, fine, fine. It’s a tie. Everyone is tied. 

Anyway, this is how it works in public schools:

Let’s say you have two 5th graders. One is called Natalie. The other is called Jasper.

Natalie shows up 30 minutes early to school everyday, gets 100% on all her tests, is 50 weeks ahead on her homework, helps her classmates with their homework, is the 3rd ranked chess player in the world and was recently published in the top science journals where she repealed Avogadro’s Law.

Then, there’s Jasper. Jasper shows up 2 hours late because he can’t remember the name of his school, is 36 months behind on his homework, still isn’t toilet trained, has a GPA of -0.5, picks his nose and vomits on his desk. 

Here’s Jasper after his third attempt to wash his hands.

As far as the school’s concerned, there is absolutely no difference between Natalie and Jasper. They’re both winners. They both get similar trophies. Natalie gets one for her breakthrough quantum theory of gravity which will enable scientists to determine the origin of the universe. Jasper gets one for zipping his pants up after going to the bathroom.  In fact, Jasper is lavished with prizes and awards when he’s only 45 minutes late to school. 

Jasper gets an “A” for effort and Natalie gets detention because all her good work and success is making Jasper feel bad about himself which is a prosecutable offense under the WIG (Worthlessness Is Godliness) statute. 

The school administrators encourage the other students in the class to beat up Natalie because she’s thoughtlessly overachieving which is in direct violation of the school’s SHIT (Schools Hate Independent Thought) mandate. 

The parents of Natalie’s classmates run a smear campaign against Natalie claiming she slept with the entire high school wrestling team one night and speculating she’s a direct descendant of Satan. 

Eventually, Natalie decides pursuing excellence is more trouble than it’s worth so she goes on a tequila binge for the rest of the school year where she receives a trophy every time she makes it through the day without vomiting on her desk. 

Here’s Natalie now. She’s about to be presented with a trophy from the school because she’s been ranked #1 for “Least Likely to Urinate on Herself During Homeroom.”

So, now that Natalie has gotten with the program,  everyone’s a winner again. We can all go back to doing nothing and feeling good about it. 

As you can see, everything is back to normal in our public school system:

The best part about this is, even though the student is now in 9th grade, the school system proudly announced he’s on track to finish 12th grade next year. You think I’m kidding. I am not kidding.

One more thing. Did you know, in the good old USA, all children are considered “special?” That’s another insight public schools insist on bellowing:

“All children. Special. No exceptions.”

What no one tells you is when you are no longer special. There must be an age where you migrate from “special” to “just another useless, fornicating little jack-ass who’s holding up the line.”

Of course, if they’re all special then none of them are special so what’s the point of telling all the children in the room their special since none of them are…. oh, never mind.

Where was I? 

Right. Mexico. Driving somewhere to see kids in a forest.

When we arrived in the town of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Sara woke me up with another not-so-brief kiss on the lips. I surveyed the environment for a minute. We were stopped in front of an open air market. I didn’t see Luke anywhere. 

“Did we just end up on page 20 of ‘Animal Farm?'”  This, to me, was a highly appropriate question because, in the middle of a state filled with extreme poverty, Tuxtla Gutiérrez was home to the excesses and decadence of the state’s filthy rich. These were the privileged few against whom the animals in Orwell’s book rebelled. Nice homes and communities were behind large iron gates and protected by armed security guards. According to Sara, 1% of Chiapas’ wealthiest residents accounted for well over 50% of the state’s income and most of that 1% could be found in Tuxtla Gutiérrez.

In terms of wealth, Tuxtla Gutiérrez wouldn’t have been confused with Monaco. It was comparable to an upper middle class neighborhood in El Paso.

But, juxtaposed with the rest of Chiapas, the residents were billionaires and they looked the part: ridiculously dressed, unaware of their surroundings, flabby and possessed with the same vacuous, dull-eyed facial expressions most bored rich people have. 

Time for another frustrating game of Spot the Rich Mensa Candidate.

Sara’s face was about six inches from mine when I woke up. 

“You’re cute when you’re asleep.”

“You’re cute when you’re awake so we can cover all 24 hours with cuteness cooties. What did you do with Lukey?”

“Uh-oh. I knew I forgot something. I think I left him in a porta-potty an hour ago. Darn. We can pick him up on the way back. For now you’re mine, all my-yiiiine!”

Too much. Something is way off the mark. Comfort level at Def-Con Two. Change the subject.

“Is the youngster okay? From what I overheard last night, it seemed his neurons were misfiring. Badly.”

“You heard us?”

“The entire ordeal including him shouting his eternal love and you doing a fine job faking a big one.” 

“Gawd! I told him to shut the door.”

I smiled. “I heard that, too. Hey, it’s okay. I lived in the freshman dorms. Heard it all before.”

“Do you think he knew I faked it?

Why did I mention this in the first place?

“He was way too busy being self-conscious to notice. I understand he’s insecure but whoa. Why is he pretending to be so happy and can you make it stop? I mean, he’s the one faking.”

She stared at me for a bit and then rested her head on my chest and ran her finger lightly around my face.  

I was worried Luke would see us. “Shall we saunter along the promenade and cast aspersions upon the local hordes?” 

Sara did the nose twitch girls seemed to always do when I said something incomprehensible. “Once more in English?”

“Yew wanna go fer a walk ‘n make fun uh duh natives?”

“If we’re not here when His Hiney gets back then he’ll break into a million-billion pieces and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men….”

“Couldn’t put Hiney’s ugly backside together again. Got it. Are you two wacky kids actually thinking of staying here and getting married?”

Sara’s facial expression was one of a person who just sat on a thumb tack.  “Oh, pul-eez. This little girl? No, no, no, no, no. Uh-uh.” She continued in a mock Mexican accent. “Ah don wanna get the marrieeeed. Ah don wanna live here ’til I a ol’ señora. Ah don’ wanna deal with all dis sheeeet. Ah don’ wanna be bossed around by Meeeester Perfecto.”

“Hmmmm, what do you want?”


Ooooh, dear. Please tell me your kidding. Please, please, please tell me your kidding. 

She gave me a soft smile. “I so wanted to sleep with you last night.”

You’re not kidding. 

I had no clue she found me attractive at all. I really didn’t. It was always a surprise to me when someone found me attractive. I figured it was bad taste on her part.

I was flattered that Sara took an interest. I really was. Sara was charming, funny, unpretentious, good-natured and pretty. However, even in different circumstances, I’m not sure I would have inflicted her with my stunning romantic charm. I don’t know. Probably not. Besides, we had been friends for a few years and I was never interested in rocking that particular boat. In my experience, the best way to muck up a nice friendship is for all parties involved to take their clothes off and exchange recipes for a night or two. Just to make things more convoluted, Lukey had made some recent noises about marrying her. In my opinion, It was a hornet’s nest best left undisturbed.

Before I had time to reply, we heard Lukey in the distance talking with someone.

Sara quickly and inconspicuously moved back to the passenger’s seat. She looked back at me, smiled and said, “To be continued.”

“May not hurt to talk with the young man. I don’t think he knows how you’re feeling about….”

“We’re not talking at the moment.”

Why doesn’t that surprise me? 

Without saying a word, Luke jumped into the driver’s seat, gave me a couple burritos, didn’t acknowledge Sara, started the jeep and floored it. 

This is just duckie. 

The tension was thick with Sara and Luke. I ate and then pretended to go back to sleep. 

Working out pretty well so far. I wonder if this is how people on the Hindenburg felt once they understood there might be a bit of turbulence during the landing.

Nope. Don’t think this one’s gonna have a happy ending.

On the other hand, they’re good people. They mean well enough. Maybe they can find their way together.

Well, no, actually.

———-END OF PART 5———


The Lion, The Witch and The Voicemail

I’m a lot of fun on the phone.  I don’t know why but I free associate a lot on phone calls. Especially when leaving a message. 

I don’t plan on leaving weird messages. I don’t think about what I’m going to say. It just happens. 

I have most excellent friends who have a daughter, Kayleigh. I adopted her as my niece.

Now, Kayleigh doesn’t actually listen to the messages although she did overhear message #3 below. 

Examples of voicemail messages I have left Kayleigh’s parents over the years:

Voicemail Message #1. This was when Kayleigh was 6 or 7 years old. I started the message by pretending I was reading one of those naughty romance novels (verbiage I stole from a Naked Gun movie). Went something like this:

“…she trembled uncontrollably as he repeatedly thrust his purple-headed warrior into her quivering mound of love pudding. She clutched the bedsheets, arched her back and screamed….”….KAYLEIGH!!!! Uhhhh! Oops. Oh, uh, right. Uh-oh. Uh, forgot you might be listening to this. Tell me you’re not listening to this! Right. Yes, well. Uh, perhaps I, uh, right. So, let me explain. Kayleigh, just so you, um, know, the….., uh, Purple-Headed Warriors is the, uh, name of a….football team! That’s it. Yeah, that’ll work! The, um, yeah, the legendary Idaho Purple-Headed Warriors. You should see the team logo. It’s a stitch! The cheerleaders wear these outfits that look just like….let’s not discuss the cheerleader’s outfits, okay? And, let’s see, love pudding…love pudding….,uh. Love Pudding is a famous….recipe! It’s from Scotland. See, it was invented by the….giant….pygmies of….Glasgow….who transported it to America via the Louisiana bayou which really isn’t all that surprising since giant pygmies from Scotland are pretty fucking stupid. Argh, I said fuck. I didn’t mean to say fuck. Fuck, I said it again. Look, Kayleigh, the point is the passage I read earlier has nothing to do with sex. Fuck, I said sex. Shit, I said fuck. Argh! Look, Kay, let’s pretend none of this ever happened and I’ll leave with you with this important life-lesson lesson: don’t say fuck.

Voicemail Message #2. Another one. A few years later:

Now, guys, I know Kay’s at an age where boys, fornicating little rat-bastard boys, will start knocking on the door. If you are out and need a gate-keeper then I’d be thrilled to play the part.

I’ll use my special blend of psychotic rage and sheer hatred to screen the candidates and if any of the little dog-wipes say anything I don’t like, such as:

  1. “Bottom knocking”
  2. “Boinking”
  3. “Gettin’ me some poontang”
  4. Any other stupid euphemism children use for sex these days

Then I’ll gladly take the little boy’s penis and staple it to his forehead! 

“There’s your poontang, you little pimple-faced bag of puke. Tell you what, kid. Do society a favor: Die.

“As a matter of fact, shithead, come on in.  I’ll  turn on the oven so I can stick your head in it.”

I love children. 

They’re our future. 

Little bastards.

Oh, Kay. You know how adults talk about how children are our future and make it sound like it’s a great revelation? Yeah, you’re right. Those people should be eliminated. Talk about people having a firm grasp of the obvious. Children are younger than their parents. Unless they’re from West Virginia because you never know. In West Virginia, your SisterMother is probably younger than you and your UncleDad has remarried 5 or 6 times by now. The whole thing is a mess. Kinda like a barn full of cats. What with all the BrotherNephews and CousinDaughters and Father-in-LawGrandfatherSons out there, you’re pretty much related to…EVERYBODY. Which is really where the problem starts. 

You know those guys selling cheap, used mattresses in West Virginia where they say you can come on in and they’ll treat you like family? There’s a reason for that.

My thought is if you have some spare time over the weekend then I think it’s best if you relocate to Iceland and start from scratch. 

Voicemail Message #3. The one she overheard. Kayleigh was 5, maybe:

Sometimes a beautiful memory pops into my brain and I just have to share it with someone. My grandfather was a very wise man who shared some very unique insights. When I was, maybe 4 years old, I remember my grandfather telling me, “Son, love is like cunnilingus. Takes patience. And, more patience. And, MORE patience. Hours and hours and hours.  Sometimes, it’s just a total nightmare. Your mouth hurts, you’re completely cross-eyed, you can’t talk, your neck is killing you and you just wonder what the point is to the entire thing. That’s love, okay? But, you’re in too deep, no pun intended, to give up now. So, you just keep beating your head against the wall, or, well, somewhere. All you wanna do is find the happy-magic-fun-button and get on with your day because it’s Saturday and you gotta cut the grass but you can’t because you did something thoughtless and stupid the night before and now you gotta make it up to her.  

“And, another thing, you hear all those love songs on the radio? Love songs are nothing but a government conspiracy to make you get married and pay more taxes. Remember that. 

“That’s how love works. 

“Do they teach you about the happy-magic-fun-button in nursery school? No? Things have changed since my day. They should have taught you that by now.  

“You know the song that goes, ‘Day by day I’m falling more in love with you, and day by day my love seems to grow, there isn’t any end to my devotion, it’s deeper dear by far than any ocean’?

“That’s not love. That’s the IRS trying to screw you on the deal. 

“Now, if you’ll excuse me then I’m gonna go upstairs and see your grandma for a while because I was thoughtless and stupid last night. 

“If any process servers come by then tell them I moved to Fiji. If any of them try to come into the house then shoot ’em. Don’t kill ’em. Just shoot ’em in the dick. Here’s my rifle. 

“What did you say your name was again?”

Oh, Kayleigh, just in case you’re curious, “cunnilingus” is a Latin word for “please clean up your room.

Voicemail Message #4. No clue where this came from. 

Um, yes, hi. I’m having a, uh, bit of an issue. Well, um, I’m thinking it may be a, uh, more than just an issue. Yeah, uh, it’s now a, uh,  problem.

See, this is a little embarrassing but my problem centers around my ex-wife and my chainsaw. Whenever I see the two of them together, I’ve been getting really bad….thoughts. So, last night….this is so embarrassing, errr, see, I was in the garage and we had these trees. Well, I had to cut them at some point, okay? 

And, of course, SHE decides to storm in so she can yell and scream about getting more of MY money, okay? I MEAN, I WORK FOR A LIVING AND THIS LITTLE LEECH GETS TO SIT AROUND ALL DAY DOING NOTHING!!! FINE, HONEYYYYYYYYY!!! So, I got my chainsaw and…..I’m sorry, is this Employee Assistance?

Perhaps…..I got the wrong number. Uh, right. Listen, just, um, never mind, this call never happened. ThankYouVeryMuchHaveANiceDayGoodByeDon’tCallBack.


[I call back]

Kayleigh, if you heard that message then please don’t be…concerned. It’s just, uh, I was….rehearsing….lines from a, uh, play. New play. Doesn’t have a title….on accounta it’s new and all. 

Did I sound believable? So, yeah, let me know….if you,  uh, think…uh….yeah. See, the chainsaw… is a…metaphor for….I was metaphorically cutting down… the emotional trees….of…life….or…like…so….ah….to hell with it.


Voicemail Message #5. Last one. For now: 

“Yes, hi. This call is from the Psychiatric Institute of Washington

“In preparation of your upcoming appointment, please listen to these instructions before coming to the office. 

“If you are suffering from paranoia and have an appointment then please check in at the front desk and, very soon, everyone will be out to get you. 

“If you have OCD then please go to the end of the hall and use the phone located there to call 555-555-5555. Then press 5. Then press 5 again. Then press 5. Then press 5. Continue pressing 5 until you’re told to stop. Even then, continue pressing 5 until you’re escorted out of the building. 

“For those with social anxiety, the Meet-and-Greet starts at 3pm on the entire 4th floor followed by Happy Hour followed by Group Therapy followed by a verbal assessment of your genetic defects from an assembly of medical professionals followed by your extemporaneous 20-minute speech delivered with your clothes off followed by a re-enactment of your father yelling at you and slapping you upside your head for not looking him in the eye then followed by 3 hours of speed dating. 

“If you are experiencing self-esteem issues then we’d really appreciate it if you’d stay the hell away from our office because you make us sick. But remember, God loves you even though no one else does.  

“Those with persecution complexes are advised to arrive 600 minutes prior to their appointments. Failure to do so will result in you receiving a technical foul, a 15 yard penalty, a $700 fine,  a red card and 10 minutes in the box. Plus, your mother says you’re grounded.” 

Kayleigh, I’m not saying YOU’RE grounded. Well, maybe you are. I don’t know. Perhaps you could verify that with your mother. Look, I’m not getting involved with any of this. This is between you and your parents so stop trying to drag me into all this drama. I can’t take it anymore. So, go to your room right now, Young Lady, and think about what you did to get grounded in the first place!

I’m not kidding. This is the kind of psycho-babble I leave in some poor, innocent person’s voicemail. See, this is why I’ll never be rich. It’s because I’m too busy doing….THIS.


How to Commit Journalism: We Want Dirty Laundry

Actually, this is from an actual Mountain Dew ad actually shown during an actual Super Bowl. Actually, was this ad an actual mistake or actually a bad idea?

The below is a text of a first day lecture from a distinguished professor of broadcast journalism to college freshmen:

The foundation of all journalism is very simple. It comes down to one word but that one word is the bedrock of the profession. This single word is our call to action. It is our raison d’etre and it is the pillar upon which this noble profession has flourished. This word is our Excalibur! It is the sword in the stone. It is why we pursue the truth with relentless focus and determination. And, the word is:


‘Cuz if’n you ain’t pulling ratings then your sponsors will drop you like a bad bean pie at a Triple-Muslim convention. And, if’n you ain’t got no sponsors advertising on your little news show then you ain’t generating advertising revenue. And, if’n you ain’t generating no advertising revenue then, Chief, you got yourself a problem. 

You see, folks, it’s like this. There ain’t but three kinds of journalists:

1) TV journalists 

2) Radio journalists

3) Gone journalists 

If you aren’t pulling good ratings then you about to become a gone journalist.

Means you gotta make sure your story falls into one of the five tiers of true journalism. 

Tier 1 – Dead People:

“No Bodies, No Bylines.” First rule when you’re about to commit journalism. Don’t know who said it. William Randolph Hearst, maybe. Maybe it was Bill Cosby. Or, Eleanor Roosevelt. Who cares. Don’t know. Doesn’t matter. Fact checking not in the job description. 

Hasn’t been for a long time.

One less thing. 

You want numbers? Get dead people. Lots of ’em. A pile of dead people. Dead children are better. A big pile of dead children. Dead children next to a daycare center that exploded after a propane truck ran into it because the driver was killed by a suicidal terrorist and the propane poured down into a valley causing an entire community to go up in flames so people are running for their lives. Children running for their lives. Naked children running for their lives away from the fire until they fall off a 400 foot cliff and die due to global warming. 

Don’t forget to use these time honored phrases: 

  1. “Untimely murder”
  2. “Alleged suspect”
  3. “Terrible tragedy”
  4. “Details are sketchy”
  5. “Alcohol was a factor”

Grieving mother. Get a grieving mother in front of the camera. Any mother. Could be a mother from another county.  Don’t care. Just get one. Tell her you wanna hear all about her despair. And, torment. And, pain. All of it. She thinking suicide? If so then how? If not then why? 

Need politics, too. Ask her what she thinks all these dead kids mean for the Republican Party in the next election. 

That kinda story will get you paid. Hell, you’ll get a Pulitzer Prize. Maybe two. 

You think I’m kidding about the Pulitzer? I am not kidding about the Pulitzer. 

Two words: Janet Cooke.

Good ol’ Janet worked at the Washington Post. Did a groundbreaking report about pre-teens in DC hooked on heroin. Poor kids. Dropping like flies. Major epidemic. She included a nice anecdote about a little 8 year old named Jimmy. Seemed little Jimmy was hitting the juice so hard that he practically had a syringe hanging out his arm 24 hours a day.

Did she make the whole thing up? Absolutely!

Did she get a Pulitzer? Absolutely!

Did it matter that this whole thing was total fiction? Absolutely not! 

You’ll be glad to know, even though there was no Jimmy, the mayor of DC at the time, Marion Barry, said he had found Jimmy and that Jimmy was safe and in protective custody. I’m serious. He pulled a press conference together to let the world know Jimmy was doing just fine despite his nonexistence.

Tier 2 – Blood:

Remember the guy who said, “If it bleeds, it leads?” Me, neither. Doesn’t matter. 

Guns. They’re the best. Get interviews with people who got shot. Ask them what they think about gun control. 

Wars, earthquakes, riots, gang shootings, fires, natural disasters, anything. Don’t care. Doesn’t matter.  The bloodier, the better. Political assassinations. Tortures are good if you can find any.  A good prison riot can come in handy. 

Definitely put you in the first five minutes of the national news way before the first Ex-Lax commercial. 

They guy’s last name was spelled G A D D A F I. Does the spelling matter? What do you think?

Tier 3 – A Crisis of Epic Proportion:

We’re in the news business. We make the weather, okay? If you’re coming up short on a story then it’s time to make some news, you got it? And, it better be bad. Real bad.  Nobody cares about what’s going right. Want good news? Go to church. Wanna know why there are only eight churches left in the country? Too much good news. No crisis. Bores Americans. You wanna keep getting paid for committing journalism? You, at least, want your story first in the second segment after the Ex-Lax commercials? Or, do you wanna be a gone journalist? Better get a good crisis going. 

You gotta get a little creative on this one.

Happy to tell you, manufacturing a crisis is easy. Nothing to it. Teenagers do it every day. Take a little issue and blow it completely outta proportion. 

Say you find four 6 year olds arguing about whether or not Santa Claus is real. Two kids say Santa Claus is real and two kids say ain’t no such thing. They’re yelling and screaming at each other. 

You don’t have an argument. What you have here is a, “Conflict about to erupt into violent confrontations as young people take to the streets to blah, blah, blah.”

Find a couple idiots and do man/woman-on-the-street interviews. 

The man should be one of those guys in a flannel shirt, big belt buckle, a “Schlitz Malt Liquor” baseball hat and has about eight pounds of chewing tobacco in his mouth so brown saliva is pouring down his chin. 

You want the woman to  have no fewer than 12 missing teeth, preferably wearing the same tube top she wore at age 9 and have a tattoo on her chest of the Waffle House logo.

Wanna know how many times this guy uttered the word “crisis” in a single 30 minute national newscast? 9 times. And, the field reporters during the same newscast? 11 times. Not kidding. I counted.

Tier 4 – Sex:

Weird, perverted, sinister sex and a long trail of semen-stained evidence.

It’s gotta be strange. Maybe a Japanese orthodox rabbi and a Polish Hindu princess. In the Sistine Chapel. Under the Michaelangelo painting. During Lent. Having sex while the princess is repeatedly hitting the rabbi on the head with a Torah and the rabbi is feeding the princess bacon.

Just say an unnamed source saw the whole thing and that the rabbi would neither confirm nor deny it occurred. Mostly because you never asked the rabbi in the first place. 

Americans love weird sex. Trust me. It’s stupid. I understand that. You can do “stupid” or you can do “unemployed.”

Oh, speaking of leaving a long trail of semen-stained evidence:

Bill Clinton.

Eight years in office. Anyone remember the guy’s foreign policy, domestic policy, economic policy, military engagements, Supreme Court appointees?

Hell, no.

When it comes to Clinton, people remember one thing and one thing only:

The intern under the desk.

They remember that part just fine. The rest? No clue. Don’t care. Boring. 

Extra Credit: What the hell is a “Sex Dwarf?” Cite examples.
Do you really want to find out what a “Nazi Orgy” is? No. Of course, not. Do you wanna be an employed journalist? Yes. You do. So, time to launch that Nazi Orgy investigation.

Tier 5 – Toilet Paper Shortage:

Old reliable. 

Find a store that’s outta business. Have the camera guy pan across empty shelves. Say something like, “Once ordinary Americans could always count on toilet paper at this once thriving store. But, today, blah, blah, blah.”

Show some guy selling a roll of toilet paper at 2am in a parking lot behind the 7-11. Say something about ordinary Americans having to buy toilet paper in the black market. 

Brown market, maybe. 

Then interview the same two idiots and ask them how they feel about having to use dried leaves and pine cones instead of toilet paper.

Easy, right? Death, blood, crisis, sex and toilet paper. 

Worse comes to worse, jump on TikTok for 30 minutes. Look for the 5 biggest trends going on, find the grossest one and do a segment about the devious ways TikTok is turning the minds of our youth into motor oil. TikTok is a goldmine! Wanna know a typical trend?

Toilet licking.

Not just any toilets. Toilets in public bathrooms. 

You think I’m kidding about toilet licking? I am not kidding about toilet licking. 

Future leader of America.

Millions of kids are licking toilets and getting sick as dogs because they saw idiots on TikTok do it. Now, why are they licking toilets?  Because kids in this country are, let’s face it, imbeciles. Probably because the parents are too busy binge watching “Real Stupid Housewives of Fresno” to bother dealing with their kids so they gave the kids mobile phones and left the parenting to TikTok. 

Of course the parents don’t notice their deviant little preteens are following all the TikTok trends and are running around with:

  • Vodka-soaked tampons in their butts
  • Vampire teeth they can’t remove because they superglued them to their real teeth
  • Cereal they ate out of someone else’s mouth
  • Condoms up their noses after having snorted them
  • Brain damage from OD’ing on Benadryl 

You think I’m kidding about these TikTok trends? I am not kidding about these TikTok trends.

“Vodka Soaked Tampons” is a good name for a band.

Just remember to always blame TikTok even though you know and I know it’s because the kids are dipshits.

“Thanks to TikTok, future leaders of this great country are failing high school as they’re too busy licking toilets. Because of TikTok. And, nothing else. It’s all TikTok’s fault. Concerned parents, who share none of the blame whatsoever, have expressed their outrage by forming MALT (Mothers Against Licking Toilets) and blah blah blah.”

Next thing, if’n you are broadcasting the news then there’s a certain way you gotta talk, right? End every sentence with a preposition. Redundant phrases are required. Minimum of one cliché, one trite or redundant phrase, and one “situation” per sentence. 

“A developing crisis situation has erupted into a plague of uneasy tension that completely surrounds this of working families where they’re pre-planning to self-evacuate from their homes that they live in. Informed sources, familiar with this situation, say authorities are closely monitoring the situation and will begin investigating alleged suspects in this developing situation while police gather evidence where this alleged crime took place at.”

Now, did you actually say anything in that last paragraph? No. 

Did you make any sense at all? No. 

Do people lap that crap up? Hell, yes. 

See, you gotta know your audience and your audience is comprised of:


You’re dealing with morons because morons watch the news. These aren’t your standard-issue morons. These are a remarkable subset of morons. We’re talking about morons who are stupid enough to buy something, or vote for someone, based on a commercial. 

This edition sold out. It said “Diana.” That’s all you need.

Have you seen some of these commercials? 

Seen the one with this monstrosity that was part dog, part monkey and part infant in a diaper jumping around with a can of Mountain Dew? Millions of morons drink Mountain Dew because of whatever the hell that was.

Tampons. Seen those commercials? The woman is miserable with her period and all. Until she buys these tampons and now she’s happy and dancing and rolling around on the beach with her boyfriend. Are these magic tampons? No. They’re tampons. But, people bought those tampons. Not just any people. Stupid people. 

In summary, we reviewed the following foundational journalistic points today:

  1. Advertising

That’s it. 

And, we discussed some elements of great journalism:

  • Dead children
  • Semen-stained evidence 
  • Blood
  • Sex
  • Morons
  • Toilet paper
  • Tampons
  • Toilet licking

Tonight’s assignment is for you to tell me what the hell that thing was on the Mountain Dew commercial. 

Remember when Obama tried to ban the National Anthem. No, you don’t. Why? Never happened. That’s why.