Paving the road to nowhere, one word at a time.

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Location: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

American born, living in Mexico since 1992.

Friday, December 31, 2004


The carne asada grilled at yesterday’s party was not very good so Joshua made do with the carnitas instead. The salsa wasn’t hot enough, not hot at all, and even though the people that I work with are mostly Mexicans, almost all of them live in the United States and prefer their salsa to be mild; and their carne asada is seldom sliced thin enough and the meat toughens as it cooks. The secret to carne asada is in the thin slices of beef, to grill for only a couple of minutes letting the marinade do its work and keeping the juices of the meat from escaping.

It gave me an opportunity to remind Joshua that once we arrived in Mexico, the food would come alive.

Later that evening we left work and took the trolley to the border, then walked to Centro while I pointed out the different aspects of Tijuana through my years here. The original footings of the old bridge, still poking out through the cemented Tijuana River; the plaza on the other side of the pedestrian bridge, renovated and relatively pretty compared to the old broken sidewalk up Calle Madera. I took him into El Fuente, we went to the back and shot a couple of games of pool.

We couldn’t have done that in the United States, even though he only drank a soda. Mexico is flexible. Here, it seems that rules are made to be exploited, much less bent or broken. On the way to get a cab, Joshua ate his first taco de lengua en salsa verde, cow tongue in green chile. He’s hooked.

When we arrived home, there were hugs and tears. The kids stayed up and watched movies until three or four in the morning, I went to bed and Rocio followed at some point as I slept away the Fiesta Bowl. The kids were all asleep in the livingroom when I got up this morning, after a cup of coffee I rousted Juan and Joshua and we went up the street and ate tacos de birria. We strolled the sobre ruedas and I picked up some chiles and fresh chorizo, I’ll make some sopes this afternoon.

This has become the best holiday ever. Joshua acclimated quickly, it is as if he has always been here. If I could get him to stay here for a couple of years, he would be speaking Spanish. Maybe he will. Maybe he will fall in love with Mexico as I have.

Juan and Joshua are playing Gamecube football as I type, after their game we’ll walk up the street and get some Tecate and a bag of Maseca, and maybe something else. When we get back, I am supposed to play the winner of their game.

Whatever happens in that game, I already know that I’ve won. Everyone wins when we’re all together like this.

Even on Monday, when everyone goes their separate ways, I am imagining that Joshua will know that he belongs here every bit as much as he belongs anywhere.

Or even more than that.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Ten Years After

I don’t remember ever having a White Christmas, a Christmas with snow, and no matter how many people tell me that I am missing something, I consider myself lucky for never having to shovel snow off of the walk in order to greet Christmas guests. Forty degrees Fahrenheit is cold enough. On Friday, we stocked up on beer and sodas, no need to refrigerate them, full bottles and cans sit underneath our artificial Christmas tree as so much fallen fruit, ripe and ready for consumption. The balmy seventy-five degree afternoons do not penetrate our cinder block walls and cement roof, except in the summer, when the house is an oven. The houses here are exactly the opposite of temperately comfortable.

Welcome to Tijuana.

No one has been complaining much about the temperature of the inside of the house. On Friday, Christmas Eve was comfortable, unlike most other Christmas Eve’s past, not having to work gave me plenty of time to prepare. The clam chowder was wonderful, and I went to bed early while Rocio and the others ran over to her folks’ house to enjoy some midnight posole and tamales. In another sign that Anna is growing up, none of the presents were opened that night, all were intact when I got up at five the next morning.

Cooking for Christmas has that price, getting up early to prepare dinner.

After making the stuffing, I set it aside to fry up a mess of bacon, baked the biscuits, made the gravy, and woke everyone up to eat breakfast. The turkey was cleaned, oiled, and stuffed, and into the oven before nine. It wasn’t until after breakfast that Anna cared anything about opening the presents, Rocio came into the kitchen and told me that she was worried about Anna while I wrapped some yams in aluminum foil and threw them in the oven for good measure.

I told Rocio that Anna was maturing, that the presents are nice, but Anna is realizing that the real thing about Christmas is the family and the food and so on. We hugged like parents sometimes do when they realize that one of their children isn’t such a child anymore. The morning then started to pass quickly by, and I made some mushroom rice, corn, mashed potatoes, gravy, and dinner rolls while Rocio and Ernesto went to Centro to get Charlie, and by three in the afternoon we were eating.

By four in the afternoon, we all wanted to take a nap.

* * * *

Juan being here is enough of a gift, but I learned that his deployment to Iraq has been put off until July. In late January he’ll be hating six weeks of mountain training in the cold of Germany. He isn’t looking forward to it.

"When I got off of the plane in San Diego, it was the first time I’d seen the sun in a month," he told me.

"I’d rather think about you freezing your ass off in Germany eating MRE’s for six weeks than imagine you salvaging some blown-up M1A1 in the desert in Iraq while some insurgent bastard fires RPG’s at your unit," I said.

He laughed, "Yeah, but at least I’d be able to feel my own feet in the desert."

* * * *

The only strange thing that happened on Christmas Day was that we lost electricity twice, for about an hour each time. I turned on the battery-operated radio so that Charlie wouldn’t miss the Lakers game. We hardly noticed the inconvenience.

* * * *

I talked to Joshua yesterday, we are exploring the possibility of him coming down and spending the New Year’s weekend in Tijuana. I told him that we spend the evening inside, away from the morons who shoot firearms into the air, avoiding falling bullets at maximum gravitational velocity under the relative safety of a cement roof.

"That’s fine," he said. "I just want to see everybody and spend some time with Juan, I haven’t seen him since I was a little kid."

Joshua was seven years old the last time that he saw Juan.

"My step-dad is cool with it. I’m just going to tell mom that I’ll be eighteen in a few months anyway and I’ll be making my own decisions, and that I am going to Tijuana this weekend to spend time with my dad and Juan and everyone."

"I wouldn’t phrase it quite like that, son, the idea is to get her permission, not to demand it," I said.

"I know," he chuckled, "Don’t worry, I’ll be nice about it."

What a wonderful Christmas present. He will be calling me today, and hopefully we’ll be planning the logistics. I work up until Thursday, when we will be having a small party, grilling some carne asada and so on. I would like to pick up my son at the Palomar Street trolley station and bring him to work so he can see what I do for a paycheck. Then we would come home.


And it only took about ten years.

Friday, December 24, 2004

The Vanity Of The Bonfires

Festivals are mostly born of tradition, often by way of specific culture or religion, and such celebrations often define humankind’s desire to affect others with their own version of happiness and contentment. No one enjoys celebrating life with other human beings who enjoy celebrating life more than I do. Christmas is one of those times where I enjoy celebrating life with other human beings, mostly my family, utilizing tradition as a harness of holiday continuity. I have brought the traditions of my North American heritage here to Mexico and insist on sharing it with my family.

My traditions, passed on to me from my parents and grandparents and so on, are being passed on to my own children here, irrespective of some international boundary. And I hope that they pass it on to their children, and on and on. It is a wonderful and humble tradition, my version of Christmas.

As the name infers, Christmas is intended to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, who many believe to be the Christ, the son of God. Pagan rituals, some of which celebrate the fact that in the Northern hemisphere the days cease to become shorter and shorter and start to become longer and longer, have historically been held to celebrate the return of the sun (or else, the neopaganist Winter Solstice). The Hebrew festival of Hanukkah is celebrated in December. Kwanzaa is a December celebration, and even Ramadan is sometimes celebrated around Christmas when Eid al-Fitr coincides with a December lunar cycle. I don’t think it matters that much why we celebrate this time of the year, but I think that it’s important that we do. And we all do seem to, in one form or another.

I can only hope that all such December celebrations involve good food, good family and good friends.

* * * *

Somewhere in the past, in my aggressive pursuit of cultural understanding and my willingness to embrace Mexican traditions, I decided that it would be a good thing to have a quinceaños, a traditional Mexican fiesta, to celebrate Elizabeth’s fifteenth birthday. I ignored Rocio’s misgivings and insisted that we celebrate her sister’s birthday by announcing to the community that she had reached that magic age of puberty, that we would invite people to help us acknowledge her ascension to womanhood.

It was a mistake, this fiesta, an event that left a bad taste in my mouth and taught me a lesson. Elizabeth’s quinceaños was too big, too much money that could otherwise be used to feed the poor or pay some bills was instead spread amongst hundreds of people in the form of catered food and five-gallon buckets of one-hundred and seventy proof brandy. All of this, complete with a mobile music machine and a rented event hall and hired security, for a fifteen-year old girl from a poor family in the projects of Tijuana. Instead of happiness and contentment, I felt shame and regret.

As Rocio pointed out afterward, the quinceañera only works well on a small scale, in the vast tracts of small pueblitos that make up the majority of Southern Mexico. The bigger the region, the more that traditional fiestas become too big for their own good. In the case of the quinceaños, and often times in the case of Christmas, it seems that the idea is to build an enormous bonfire rather than a cozy campfire. Bonfires are a complete waste of energy, consuming copious amounts of fuel for no other reason than to feed the vanity of humankind.

The vanity of the bonfires.

Christmas, or whatever you wish to call it according to your own culture or religion or whatever, has turned into, in many cases, a bonfire. Something too hot to roast chestnuts over. Something that even Tom Wolfe wouldn’t dangle a marshmallow into. Christmas has mostly become a time of year for spending too much money on gifts and cards, more fuel for the bonfire.

More fuel for the bonfire.

* * * *

The traditional Mexican Christmas includes, at midnight tonight, tamales and posole, which I will enjoy tomorrow while I cook a traditional American Christmas turkey and stuffing and potatoes and yams and so on. Rocio, in the meanwhile, will take a cab to Centro and get Charlie and Jodie and bring them back here for dinner, we are their family here, and look forward to inviting them every year. I’ll miss Joshua and Rebekah but me and Rocio and Anna and Sharon and Juan and Elizabeth and Charlie and Jodie and Rocio’s parents and anyone else who happens by will be illuminated by a solitary candle at the table while Charlie says grace. And we’ll enjoy the thing that this holiday is all about, which is candles and wine and good food.

And each other.

May everyone have such a wonderful Christmas as I will.

May everyone trade in their bonfire for a candle.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Pretty Bauble Of Excrement

The magic of the cinder-block forest, not apparent from beyond the dusty colonias and gimmick-filled boulevards of Tijuana, surprises in so many different ways as an agent of an unpredictable realm. Juan, on leave from some freezing-cold Army base in Germany, appeared unexpected here on Friday night. I woke him up and gave him a big hug, and then let him sleep off some fifteen hours worth of jet-lag. He was still asleep when I left for work the next morning, yesterday morning, Saturday morning, and was then off with his friends last night when I got home.

And then I slept off my long week’s journey.

Today is different. A distant sun seems closer and warmer, even when partially obscured by the occasional high cloud, everyone here just left to pay the phone bill and search for some sharp cheddar cheese so I can make some gringo-tacos. Juan has promised to kick my ass in Gamecube football later, which shouldn’t prove to be too difficult since I haven’t played since the last time he was here. That is, if Juan has time. The phone has been ringing constantly, everyone who knows him has discovered that he’s back in town for a couple of weeks.

So I am playing receptionist at the moment. After ten telephone calls and a visit at the door from LuLu, it is a tempting thought to suddenly become not bilingual. Soon, I might be saying, “Sorry, you’ll have to speak English or I’ll take no messages.”

Would I be that much of a bastard?

* * * *

The Red Herring, a large box that contained a semi-automatic washing machine, is gone. I haven’t asked, and I don’t plan to ask, I will trust that wherever it went to is a much better place than where it was in this little house. We’ve had some wind here lately, as I found large pieces of the fiberglass roof I put in the back of the house to shield the Maytag from the sporadic rain, out on the street the other evening as I came home from work. Maybe the big box was set outside and blew away. Hey, if the Santa Anas can blow four-by-eight sheets of fiberglass over the house and onto the street, then why couldn’t it blow a semi-automatic washing machine into the next colonia?

That’s my fantasy, and I am sticking to it.

Meanwhile, pieces of the fiberglass roof are stacked next to the stairs that lead to the roof of the house, as if they have hope of somehow making their way back over to Maytag-land. Fat chance.

* * * *

As evening approaches, music can be heard from all directions and the sky is clear and promises a desert-like chill. The moon, half full like so much milk in an optimists tea cup, is directly overhead as a shining beacon that, hopefully, will bring me some very sharp cheddar cheese to grate soon. Earlier, I e-mailed Joshua in hope that he can come join us for the New Year. Maybe he can give Juan a run for his money on the Gamecube. Maybe I’ll make some enchiladas on New Year’s Eve. Maybe we’ll have some beer and swap stories. Maybe.

Juan is going to Iraq after this leave, which is some pretty heavy unhappy shit. Iraq is God’s way of showing us hell before we die. How would you like to go to hell just because your Creator wants to prove a point? She can be vicious, this God of ours, even in Her supposedly kinder and gentler manner after the big flood and so on, after Jericho and Sodom and Gomorrah and Dresden and Nagasaki and on and on. All of these wars to end all wars. What ever happened to the rainbow, God’s invention to remind us that She was all through with the human extermination business?

Is a rainbow just another pretty bauble of excrement from the scientific community?

* * * *

He is here in Tijuana, our Juan, until January fourth, two-thousand and five. Even though I will have to work through most of the holidays, I look forward to spending time with him, losing at Gamecube, eating tacos de birria with him, listening to a Soldier’s tales about Germany. After the New Year, keenly aware that my good-bye embrace might be our last embrace unless he is as good with an Army-issued firearm as he is with a video game controller, I will instead try to concentrate on how much he has grown up over the last two years.

And after that, when he returns from Iraq, I shall make sure that I have some grated, extra-sharp cheddar cheese on hand so I won’t miss the three hours that it has taken him, and his mother and sister, to find a key ingredient in his definition of soul food. And maybe I’ll be better at Gamecube by then.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Semi-automatic Red Herring

There is a large box in the living room, next to the artificial Christmas tree, partially obstructing a view of the television that I never watch anyway. Inside of the box, according to the printing and pictures and so on, is a semi-automatic washing machine. Rocio told me that it was a Christmas gift from Lulu, the lady for which Rocio sells Avon products.

Picture in your mind, a Mexican lady named Lulu. What does she look like, this Lulu that you have pictured in your mind? Exactly. And I bet that your Lulu hasn't missed many meals, either. And the loud and high-pitched laugh, holy crap, even the lazy mutt two streets over is thinking, "Jesus, lady, can't a dog get in a short nap once in a while?!?"

And don't get me started on the people from Avon, the Jehovah's Witnesses of the cosmetics industry. Ding-dong, Avon calling. Any organization that sends people out into someone's home, armed with a book and a pitch, is nothing but trouble. It isn't enough that they want you to buy something that you really don't need, they want you to sell it for them as well! And if you sell enough religion, your promised reward is an afterlife in some sort of heaven; sell enough avon, and you get a semi-automatic washing machine for Christmas.

* * *

I gazed contemptuously at our red herring in the shape of a large box.

"Um," I said, scratching my head.

"The problem is where to put it," Rocio said thoughtfully, in Spanish.

Never mind that we have a thousand-dollar Maytag that isn't even paid off yet, works fabulously well, and is fully automatic, Rocio is thinking about where to put this little Korean-made contraption. It is made by the Daewoo International Corporation. I think that they make automobiles, too. The word automobile implies that an automobile is something fully automatic, I can only imagine what a semi-automatic automobile is. Is there a hand-crank involved somehow? A well-fed gerbil on a running-wheel that is hooked up to a spindle-driven motor? What in the hell is a semi-automatic washing machine?!

"I think it washes, but it doesn't spin," Rocio said, switching to English.

"Unlike our thousand-dollar Maytag," I reminded her. "Which is guaranteed to continue to wash, spin, and rinse, and then spin again for another nine years. No hamsters or hand-cranks required, nothing but one-hundred and ten volts are necessary."

Rocio rolled her eyes and went into the kitchen.

* * *

There used to be a game show on television called Let's Make a Deal. The host of the show, Monty Hall, would offer random contestants opportunities for cash in exchange for mostly worthless items such as paper clips or hair pins and such. Sometimes he then would offer them more cash, or else invite them instead to take a chance at yet-to-be-named prize.

"Say, I'll give you one thousand dollars right now, or else you can take what's in the box on the display tray over there," Monty might say.

The contestants, for the most part, would go through an excruciating forty-seconds and listen to the calls from the audience to do this thing or that thing, and then they were finally asked to make a decision.

"I'll take what's in the box, Monty," about ninety-five out of one hundred of them would say, and Monty would put the cash back into his gaudy jacket. One-third of the time, the box would be lifted to reveal a worthless booby-prize. Life is full of worthless booby-prizes.

Want some advice? Take the cash. Always take the cash.

* * *

Avon does not offer Rocio any cash for selling their line of cosmetics and other assorted knick-knacks, they instead give her free creams and lotions and perfumes and so on. My beer mug is an Avon product. I am, however, just as happy to drink my Tecate from a mole (pronounced mo-lay) glass, like I am doing right now. Rocio is not likely to give up cosmetics anytime soon, regardless of my insistent urging that she doesn't need make-up, that she is even more attractive without it.

But to be fair to Rocio, I considered that if someone rang my doorbell and wanted to sell me beer, I would certainly listen to the sales-pitch. I might even buy some. And if they were offering me free beer in exchange for selling some of their products, I might just do it, who can say? And then, I could imagine that maybe, were I a good seller of their beer, I might be given something for Christmas. A chain-saw, perhaps.

And what in the hell would I do with a chain-saw in Tijuana? It would then become, the chain-saw, my red herring.

But no one sells beer door-to-door here (a business opportunity, perhaps?), so that point is moot for the moment. The problem at hand is what to do with a semi-automatic washing machine (whatever that is).

I told Rocio that I had designs on turning the semi-automatic washing machine into a semi-automatic ice cream maker, but she wasn't too keen on that idea. But if I had a chain saw, I could cut it up into little pieces and make it easier for the garbage truck to haul our red herring to the dump.

Where's a door to door beer salesman when you need one?

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Drinking With Jumbo

"Rationality is the recognition of the fact that nothing can alter the truth and nothing can take precedence over that act of perceiving it."

- Ayn Rand (from Atlas Shrugged, 1957)

* * * *

The problem with Ayn Rand's definition of rationality, is that truth and the recognition of fact and the act of perception, and so on, are often relative and sometimes intangible aspects of reality where human beings are concerned. Ayn Rand, for example, did not have a lot to say concerning trust, which is part of the glue that holds our fragile human race together. Without trust, after all, wouldn't much of someone else's truth be suspect to the point of possibly being a lie?

And what about the trust that we have, in varying degrees, in ourselves - shouldn't that be a part of the equation where rationality is concerned?

I am ready to submit that rationality is something completely different, something perhaps more Platonic, even ethereal in nature. Rationality is something that deserves to be explored over and over again, and at every opportunity. Such explorations should, whenever possible and convenient, involve alcohol and Cuban cigars. A good-looking woman should be present and encouraged to participate, and no reference material (except for morning-line odds on horses or spreads on sports betting) should be available.

Salt and lime is optional.

* * * *

One evening, one Friday night a few weeks ago, Jeff came in and found me in La Fuente. I was enjoying a scotch and a wonderful view of Estelle, the cantinera, who declined to participate in our exploration of rationality. He brought Mickey with him. Mickey is only rational when he is sober. Mickey is only sober for one hour each day, mostly from nine o'clock in the morning until ten.

If you wish to have a rational conversation with Mickey, be advised: Nine in the morning is a good target time. Otherwise, good luck.

If you wish to have a rational conversation with Jeff, anytime is fine, even after a few beers. Thus, one possible definition of a rational human being could be this: A rational person is someone you can drink with. That definition works for me just as well as anything else that comes to mind. We kept Mickey at arms length and caught up on our trivial pursuits like a couple of old Army buddies.

Except that I was never in the Army. Not even the Navy. Jeff, on the other hand, spent four years in each branch of the armed forces. How about that for an ex-patriate!

Mickey peered in from the outside looking hurt, like a child might appear from the flimsy card table in the next room, watching the adults eating Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room. We ignored Mickey and swapped stories like passing large bowls of food back and forth. Stuffing? Sure, thanks! Mashed potatoes? You bet. And on and on.

* * * *

"So, by the time you left the Army and enlisted in Navy, you pretty much had the armed forces figured out?" I asked him, guessing that the Navy was a more pleasant experience.

"The Navy was fun, I got to see a lot more of the world in the Navy," Jeff said.

Mickey tried to interrupt. Mickey served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam war, the only war ever lost by the United States of America. Mickey is, especially while inebriated, prone to launching into a full-blown tirade about his experiences there, which makes me suspect that he never saw any action at all. I have known many men who served on the battlefield during the only war ever lost by the United States of America.

What do they have to say about it? Nothing, the veterans who fought in combat there refuse to talk about most of their experiences. This is understandable. Certainly, it is a rational decision. I bet it still hurts like hell. This is what they say to anyone who asks them about what they went through during that war: I'd rather not talk about it.

We hushed Mickey and went on with our feast.

"What was the most interesting port you visited while in the Navy?" I continued.

"Thailand was wild," Jeff said. "I mean, your ship is going into port, and they're not supposed to know that you're coming, but it's no secret. Hell, they even had banners hung up, welcoming the various ships by name!"

Jeff laughed and his eyes lit, clear and blue and sparkling as if he were once again there. Maybe he was. I ordered another round, even one for Mickey who had finally decided to just listen. We all drank, and Jeff went on about Thailand.

"So, once off of the ship, we all find ourselves on the beach. Now, there are some bars in town, but on the beach, they have these carts, sort of like taco carts here, but they serve booze instead of tacos. I mean, you can stroll down the beach and go from cart to cart and drink."

"And girls?" I asked. I had heard about the extraordinary number of young girls in Thailand.

"Lots of them," Jeff nodded, "but I wasn't in the mood, I wanted to drink. They hung around the carts and mostly giggled a lot. I remember that night that one spoke some broken English and translated for the rest of them. My shipmates, of course, paired off with most of them, but even after I found myself pretty much alone there were always a few girls at whatever cart I was drinking at, and there was always one who spoke broken English."

Jeff, grinning widely, took a hit off of his cigarette and blew the smoke up, where it mingled with mine and that of others in the cantina. Our community-exhaled-smoke hung like an ornament, an overhead mantle that decorated his story like inverted angel-hair might decorate the manger in a dollhouse Nativity scene. Except that in La Fuente, the wise men never showed up. It was a cloudy night, no stars could be seen. Maybe that was part of it. Who can say?

* * * *

Jeff went on.

"So there I was, in Thailand, drinking at this cart on the beach, when I felt something large and heavy land on my shoulder."

I blinked nervously. Mickey was in another world, and anyone else in the cantina, were they paying any bit of attention at all, did not show any sign of interest. Assuming that they spoke English. Estelle speaks good English, but appeared otherwise occupied, even if that was by design.

"So I looked at my shoulder, and saw this huge grey piece of flesh that went on in back of me, and I looked up and saw this enormous elephant standing behind me. He had his trunk draped over my shoulder, and he was just standing there, with this basket on his back way up high, and he was right on the beach and at this cart I was drinking at."

Jeff laughed.

"An elephant?" I asked.

"I swear," Jeff said, crossing his right hand in front of him. "The girls started giggling, when one who spoke broken English informed me that the elephant wanted me to buy him a beer."

* * * *

I found myself remembering the articles that I had previously run across, at least once every few months or so, that had chronicled herds of elephants in some remote village in India. The herd smells the hooch being brewed and comes in out of the jungle to tear up the village. They find the hooch, drink until they get drunk, and proceed to rampage and kill whomever they find.

So I already knew that elephants enjoyed some sort of brew now and again.

And as Jeff went on, I feared for something terrible in the aftermath of whatever had happened that night in Thailand with the barfly-pachyderm, but my fears were without warrant. That particular elephant, as it turned out, was at least in the same category that I now place my definition of a rational human being.

Someone you can drink with!

* * * *

My son Joshua is seventeen and soon to be eighteen, and one thing that I told him when we met in downtown San Diego on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, was that if he decided to drink on occasion, then he would have to learn how to drink. He argued the point, respectfully and eloquently, but I persisted in telling him, in order to remain a rational human being, that he would have to learn how to drink and that it might take years of learning. I told him that I was well into my thirties before I learned how to drink.

"Dad, believe me, I've drank a lot, I know."

"Son," I said, "trust me. The key to drinking is locked behind that magic age where it isn't so much fun anymore as it is something one does to either pass the time or as a table-setting for other activities."


"Like exploring rationality."

We walked all over the place, I pointed out street banners and so on that the company where I work are responsible for. They are all over the place, these banners, on Broadway, at the airport, near the stadium. Easy testimony to prove, in part, that I have contributed in some way toward the betterment of humanity - even if the vinyl which these graphics are displayed on will refuse to biodegrade into the next millennium.

It sure beats pointing up to the sky, to some jet-fighter up there, and claiming responsibility for some part of that nightmare.

My son told me that he normally sported a mohawk, a haircut that is associated with punk-rockers. Out of respect for his gray-bearded-old-man, he wore it in its relaxed state, which made him look a little bit like a member of The Monkeys than the Sex Pistols. Better the former than lunching with Johnny Rotten (if only to avoid the obvious comments such as, "Hey, what's the old fuck doing hanging out with the young punker?"). We spent most of our time talking, which was perfect. We needed to talk, we have over a decade of our trivial pursuits to catch up on.

This kid is deep. And polite and able to spark up a conversation with just about anyone. And he did, at various times throughout the afternoon.

Into the evening, we were rained on a little bit and it bothered neither of us. I was enjoying a cold microbrew and he was sipping a cola, and I related to him this story that Jeff told me the week before in La Fuente. I bet he is still wondering about that.

* * * *

"Well," I asked Jeff, "did you buy the elephant a beer?"

"Sure. In Thailand, at least back then, your money went a long way, a beer cost next to nothing. What the hell, I bought the elephant a beer. You ever see an elephant drink a beer?"

"Nope," I said.

"After the bottle was opened, he took the bottle of beer with his trunk and stuck it down his throat. I thought, 'Holy crap, he's going to choke on it!', and I started to reach my hand into his mouth. Then I thought about how this elephant probably weighs more that five busses, so I waited. In thirty seconds, he spits the bottle out into the sand, empty of course."

"And he wanted another one," I offered.

"Of course. So I got him another. What the hell."

"And you matched him, beer for beer?"

"Hell no. Jumbo out-drank me three to one. And he'd have drank more if I would have bought them. I'd go down the beach to another cart and Jumbo would follow, all night it went like that. Until about five in the morning, when I saw the sun coming up. I'd had more than enough, and it looked like the elephant did too, he was half asleep. I was finishing the last gulp of beer, when I heard someone yelling in Thai. I looked up, and some little Thai dude was yelling at me from out of the basket on top of the elephant, presumably, for getting his elephant drunk. 'Sorry about Jumbo', I told him, 'but I gotta go', and I headed back to my ship."

I laughed for fifteen minutes even after Jeff and Mickey left.

* * * *

Much of this explains why Jeff can stand drinking with Mickey. Personally, I would rather drink with Jumbo.

* * * *

Joshua writes. I have never read anything that he has written other than an email, but we share this method: Rarely do we begin writing at the beginning of what we wish to say, we are likely to write the ending first. I was floored when he told me this, and I am not so sure that genetics has anything to do with it so much as one's approach to life in general.

I am very proud of him. In a few months, we look forward to getting together down here and sharing some Tecates in some of the places where I often explore rationality. Maybe we'll have a Cohiba. And when he goes back home, if his mother asks him what he did down here, I will suggest that he answers her honestly and appropriately. I will suggest that he tells his mother that he spent his time in Tijuana drinking with Jumbo.