refriedgringo

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, July 28, 2006

San Marcos

Up interstate five - out of San Diego going north - La Jolla lies directly west, coiling out from the Pacific Ocean while the canyons and hills sprawl eastward, littered with wealthy communities and business complexes that deal in medicine and wireless technology and so on. Beyond the last canyon, the desert begins in earnest; fooled by miles of aqueducts and irrigated farmland wherever water would turn a wasteland into an oasis, until the land is all used up and the desert takes what it rightfully wants for. I have been in that desert before some time ago and I can’t imagine that anything has changed.

The lizards and the birds are still there, I reckon.

North and into Del Mar, past the beautiful racetrack, the north coast of San Diego spins out beaches and cliffs and then beaches and cliffs again, in sequential and majestic rhythm. Moving still north, there is Encinitas, Cardiff, Solana, Rancho Santa Fe, Leucadia, and so on. Inland from all of this there lies a small, hot valley, like the bottom of some vast and shallow skillet, with roads that lead to the promise of new communities, construction is everywhere in the middle of this nowhere, even up the sides of the skillet and beyond. In the center of the skillet, within the strip malls and the supermarkets and the appliance centers and the International House of Pancakes, within the undulations and mounds – with the beach communities to the west and the very middle-upper class existence to the south and the desert to the east, there is a city here.

In this city lies a trailer park; not an ordinary trailer park with beaten-down shacks on wheels, but a rolling estate filled with dwellings that are larger than most houses that I have lived in since moving to Mexico, with fruit trees and oleanders and birds and lizards. Distant porch chimes ring and a very hot and subtle breeze blows through a certain trailer porch toward the top of the small hill that the estate rests upon, and the thermometer nestled in the lattice that supports the porch gives a constant report of temperature.

In the shade of this porch, which is much better than being inside of the trailer or out in the sun, the thermometer is having me believe that it is ninety-eight degrees here. Yesterday, it was one hundred and three. My father is out in his rented vehicle on the other side of this trailer, motor running and air conditioner full on, keeping himself cool. For me, ninety-eight degrees isn’t so bad. After all, it could be one hundred and three!

We are in San Marcos, California, in the United States of America, and global warming seems to be kicking our collective asses. At least there is plenty of beer in the refrigerator. I have learned this, then, in the last couple of years: Fight terrorists with freedom-loving members of the armed forces of the United States and Europe; fight global warming with beer.

Judging on the amount of beer that we are consuming here, global warming doesn’t stand a chance. As for terrorism I remain forever hopeful, irrespective of any bad news on the other side of the planet.

I am having a wonderful time in spite of global warming and terrorism, drinking beer and feeding the blue jays.

* * * *

Over a week ago in Tijuana it was booming thunder that woke us up, Rocio looked at me as if there was something that I should be doing to stop it. She rolled over and covered her head with the sheet and the fan buzzed on from the foot of the bed barely cooling us from the hot and humid early Sunday morning. Ignoring Rocio was easy after that, but it was four-thirty in the morning now and I couldn’t go back to sleep.

Besides, the thunder began to rumble endlessly, and as I pulled on my robe I figured I would get to see a light show. Once downstairs, sure enough out of the front window and facing north, the lightning streaked like maybe some high voltage wires into outer space had snapped, and the charged ends of some gigantic cables were slinking free, arcing often enough to keep the sky lit up pretty well.

Then, suddenly, it began to rain. The water poured down so fast that the ground – in places where there was nowhere for the water to pool up – couldn’t soak it in at all, and the gutters barely held the flow from up the hill above us.

The lightning and the thunder stopped and for maybe a half-hour more the rain continued. It felt safe to power up my computer and I searched for any sort of information from the National Weather Service in San Diego, but everyone seemed to be asleep. I couldn’t even get an accurate satellite image for the greater San Diego area, no one seemed to care about Tijuana from up there. The rain, from outside of my office window, poured off of the tarp covering the Maytag washer and the Kenmore dryer and the propane tanks and hot water heater and so on, but there was nothing on the internet anywhere that indicated that my part of the world was in any sort of danger at all.

Then, suddenly, there was no rain.

Sunrise had already happened at some point beyond the clouds that were covering Baja California, and silence then blanketed all of the space that the clouds covered; no noisy birds or noisy neighbors or noisy propane trucks or anything. The amazing thing about the complete quiet wasn’t the lack of propane trucks or banda music or whatever else usually fills the air on any given Sunday morning. The amazing thing about last Sunday morning was that the birds – usually cheeping and pweeting like nobodies business – were taking that particular morning off.

Except for one bird: a parrot was singing some lonely song, somewhere near my office window, probably some newly escaped pet fresh on the lamb, trying to figure out how to get fed or how to get a mate. This parrot braved the storm somehow, and now braved the silence, breaking the heavy, humid, hot morning into the pieces of a one-way conversation.

"Bueno?" the parrot asked. Or maybe I thought I heard it say that, maybe it was some neighbor answering the telephone.

"Squawk," it continued.

I so badly wanted it to tell me that Poly wanted a cracker, but trying the best that I could, there was nothing else intelligible that came out of that parrot’s mouth after that. I imagine, then, that the parrot was only there to test the climatic conditions after the storm. Or else, maybe the parrot was simply desperate, a lonely and scared animal in an unusual circumstance beyond the parrot’s ability to control its existence in its own environment.

I could totally relate to that.

Then again, maybe it wasn’t a parrot making noises outside of my office window last Sunday. Maybe it was a canary. What do I know about birds?

* * * *

When my father came out to get Anna a few weeks ago and to take her back to Tennessee, he picked me and Rocio and Anna up in what was a wonderfully overcast San Diego at the embarcadero on a Saturday morning when it was seventy degrees.

Those were the days. Now that global warming has taken over, you’re lucky to get seventy degrees in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator.

So back then, back when it was seventy degrees on the San Diego bay, we climbed into my father’s rented sports utility vehicle and burned a small fortune in refined petroleum in order to reach San Marcos. San Marcos must be where this global warming struck first because it had to be about one hundred degrees here, even three weeks ago. Out on the porch of Mitch’s trailer, there was just enough of a breeze to make it somewhat comfortable. We sat, waiting for Mitch to get home from work, and my father fetched a plastic bowl full of shelled peanuts from inside and set them on the table in front of us. I was about to decline his generous offer, being in no mood for snacks, when he grabbed a peanut out of the bowl.

"Watch this," my father said.

He held the peanut between his thumb and index finger, arm outstretched toward a lemon tree in the small yard beyond the porch.

"Well, come on, come and get it," he said to the tree.

A blue jay flew out of the tree and landed on the porch railing, unsure of itself but certainly interested in the offer. After a few seconds, the jay landed on my father’s hand and pried the peanut loose, flying off with its prize.

"That’s the female. The male won’t land on your hand, he’s too skittish," my father informed us.

We all took turns feeding peanuts to the female jay and throwing nuts in the general direction of the male jay, feeding the local wildlife there on the porch in San Marcos, California, global warming be damned, until Mitch returned from work.

* * * *

Mitch is a longtime friend of the family, and family for all that it matters, he was once married to a cousin of mine, Jeryl. Jeryl is now a writer, how about that? I haven’t spoken with her in many years, she has a son now who I reckon would be about Anna’s age. That evening, as it turned out, I used the internet to chat with her, she and Mitch had been keeping in touch recently, and Mitch insisted that I contact her. How did I go about re-introducing myself to her?

This is what I typed: "You taught me how to play the piano when I was six years old."

This is what she replied: "Then, you must be David."

She was my piano teacher, in fact, for many years until she and my mother gave up once that I started playing everything I heard on the radio and gave up on Beethoven. It took my mother a few years to figure that out, and by then I was more interested in rock music than anything, the only classical music I cared about was orchestral. Somewhere along the way I learned how to play a few horns and fell in love with the Russian composers.

Then came the rock bands in college, and college itself, and a pregnant girlfriend, and so on, until I finally parlayed my musical talent into a wonderful life of working my ass off for someone else, and then another someone else, and then another someone else, and on and on and on. And another thing that I did ever since I was a kid was write, I kept a written journal, and even wrote some short stories, and started a novel that would never be finished.

The novel was about a few guys who discovered that the Mexican Mafia had some secret plan to take over all of Los Angeles, written back before anyone really knew what the Mexican Mafia was. It was wonderfully naïve and horribly written and got lost somewhere between Los Angeles and Mexico. Back then, it never occurred to me that someone could make an actual living at writing, it was just something to do between boredom and puberty. I could have just as easily turned into a heroin addict.

Even now, it occurs to me that making an actual living at writing takes more than just writing. Somewhere along the way there is promotion and writing for a certain niche and other aspects that I know nothing about.

I don’t know much about heroin, either.

* * * *

Mitch finally came home that afternoon a few weeks ago, and then Joshua showed up along with Bekka and her boyfriend Zack. We sat out on the porch and listened to Joshua go on about boot camp and the army. He’s on his way to South Korea and then to Iraq, soft orders for a hard journey. Joshua’s job is dealing with chemicals used in warfare, gases and powders and so on. If his soft orders hold up, then he will eventually be attached to a Marine unit in Iraq.

"Basically, they send me in, in order to tell them whether or not it’s safe. I identify whether or not certain biologically hazardous chemicals are in the area. Of course, if they are, I’m basically fucking dead, so my warning would probably be my last words," Joshua informed us.

"Then, when someone asks you what your job is in the Army, tell them that you are the canary on the coal miner’s hat," I told him.

When the laughter died down it was Mitch who motioned at me and said, "He’s right, you know."

Some time ago, back before mankind invented electronic instruments to detect harmful chemicals present in the atmosphere and sometime in-between the third and fourth modern cycles of global warming, miners used to carry canaries into the coal mines with them. The idea was that the canary, having a much more rapid respiration rate than the miner, would succumb quickly to the ill effects of methane gas, a poisonous byproduct of mechanical mining. When the miner would notice the dead canary, then he would run like hell for the surface of the earth, thereby hopefully escaping some wayward pocket of methane gas. Then, the miner could eventually grab another canary and go back down into the darkness to fret some other catastrophe, like maybe a cave-in.

Canaries aren’t any better than human beings are at predicting when massive tunnels will collapse. The earth moves however it moves, ignorant of the best intentions of tunnels and mines and canaries and human beings and so on. In fact, the earth probably moves without influence from global warming or terrorists, either.

I saw Joshua for a few hours and then he was gone, like some canary that had just escaped from a cage.

"I’ll call you, dad," he said to me after we hugged goodbye.

I reckon I’ll hear from him sometime next year, hopefully between Korea and Iraq. Before he becomes a canary, before some coal miner plucks him like ripe fruit as an appetizer for some feast of an unholy war. I reckon that I’ll hear from Josh sometime before then, at the very least.

* * * *

Juan arrived one week ago last Saturday night in Tijuana, I was there and was the only one in the house that knew he was due to arrive. After the hugs and so on, we made plans for San Marcos. Juan came home at five-thirty in the morning on Sunday and we left at seven, and on the trolley he threw up last night’s party into a plastic bag that someone handed to him at the last minute.

Two stops later, I held open the door while he pitched that bag into a nearby trashcan.

Juan is here for one more week, and then it’s back to Al Anbar, back to worrying and fretting.

"One week ago, someone in your unit was killed," I told him as we embraced.

"I know," he said. "I was supposed to be on that patrol. The master sergeant told me that I had to stay behind, I was the only tank mechanic left in the unit."

And so, I see Juan in-between his nightly excursions with his friends, knowing that he goes back to hell next week. Juan is a very good-looking young man. Young ladies have been calling this place from the second that he arrived, the telephone never seems to stop ringing. I wake up early, fielding calls sometimes while taking vacation, when not in San Marcos.

"¿Está Juan?" they ask.

"No," I tell them. "Juan no está."

I tell them that Juan isn’t home, even though he is upstairs sleeping. They sound very genuinely disappointed. Of course, they didn’t see him vomiting into a plastic bag last weekend while riding the trolley north to meet my father, on the way to San Marcos.

I was quite proud of him. As the passengers cleared away from us, after he finally finished heaving everything inside of his stomach, he looked up at me.

"You alright?"

"Yeah," he said. "Much better."

He’ll have to go back to Iraq, but not for long. After a few more months, he’ll come back home and be out of the army and we’ll probably come up to San Marcos for a day or two. We’ll visit Mitch and sit on the porch and bitch about global warming and terrorism, and wish that Joshua was here with us in San Marcos.

We will remember the canaries even as we feed the blue jays. And, maybe if we get lucky, we’ll see some rain.

1 Comments:

Blogger TJ said...

Sección: Editoriales / Los Reporteros Opinan
El Peje y los empresarios

Por: Erendira Huizar Dominguez
Martes 25 de Julio del 2006

Apenas está asimilando la población que un grupo muy poderoso de empresarios, mexicanos y extranjeros que prácticamente están en todos los productos que consumimos en el hogar, ha sido denunciado por haber participado en la campaña electorera pasada.

Fueron al igual que otras cosas, señalados como una causal para la impugnación de las elecciones y un probable interinato.

Para este supuesto, se manejan dos nombres de panistas y el del perredista Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, quizá el más desprestigiado de los tres, aunque cuenta con el apoyo incondicional de millones de mexicanos de la izquierda.

Los empresarios que están siendo señalados por gastar al menos 337 millones de pesos en propaganda (deducible de impuestos, o sea que los pagamos nosotros) en contra de uno de los candidatos a la presidencia de la república, son, el Consejo Coordinador Empresarial, el Consejo de la Comunicación, Consejo Mexicano de Hombres de Negocios, entre los cuales se dice que concentran el 40 por ciento del Producto Interno Bruto del país (PIB).

Entre ellos se cuentan Juan Domingo Beckmann -de la tequilera Cuervo, Juan Sánchez Navarro, la empresa Sabritas, propiedad de Pepsico, que al igual que Coca Cola, otra de las participantes, “parece no cubrir los requisitos establecidos en la ley electoral, especialmente en el capítulo relativo a la propaganda política”, según lo consigna el 14 de los corrientes el periodista Carlos Fernández Vega de La Jornada.

La lista continúa con Citigroup-Banamex (Manuel Medina Mora, Soctiabank Inverlart (Anatol von Hahn), Procter and Gamble, Kimberly Clark (que en México representa Claudio X. González Laporte), General Electric, Bacardí, McDonalds, la aseguradora holandesa ING.

Johnson and Johnson, Bic (no sabe fallar), Sara Lee (una panificadora estadunidense cuyos productos Bimbo distribuye en México), Microsoft (Bill Gates, Enciclomedia), American Express y la telefónica española Movistar, "patrocinadores" activos del Consejo de la Comunicación.

Así como FEMSA (Eugenio Garza Lagüera), Grupo Empresarial Angeles (Olegario Vázquez Raña), Mexicana de Aviación (Gastón Azcárraga), Grupo Gigante (familia Losada), Cervecería Modelo (Carlos Fernández González).

El Grupo Bimbo (Lorenzo Servitje Sendra), Comex (Marcos Achar Levy, ex patrón de Josefina Vázquez Mota, ex titular de la Sedeso y coordinadora de la campaña de Calderón, Grupo Nacional Provinicial (Alejandro Bailleres), Grupo Carso (Carlos Slim Domit), La Costeña (Vicente López Rodea), Multisistemas de Seguridad Industrial (Alejandro Desfassiaux), Cinépolis (Alejandro Ramírez), Hard Rock Café (Erich Zinser Cielsilk), Martí (Carlos Gómez Andonaegui), Clemente Jacques (Jaime López Otegui) y Grupo Alsea (Alberto Torrado).

Al igual están siendo señalados, Nestlé, Sears, Telmex, Unilever, Lala, Mabe, Kraft, Aeroméxico, Mexicana de Aviación, La Costeña, Grupo Modelo y Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, hasta hacer un total aproximado de 23 grandes firmas.

Todos ellos, se asegura que patrocinan un movimiento encabezado por Martha Fox , “A Favor de lo Mejor”, para apuntalar la elección de su partido.

Y quienes de una manera u otra participaron, ya sea financiando o produciendo propaganda que intervino en el ánimo del elector para favorecer al candidato de la presidencia de la república.

En este contexto vale la pena mencionar, que el fanatismo religioso está presente en los activistas de este sector de la derecha, que culpa a los pobres y a su líder de participar en una confrontación “social”.

Así tenemos que un grupo de juniors metidos a políticos en el partido de los empresarios, está enviando correos y repartiendo volantes para invitar a la quema en el Distrito Federal, de toda clase de artículos y literatura que ellos consideran “peligrosa” para la moral y para su clase social.

Una gran quema religiosa de condones, propaganda del Peje y cosas por el estilo.

En medio de este ambiente, se está gestando la tercera gran movilización a la ciudad de México, convocada por el líder de los pobres, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Respecto a esto, se confirmó que un contingente saldrá de esta ciudad el próximo 28 de los corrientes, de la explanada Baca Calderón. erendirah@diario.net

10:58 AM, August 17, 2006  

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