30 July 2010

Let Us Now Play Dress-Up



I know that you have had this same eerie experience many times. Some subject crops up in your mind for absolutely no discernible reason. Then a short time later an event occurs directly related to that subject that cropped up in your mind previously, again for no discernible reason. You get the feeling that somehow by thinking about the subject, you somehow conjured the event.

On 17 July I was considering the latest travel alerts issued by the State Department. That train of thought led me onto the subject of the Hells Angels and big motorcycles somehow.

Wouldn't you know it? Last week 1,500 Mexican Harley-Davidson riders converged on San Miguel out of the blue. They were on some sort of group ride along the Independence Route in connection with the bicentennial.









For me this is just an interesting example of the penetration of the popular culture of the United States into other cultures and the resulting homogenization of the world. A lot of middle class people, and some upper class people, in the United States love to purchase Harley-Davidson motorcycles along with a bunch of gear. They then play dress-up and loudly ride all over hell together to no purpose. (Of course the purpose is the ride. I know that.) Dare we admit that there are lower class people in the United States? In any event and when credit is easy, a lot of lower class people participate, too.







It turns out, sure enough, that a lot of middle class Mexicans enjoy the very same thing.










Guarding all those motorcycles. Kinda.



Having said all that and in my own defense, I am considerably more mellowed out on this subject than I was during that walking tour of Luckenbach, Texas, last year when I launched into obscenities on the subject. “Live and let live,” I say now. “To each is own.” Give me a moment, and I will think of some other clichés.

I must admit, however, that it was impressive to hear 1,500, big bore Harley-Davidson motorcycles cranked up simultaneously and ridden out of town as occurred at 9:00 a.m. on the morning after these photos were taken.


* * * * * * * * * * * *



While I consider some additional clichés, let's take a break and listen to Martha Reeves and the Vandellas. The last video, filmed in the Ford plant in Detroit, delights me for some reason.

We all have our own cherished things, often only images, that we consider iconic cultural phenomena, depending on our personalities, ages, and so forth. For me that gap in Martha Reeves' front teeth has always, always been an iconic cultural phenomenon. I have trouble finding it in my heart to forgive her for getting that fixed later. Obviously, it was not an iconic cultural phenomenon for her.

Years before my own case of male hormone poisoning abated and I left off playing dress-up, there were three beautiful lies that I loved to hear women tell me. One of those beautiful lies is nicely incorporated into the song Heat Wave: "I ain't never felt like this before."

Join me at the bottom of this page.

Salvador



A good night's sleep, a blue sky in the morning, some espresso, and I realize that there is no reason to get all old-womanish about this situation with Salvador and Laura.

Here is the new back screen door that I was raving about. While it appears fragile, it is quite stout.







I love that damned screen door, let me tell you.

The following photo portrays Salvador and a restored solipsist beside a different sort of screen that Salvador fabricated out of local cane and painted. This screens off a little storage area under the staircase.




29 July 2010

The Mountain Route



Whether the illegal border crossings are down or not, here are some things that I know personally.

One of the great con men whom I have ever met, Fortino, has hit hard times. Currently, tourists are terrified of driving across the border. As a consequence, there are not enough gringo SUV's and automobiles for Fortino to wash and wax at curbside. He is trying to raise the money to finance a coyote and head to Texas for awhile to earn some money. He is sure he can find work there. In his opinion I am just the man deserving of the honor of financing that trip. Of course, he will repay me immediately upon his return.

I am not going to finance Fortino's coyote. I will, however, probably have to purchase some shoes for his children. Do not worry. I have been around for awhile. I will not give Fortino the money for that. I will go with him to the shoe store.

I met Laura through La Mexicana. Laura is La Mexicana's long time housekeeper, and that relationship is very close, as those relationships are in Mexico. Laura is about 25 years old, a little too old to be my granddaughter but not by much. Laura's father has been up north to work and back several times. He goes there when he goes via the mountain route into Arizona. National Guard troops will be waiting on the other side to under orders to stop him.

The mountain route. We are talking some rugged, remote stuff here, folks. Once you step off the road in Mexico and head into the mountains to make a crossing, it will be days before you ever see another road again. It is essential that you know what you are doing and prepare properly. Many Mexicans try it without appreciating what they are getting into and without proper preparations. The morgues of Arizona are filling up with the bones of Mexicans found in the desert on the other side, particularly now that the heat combined with a drought is hammering that area.

I have also become acquainted with Laura's boyfriend, Salvador. Salvador is a carpenter and all around handyman. I would prefer the word “artisan” to the word “handyman,” but “artisan” seems a bit pretentious to me. I will explain.

Let us say that you have hired Salvador to mount a screen door on your back door, as La Mexicana did recently. Salvador does not go to Dom Pedro's Ferreteria, the local hardware chain, to buy a screen door. Salvador fabricates the screen door himself. This is necessary because not one door in Mexico measures the same as any other door.

Only the screening itself comes from the hardware store. He fabricates the frame, the latch, and the spring from found materials. (Come to think of it, I guess he did purchase the hinges and the screws from the hardware store, too) The spring, for example, is made from a small discarded bungee cord. The frame is made from the hard, cane-like stems of plants that grow along the road to the reservoir. The result is not just a screen door. It is a warm, unique artifact of simple beauty. It works well as a screen door, too.

I was in the same room with Salvador during this job, which took a day. He never took a break, not a lunch break, not a coffee break, not any kind of break until the job was done at the end of that day. Laura was there, too, doing what she does. It is a delight for me, an old man, to listen to Laura and Salvador chirp at each other in Spanish.

Nonetheless, their future depends upon Salvador working in the construction industry, not working on screen doors. He owns his own tools, as many construction workers do, and the construction industry is his trade. He cannot find work here right now. I suspect that La Mexicana is inventing some of these little carpentry projects at her house for him to do. Salvador, too, has been up north to work construction. I fear that he is getting ready to leave Laura and go again, waiting only for some word that work is there. In fact, I know that this is the case.

Salvador is a serious, talented young man who adores a young woman and who wants only to work in order to marry her and to make a family with her. He is not going to let anything stand in his way. He is going to do what he has to do. There is no construction work for him here right now. He, too, will take the mountain route into Arizona when he goes. National Guard troops and the Border Patrol will be waiting on the other side under orders to stop him.

There will be no pictures of Laura, Laura's father, or Salvador here for several reasons. [I lied here. See next entry.] Therefore, they will have to remain abstractions for you. Let me only say that if you were to meet Salvador and Laura and did not soon come to love them as I do now, I would have to question your basic humanity. They are a young couple who project a certain rectitude and gravity—this is a proper courtship--and at the same time radiate the joy they derive from each other. And they work their butts off. Both of them.

I write about this in order to explain my personal bias that, try as I might, I cannot overcome when writing about illegal immigration, undocumented workers, amnesty, “getting right with the law”. . . .phrases, only phrases that are so ill-understood and mean so little to so many up north. And here I am. . . I did not ask for this. I was singularly uninterested myself. I came here for my own selfish purposes not caring whether I actually became acquainted with one single damned Mexican person or not. And what happens? Purely by accident I come to know and love two young Mexicans caught up in all this.

It was a dark day for the solipsist when that happened.

María Félix



A couple of follow up comments regarding that entry of 24 July on the International Film Festival are in order. When I reread that, there was a whiff about it that diminished Pedro Armendáriz, Jr. Actually, he is the real deal. If you are unfamiliar with his work, I think the film you ought to start with is Herod's Law. If you are a Gael García Bernal fan, then take a look at The Crime of Father Amaro (2002). Pedro's part in that as the Mayor is not big, but it does show his skill as a character actor.





Regarding that same entry, a couple of kind folks have tactfully and privately pointed out that María Félix adamantly refused to learn English. Perhaps you have never heard of her before. Without English she did not appear in Hollywood films. For this reason, she is not in the same category as Pedro Armendáriz, Dolores del Rio, and Cantinflas.

This may have occurred to you, too, if you had heard of her. To which I can only reply with the suggestion that you hop on an airplane, fly down here, and help me explain that distinction to La Mexicana. Her position is that if you are making any list of Mexican film stars for any purpose, María Félix must be on it.




She had what strikes me as a kind of Ava Gardner-like, changeable beauty but always with a smoldering sexuality about it. "Smoldering sexuality" is a cliché that has lost some of its descriptive usefulness through overuse. So that we know what we are talking about here, let me add that María Félix set men on fire. The reports are consistent. Men who had the opportunity to meet her in the flesh were cooked. You could have stuck a fork in them afterward.





María Félix is not just the most famous Mexican film actress still, she is the most famous Mexican film star. Period. Regardless of gender. Interestingly enough, Ms. Félix did teach herself French in order to appear in French films. I am not sure what that means, but it certainly seems to be a statement of some sort.

The real reason for all this is to provide some explanatory background to the remark about her at the end of that entry concerning the International Film Festival. María Félix did openly put up some serious numbers in terms of men in her life. She famously said,

I cannot complain about men. I have had tons of them and they have treated me fabulously well. But sometimes I had to hurt them to keep them from subjugating me.


The period we are talking about here is primarily in the forties and fifties. In this country where women have traditionally been subjugated, at least a couple of generations of women lived vicariously through María Félix, La Doña.

Now, this is not an uncommon phenomenon with celebrities and their fans generally of course. What is unusual about this case is the penetration of the phenomenon across the spectrum of Mexican society. This is what people are talking about when they say that she is the most famous of all, I think.

Of course newspaper readers followed her reported exploits avidly, but newspapers did not print everything about the involvement of government figures and their pals primarily because the mainstream press was on the government payroll albeit off the books. However, other news of her traveled by word of mouth even into remote villages where women led a stark existence and could not read. The Mexican people have always kept track of the high and the mighty through word of mouth, and in that era what they heard was in most cases probably more accurate than what was printed.

Even illiterate women of all ages living in poverty would discuss María Félix—what she should probably do about her latest man, whether her current man was mistreating her, what those women would do if they were in her shoes, and on and on—while they were bent over a mortar and pestle grinding corn meal. That is not overstating the case by much.






So in the course of these conversations among the women of Roman Catholic Mexico, the question quite naturally came up as to whether María Félix was really a whore. The overwhelming consensus among these women, as nearly as I can tell, was always, “Not really.” She was loved by the women of Mexico and therefore given the benefit of the doubt.

She was loved by the men of Mexico, too, and the rich ones could act on this.

María Félix became notoriously wealthy herself in great part courtesy of wealthy, powerful men. She is in the history books of Mexico, not just the cultural history books, because of her liaisons with the powerful and the wealthy including at least one President. A big chunk--we are talking a large number of pesos here--of the Mexican national treasury at the time was spent on María Félix by many of these men.

La Mexicana's purely rhetorical question probably summarizes the attitude of Mexican women generally regarding the money, "What was she supposed to do? Turn that down?"

28 July 2010

Villains



At the end of the 26 July entry, I was contemplating the identity of the villains in Julie Preston's New York Times piece. The "bizarre situation" I referred to was this.

As a temporary result of the government audits of Gebbers Farms employee records, that company was required to fire a large percentage of its workers. At this point Gebbers Farms found itself without sufficient pickers and other workers. Nearby in that Mexican community, there were numbers of families whose bread-winners were out of a job with little prospects of finding another job now that their immigration status was exposed by this firing. There they are, workers willing and able to pick fruit sitting idle a few miles from Gebbers Farms, which desperately needed workers to pick fruit.

The issue is always whether undocumented workers are taking jobs that citizens of the United States might fill. In this case, apparently not. In other cases that does happen in spite of the arguments of people whom I respect that it never does. No question about that in my mind. This is one of the great variables that is so difficult to figure out.

At bottom, it is apparent to me that it is in the public interest to have labor available to pick fruits and harvest vegetables. If that labor is not available from citizens, it ought to come from somewhere. The obvious somewhere is Mexican workers willing to do the work. Actually, I do not think anyone except the stubbornly blockheaded argue with that proposition. It is simply very difficult to figure out a policy that fairly and efficiently implements this simple proposition.

You will note that the legal way out of this dilemma for Gebbers Farms would be to file paperwork with the government demonstrating that it cannot hire citizens of the United States. They will not take the jobs. Then it can obtain dispensation to hire legally registered foreign workers. Can you imagine the bureaucratic nightmare that must be? And meanwhile the fruit rots in the trees.

This particular scenario is a clean, classic one, and a nice context within which to start discussion of all this.

One of the big complications sets in when we shift our focus from seasonal work to non-seasonal work. The best example to consider next is the packing plant industry, an industry wherein the necessary labor is non-seasonal. The packing plant industry has traditionally had difficulty filling its labor needs with citizens of the United States. It has traditionally turned to immigrant labor.

The primary difference, it seems to me, is that in seasonal work it is practical for a bread-winner to come north, work for a time, and then return home to his or her family. In the non-seasonal area, the worker is naturally inclined to bring the family with him.

In any event the distinction between these two types of industries is one of the reasons that we split the so-called H-2 temporary worker program in two in 1986 and began administering an H-2A program involving agricultural workers and an H-2B program involving non-agricultural workers.

Next time I want to talk about the big issue, what in justice should be done regarding the millions of undocumented Mexican workers and their families who are here now and have been here for years. We must recognize on the one hand that, yes, they broke the law of this country in their crossing. However, they bear less than half the responsibility for this mess. Fucking this all up has truly been a group effort by all involved.

More about that next time.

By the way, there are no villains in that Julie Preston story that I can see.

27 July 2010

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics



Now that I have done my level best to make myself look extraordinarily brilliant, even going so far as to shamelessly drop the name Edward Gibbon (I am only in Volume I; the Romans are still only declining at this point), I feel compelled to come clean about something else. The more I read about the illegal immigration crisis and the undocumented worker problem, the more I come to appreciate the importance of things that I do not know—and very important things that nobody knows.

Best example I can give you. As I read, I kept noticing that writers on the subject were hedging on how many undocumented workers are in the United States right now. It is always something like, “There are an estimated 10 million undocumented workers in the United States,” or “There are 12 million+ illegal immigrants living in the United States.” Notice that plus sign.

So I asked myself, “Well, goddamnit, exactly how many undocumented workers are living in the United States?" That piece of information seemed to me to be a pretty fundamental starting place for an intelligent discussion of the subject.

The epiphany came in the form of my imagining the voice of that great comedian, Sam Kinison—may God rest his troubled soul—screaming in my ear:

You say you want to know how many undocumented workers are now living in the United States, huh? NOBODY KNOWS, YOU MORON, because they are UNDOCUMENTED!


That simple fact pollutes nearly every statistic that writers on the subject try to bring to bear.

Let us consider our friend Mr. Finnegan's statistic in the New Yorker article. He says that last year there were only five hundred and fifty thousand apprehensions at the border, the lowest figure in thirty-five years, down by 60 percent since 2000. Then he tacitly extrapolates—or more properly speaking, whoever provided the statistics to him extrapolates—that successful illegal border crossings are down by the same percentage. The assumption is that there is a direct relationship between the number of people apprehended and the number of people who made it.

Now I will grant you, that may be true. In fact, it probably is true. But it is not necessarily true. Who is to say whether that statistic does not represent greater efficiency on the part of the coyotes in successfully delivering the people who hire them to the United States without getting caught?

By the way, I have learned this interesting thing. If you hold your tongue with your fingers and say the word "statistics" ten times rapidly, you will hear a secret message.



But darn it! Now I am distracted thinking about Sam Kinison, the screamer. I was actually sitting in front of the television when he first appeared on David Letterman's show. Thirty-eight years old, still quite pretty, and undoubtedly drunk . . . . . . me, not Sam Kinison. At that time there was a horrific famine in Ethopia, and the world was answering the call with humanitarian aid. Sam Kinison delivered this heartless little oration on the subject:


You want to help world hunger? Stop sending them food. Don't send them another bite. Send them U-Hauls. Send them a guy that says, "You know, we've been coming here giving you food for about 35 years now and we were driving through the desert, and we realized there wouldn't BE world hunger if you people would live where the FOOD IS! YOU LIVE IN A DESERT!! UNDERSTAND THAT? YOU LIVE IN A FUCKING DESERT!! NOTHING GROWS HERE! NOTHING'S GONNA GROW HERE!"

"Come here. You see this? This is sand. You know what it's gonna be 100 years from now? IT'S GONNA BE SAND!! YOU LIVE IN A FUCKING DESERT! We have deserts in America. We just don't live in them, assholes!"


Of course huge numbers of citizen-consumers in the United States now do live in deserts, but that is beside the point here.

The fact is that the Ethiopians did not take Sam Kinison's advice, perhaps because they were too weakened by malnutrition. They continued to sit in the sand, men, women, and children covered with flies, and died. Millions of poor Mexicans, on the other hand, are on the move. They have packed the U-Hauls® figuratively speaking.

We are in the midst of a great movement of people, at the very least comparable in magnitude to the movement of black citizens of the United States from the South to the northern cities. I am coming to think that the idea of maintaining the United States with a fence, attempting to reconstitute it as some huge, pristine gated community with only people living inside the walls who look alike, think alike, and talk alike, is a pitifully, indeed laughably, inadequate response to this. It is already far too late for that even if it ever could have been done in the first place.

Walls—the Berlin Wall, Hadrian's Wall, the Chinese Wall, the wall north of Rome, the Maginot Line, the Iron Curtain, the wall around the Alamo, the wall around Veracruz—walls are made to be breached or flanked. The wall we are talking about has been breached and flanked.

Clearly, we must take the pressure off the wall somehow. But am I ever having difficulty coming up with some intelligent idea as to how to do that!

26 July 2010

A Great Movement of People



Before we get on with our next short reading on the "illegal immigration crisis"--or if you prefer, "undocumented worker problem"--I want to come clean with you. I am not even within a United Airlines intercontinental flight of a “solution.” I had to come clean with you because that fact will become apparent in this entry and those to follow. So why am I doing this? And what is the real reason that I think you ought to do yourself a favor and get interested, too?

It is apparent now that “immigration reform,” if it is taken up at all, will be taken up next year after these forthcoming midterm elections. If and when it is taken up, you and I are going to be treated to great political theater. I would even go so far as to say that if the pieces continue to fall into place, it could be one of the greater pieces of political theater in our lifetimes in terms of sheer entertainment value. Not on a level with the Watergate Crisis, but pretty doggoned good.

I know that attitude will offend some because of the seriousness of the issues as they relate to the very identity of the United States of America, the human suffering involved, the rage of so many on both sides. I offer no defense of the propriety of my attitude. Or let us put it this way. If I were to offer a defense, it would require a horrendous word count and involve sharing far more information about me than you could possibly stomach.

I have been studying this issue, that I promise you. Y'all are busy working at your jobs, trying to feed your babies, struggling in a miserable economy, and only God knows what else. Me, I have not a problem in the world. I have time. I can spend hours foraging for information and am delighted to do it. I not only have the time to read contemporary writing on the subject, I can read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon and histories of Mexico and “The Mexican War,” known down here as “The U.S. Invasion,” for whatever light works like that might shed on the situation. . .and they do shed light.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have been able to chat with Mexicans who have been back and forth over that border about the when's, why's, and how's. They take one look at me with my hair down to my shoulders and immediately conclude that I could not be anything other than some curious gringo goof. That is how far into my bones this thing has gotten.

The issues we face with regard to legal immigration, illegal immigration, undocumented workers, guest worker programs, amnesty, or “getting right with the law” are fascinating. There are one or more facets to this that would be fascinating to any thinking person of any background if they put both feet in it, I am convinced. One of the primary reasons it is so enthralling to me personally is this. This is one of those rare issues on which one can in good faith argue different positions. This is a question so close that there is no point spread. It is a “you-call-it.” I looooooove those!

Not that it is going to be argued in good faith in the political arena. Far from it. Therein lies the potential for some profoundly entertaining stuff for you. But only if you go to the show actually knowing--actually knowing--a bit about the subject. Only then will you be able to spot all of the rapacious, the posers, the charlatans, the demagogues, the idiots, the clowns, and, yes, the racists who will inevitably step onto the stage of this theater. There will be people fitting one or more of those descriptions on all sides of this issue.

A quick word about that loaded term “racist.” Be cautious there. Some of the most articulate proponents of the “anti-immigration” position—a shorthand term we shall have to use—are black citizens of the United States. They have a significant stake in this game. In other words, this issue requires a legitimate discussion of race. And of course there will also be ill-concealed, illegitimate racism at work. More about that later.

While many national and ethnic groups are involved in the immigration debate, there is no doubt that Mexico is ground zero because of the border. Those groups that purport to speak for Mexican immigrants are in grave danger of shooting themselves in the foot with some of their own rhetoric, a good deal of which I have sampled.

On the other side of the coin, consider this. It was not that long ago that this appeared in a Wall Street Journal editorial:
If Washington still wants to do something about immigration, we propose a five-word Constitutional amendment: There shall be open borders.

That editorial appeared about 15 years ago. For good reason today, management's interest in cheap, submissive labor is veiled a bit more from public view, but it is still there in spades, I assure you. American labor unions, insofar as they are still players, have no choice but to bitterly fight anything that facilitates immigration.

Any resolution of this issue will not involve simply counting conservative and liberal noses. On this issue, ladies and gentlemen, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are not predictive. But that is really moot, because there will be no political resolution of this issue.




Enough. I apologize for getting carried away. A blog entry of a snitch over 1000 words requires an apology. I just do not want you to be unprepared for this grand entertainment if it comes.

With that let us move on to getting a firmer grip on our handle on the current situation with Julie Preston's fine short piece in The New York Times of July 9, Illegal Workers Swept From Jobs in “Silent Raids.” Do not be alarmed. It is only a bit over 1,100 words.

The main point here is that the Obama Administration is enforcing the law, and it is enforcing it in a new, more effective way. However, you will also see that our quandary as to what to do about the millions of undocumented workers already in the United States, many of whom have been there for years, results in a bizarre situation.

Try to pick out the villains in the scenario set out in this piece, and we will consider that tomorrow.

Lastly, I want to assure you that we will get to the thoughtful anti-immigration position.

25 July 2010

Real Numbers on Illegal Immigration



I have not forgotten my promise to provide a simple, comprehensive solution to the immigration problem. We will get to that very soon now.

In the meantime, and as background, I wish to recommend to you a short article that will go some way toward getting you up to speed on the southern border situation as it currently exists. The southern border is in better shape right now than it has been in a long time.

William Finnegan is a writer for The New Yorker who writes a good deal about Mexico. He knows what he is talking about. Would you not like to get a start on knowing what you are talking about with regard to one issue that generates so much public chatter?

This little piece is only 1,136 words long. It is not that tough to get all the way through it. Really! Some bright children can make it all the way through 1,136 words.

The real numbers on illegal immigration: newyorker.com

Once we get a handle on the U.S./Mexican border situation, we will turn our attention to that nettlesome U.S./Canadian border problem. Currently, Canadians are commonly allowed to cross the border into the United States and drive south on the highways and bridges of the United States in their recreational vehicles, campers, and whatnot. Many drive all the way south making use of all that infrastructure in the United States and cross the border into Mexico. I know this because I have met many of them here who have told me that they did that.

These Canadians do not pay any taxes in the United States, with the exception of the odd sales tax here and there and whatever taxes are incorporated into the price of gasoline in the United States. It is difficult to spot them. They look like normal United States citizen-consumer taxpayers, but they are not. For one thing, they are suspiciously happy with their lives.

Many of these Canadians--hold onto your chair now--many of these Canadians do not take antidepressants!

There are other facets to this problem with Canadians that we will look at in more detail.

24 July 2010

International Film Festival, San Miguel




Pedro Armendáriz and John Wayne

There are reasons for the fitful appearance of blog entries here very recently, one of which is the onset of the International Film Festival in San Miguel.

Last evening, Pedro Armendáriz, Jr., made his appearance up town in anticipation of his acceptance of his lifetime achievement award, or whatever precisely it is.

I appreciate that you would have to be in the vicinity of my age in order to appreciate the significance of the name Pedro Armendáriz as well as the names Dolores del Rio and, yes, Cantinflas. These are all Mexican actors of yesteryear from the Golden Age of Mexican cinema that dwindled away in the 1960's. They were all hugely popular in this country and also had a very significant impact in films made in the United States by not acting to stereotype.**


Pedro Armendáriz, I am pretty sure.

Now we must be careful here. The Pedro Armendáriz did not walk into the main plaza last night. The father, who is the one of whom I have written in the previous paragraph, has been dead since the early sixties. He committed suicide rather than ride out his cancer. The guy who walked into the main plaza last night was Pedro Armendáriz, Jr., who is normally billed in films as simply Pedro Armendáriz without the “Jr.” He has himself appeared in many films made in the United States but has also contributed otherwise to the Mexican film industry.


Pedro Armendáriz, Jr., as he appeared to me last evening.

I am convinced, however, that in the Mexican mind this is a distinction without a difference. They are both the same man here for all intents and purposes. It is a similar popular cultural phenomenon to, say, Hank Williams and Hank Williams, Jr., in the United States, only more so.


Pedro Armendáriz . . . or maybe Pedro Armendáriz, Jr.? Or maybe both?

I must admit that this 70-year-old man carries himself with some real machismo--erect (by that I mean that he had excellent posture), a bit arrogant in manner, but possessed of a devastating smile. He walked into the plaza and did a promenade around it preceded by a band, accompanied by his entourage, flanked by the San Miguel mounted police—not motorcycles but horses, and followed by Mexicans in all kinds of costumes, some on stilts for some reason.

The upshot of this was that I had to chase La Mexicana around that plaza as she tried to get as close to him as possible as many times as possible along with an enormous number of other striking Mexican women with the same idea. You would have thought that Gael García Bernal or Diego Luna had walked into the place.


I give up.

**ADDENDUM: La Mexicana is expressing outrage as I type this that I did not include the most famous Mexican actress of all, María Félix, who you will be happy to learn was "not really a whore." She just put up some big numbers. I offer this addendum in the hope that it will placate La Mexicana.

23 July 2010

Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

Before we get on with simple solutions for the North American immigration problem, let us take time out for a short, interesting video from The The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.





20 July 2010

Postponement



Doggone it! I was sure that I had this immigration thing solved. Then I stumbled upon some more reading material that I must digest. This requires delay in my unveiling of a comprehensive solution.

In the meantime, has this thought ever crossed your mind? "Damn it! I have put off reading Democracy in American by Alexis de Tocqueville long enough."

19 July 2010

U.S. Troops to Arrive At U.S.- Mexico Border

U.S. Troops to Arrive At U.S. - Mexico Border August 1 - NYTimes.com

Well, okay. Here we go. Are these National Guard troops going to be issued live ammunition? If so, I am nervous. Based on my observations of events of the second half of the Twentieth Century as they unfolded, I can only say that using troops in what is essentially a law enforcement capacity more often than not leads to disaster. Far more often than not. But I could be wrong. Perhaps this all will go swimmingly.

17 July 2010

Current Events Update



Lo and behold, it appears our prayers for high pressure have been answered. We can now put this whole oil spill behind us, forget about it, and carry on with business as usual.


* * * * * * * * * * * *



I do keep one eye on the travel alerts issued by the U.S. State Department for U.S. citizen-consumers traveling to or living in Mexico. The latest of July 15 is the same old thing.

Do not pay too much attention to all that. Come on down for a visit. The beaches here are clean with the exception of clusters of 5.56 mm brass shell casings here and there, which are actually kinda fun for the kids to collect.

My problem once again is that I am so easily distracted that I get caught up reading the travel alerts issued for all kinds of other places. For example, did you know that the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club apparently held a “World Run” in Prague on May 28-30? And did you know that on those dates it would have been a good idea for you to stay clear of the McDonald's Restaurant near the entrance to Divoká Šárka Park and the park itself?



I was oblivious of the fact that the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is apparently an international organization. After reading Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson years ago, I kept an eye on them for awhile. I watched a lot of Peter Fonda's films there for awhile, too. [See bottom of page for appropriate musical accompaniment.] But then I got distracted. Now, Sonny Barger's book, Freedom: Credos From the Road, is back on my reading list.

It is reported on the internet that the Hells Angels have been a European phenomenon since 1969 when George Harrison invited a couple of California members to London as his guest. And I certainly was not aware that the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club is the subject of international travel alerts issued by the State Department.

There are gang wars going on right now between immigrant Islamic gangs and the Hells Angels in Denmark, and the fear is that they will spill over into Sweden.




Not that I necessarily believe all the allegations against the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club that I read on the internet. I want to make that perfectly clear for my Hells Angels readers. In this case, however, the club's own internet site maintained in Denmark discusses the situation. According to that site, the ball is entirely in the immigrant gangs' court right now.



Celebrating Holland's qualification for the World Cup final.


There are sanctioned clubs in France and in Spain, for goodness sakes. Consider that. Hells Angels who do not even speak English. I am not giving you links to all this information. All you need do is Google “hells angels in europe” and read all about it. Is not the internet a miraculous source of useful information?

I will, however, give you this link to a Telegraph report in the U.K.: German throws puppy at Hells Angels bikers then flees on bulldozer. According to this report, the guy who entered the Hells Angels' compound near Munich, gave them the finger, mooned them, threw the puppy, and then fled on a stolen bulldozer was only a little depressed. There seems to be a lot of that going around lately. The puppy is okay by the way. Not even depressed.

I need to follow up on this report because it is unclear to me why men on motorcycles could not catch a kid on a bulldozer. The huge traffic jam that developed behind the bulldozer on the autobahn may have had something to do with this.

So why do I read stuff of this ilk? In fact, why do I read about current events generally in even the minimal fashion that I still do? Why do I not completely isolate myself from the outside world again as Thoreau advised and as I did for most of last year? All it does is cause me to ponder whether the entire world has gone fucking insane. . . as I try to get the tan on my legs perfectly uniform. I mean, really. Are there actually too many rats already in the cage? Perhaps it is all not as insane as it reads. Perhaps there are only a lot of people acting out because they are a little depressed.

Or perhaps there really are only a few people acting out, but they are the only ones who are newsworthy. The vast majority of humanity is probably a little depressed, too, but they do not act out and are therefore not newsworthy.

Sonny Barger's book will shed light on this. It may be a good companion piece to On Waldon Pond. On the other hand, the Hells Angels may just be another bunch of joiners, not much different from the joiners in the Masonic Lodge. You know. Substituting the group identity for their own pathetic identity. Capitalizing on the networking opportunities and such.

I was unable to find any reports that the Hells Angels are allegedly competing for control of drug routes here in Mexico; nor was I surprised at this in spite of the fact that nearly every other kind of criminal enterprise has been attributed to them somewhere. In fact I cannot find information regarding any Mexican chapter of the club. I suspect that everybody, including the Hells Angels themselves, realize that Mexico may be a little out of their league right now.

I Decided Not to Write About This



This video, as videos sometimes do, loads fitfully. Should it not load for you, try refreshing your page.






The public relations consultants for BP have finally hit on something that will resonate—don't you love that word, “resonate?”--that will resonate favorably with the consumer-citizens of the United States of American, particularly those who live in the Gulf States. . . . Prayer.

Brits are such a resolutely irreligious lot that it has taken BP an inordinately long time to figure out that when its audience is the consumer-citizens of the United States of America, its representatives must liberally leaven their comments with calls for prayer and at the same time assure the American people that they themselves are praying.

I was personally so moved by this BP spokesman's suggestion this morning that I pray for high pressure, that I thought I might write a blog entry about the experience. And then one thought led to another. . .

This whole prayer thing might be turned to greater advantage. I thought I might write a bit more about how prayer might effectively be employed on so many fronts in connection with this immensity—in addition to our immediate prayers this morning for high pressure of course. Not that I think prayer is going to have any effect whatsoever on the substantive problem, but rather, the whole religion thing will make people feel better, which is what religion is really all about. Isn't it?

The results of the recent ABC poll in the Gulf States concerning President Obama's declared moratorium on off-shore drilling caught my attention. A purely temporary halt in order to regroup, to reexamine safety standards, to improve enforcement, and to proceed with caution seemed rational to me in the circumstances. Sixty per cent of the Gulf State consumer-citizens disagree with me and believe the moratorium to be a bad idea. I thought that I might write about how this had caused me to reexamine my own conclusions and ultimately, after some prayer for guidance, to change my mind. I now realize that our best course of action is to charge forward immediately with more offshore drilling, including deep-water drilling, and simply pray that nothing catastrophic occurs again.

On an even wider front, I thought about how we might tackle the whole problem of a civilization so founded on petrochemicals that we have no alternative but to continue to bring the Devil's excrement up to the surface of the earth in ever more destructive and dangerous ways. Of course we cannot do without, but neither can we find the wherewithal to reduce consumption. President Carter installed solar panels on the White House in 1979. President Reagan quietly removed them in 1986, symbolic of the attitude of each and every one of us since the oil crisis of the 1970's. I thought that I might write about the obvious solution to the massive problem we face now after our long and resolute refusal to do anything at all to save ourselves--prayer for our salvation through some divine miracle.

There is a catch, however. According to our great Christian tradition, salvation requires sincere repentance of sin and absolution, either through faith and faith alone or through the mediation of the Church. Throughout this mess, I have been waiting for that one figure with a public voice and with balls enough to place responsibility for this disaster where it belongs, squarely at the feet of the American people themselves. That of course is too much to ask. The demos must be flattered and pampered as Plato pointed out. Nonetheless, it is a pleasing fantasy. Anderson Cooper on CNN speaks interminably of “hopes and prayers” just as this BP spokesman now does. He would be perfect.

Anderson Cooper, the conscience of America, should look solemnly into the camera and inform the consumer-citizenry of the United States that they bear the ultimate, entire responsibility for this. They brought this upon themselves. To be angry with a multinational corporation for attending to its bottom line to full extent that it could get away with is like being angry at a dog for chasing a cat. That is simple scapegoating.

Anderson, the conscience of America, should be firm about this. He should point out that this is not like the Bhopal disaster when Union Carbide only killed or maimed a few thousand Indians who were miserable anyway. Those Indians were not consumers. This is not like the Exxon Valdez spill that washed onto shores inhabited only by a few other of God's creatures over whom He gave us dominion. Those pieces of wildlife were not consumers. No, this is washing onto the Gulf Coast beaches and wetlands of the continental United States itself and can only be viewed as God's judgment on real, honest-to-goodness consumers. God's justice in this is hard to miss.

I thought, therefore,that Anderson, the conscience of America, should suggest a long period of national prayer for forgiveness. Each and every one of us ought to get down on our knees in unison and pray for God's forgiveness for what we have done to our portion of the planet that was His gift to us. This needs to go on daily for months. A real old fashioned revival. (Anderson's celebrity status, a thing critical in our culture, would as a byproduct be enhanced a hundred fold.)

THEN we pray for the miracle.

Clearly, the science of the Enlightenment is not going to get us out of this mess. We are beyond the point of no return there. The Enlightenment with its theory of controlling nature through science is now over. We have no choice but to revert to the medieval religion thing and "hope and pray" for a miracle. Absent the miracle--absent as miracles so often are--people will still feel better. (And the Pope's celebrity status, a thing critical in our culture, would as a byproduct be enhanced a hundred fold.)

I thought about writing on that subject in this blog, but then I discarded the idea. That sort of thing is not what this blog is about. Rather, it is about me. This particular environmental catastrophe is none of my business. There are a myriad other bloggers out there to make it their business.

The whole slow meltdown of a civilization based across the board on petrochemicals supplemented by coal is something even more surely beyond the scope of my endeavor or comment. I am down here below the Tropic of Cancer with my feet up, sitting it all out amid a peaceful sea of empty, disposable, petrochemically-based plastic water bottles and rhapsodizing on the subject of my truck. The only thing that truly concerns me personally is whether, in the midst of the meltdown, the American social security system might be saved. I would like to continue to receive those checks. In fact, I pray for that miracle.

16 July 2010

The Reservoir





Tuesday evening La Mexicana and I loaded the dog in the truck. The three of us went out to sit on the bank of the reservoir and watch the sunset.


13 July 2010

The Bicycle Deal Goes Down



A good day today.

When I acquired the new (to me) trail bike back in the middle of May, I left the Trek 1000 road bike with the bicycle guy in the hopes that he could sell it on consignment. My expectations were low. The bicycle guy, by the way, is a great young man named Hernán.



This is the Trek 1000 back in Iowa in 2008. I found of picture of it. It was purchased new. A lot of bicycle for a few dollars. I was quite happy with that machine on Iowa blacktop.




Down the hill on Refugio, a right and left, and then one is on San Pedro.



Hernán's bicycle shop is there on the right in the middle of the block, closed during afternoon siesta time when this photo was taken.

Last weekend Hernán brought me one-half the proceeds from the sale of the Trek 1000. Today, I went down to his shop and picked up the rest of the proceeds. Somebody actually purchased that bike here in this part of Mexico.



Here we are today. Hernán is happy with his commission, and I am perfectly happy with my net proceeds. . .and my trail bike. . .and the net net profit I made on the whole deal.

12 July 2010

Aging



As of today the number four most emailed article from the New York Times is from Sunday's “Week in Review” section, Turn 70. Act Your Grandchild’s Age by Kate Zernike. The article features comments from Anne Basting, the director of the Center on Age and Community at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Dead in the middle of the article is this statement from him:

It wouldn’t do us a whole boatload of harm to reinstate some values to contemplation,” said Dr. Basting. “Part of the pressure on older people to be successful and give back and volunteer and be active and play tennis is that we are a culture of doing. We don’t really know how to be. That’s something that late life gives us is time to be. But that’s stigmatized.


What can I say to that? Other than maybe, “Amen!”


10 July 2010

Driving in San Miguel



I am going to tell you about driving a vehicle in San Miguel de Allende, a subject that may interest some and others not at all. The experience has a distinctive flavor about it. The reason for this, quite simply, is that this is a colonial city, large sections of which were laid out centuries before the advent of the automobile.

The streets are narrow, sometimes incredibly so. I have driven on streets where one has to pull in the exterior mirrors on vehicles of the size of my mid-sized truck in order to avoid scraping them on the high stone walls on either side. Those streets are truly claustrophobic. The narrow streets are denominated as one-way, and there are of course streets so narrow that they will not accommodate vehicles at all.

Parking is usually allowed on one side of the remaining two-way streets, which in effect often reduces the drivable width so as to prevent oncoming vehicles from getting by you easily. The simple maneuver of turning a corner is more often than not an adventure. That goes particularly for the many corners that are totally blind.

Generally, the very best way to travel around the city is on foot or in a bus. There is just no question about that. There are occasions when the idea of driving a vehicle around town is insanity. When there is a fiesta or some other special event in the main square up town, one has to be nuts to attempt to drive a vehicle through there or anywhere near there. Still, there are folks who are so attached to their vehicles or for whom the idea of walking any distance is so abhorrent that they do it anyway. These are usually outsiders, the many Mexican tourists from Mexico City or you-know-who. It is actually somewhat gratifying to walk by them as they sit in the street in their idling vehicles up there amid a myriad other stationary, idling vehicles.

Still, on routine occasions one is inclined to drive once in a while, such as when you need to haul something like a large batch of groceries or when you need to go across town and do not have time to complete that round-trip trek on foot. And it may be a day when you are just not up to multiple bus changes.

As a general statement, it is fair to say that Mexican drivers are more aggressive than drivers in the United States, although all of us know that there is a great variability in aggressive driving in the United States from place to place. Furthermore, our perception of aggressiveness on the part of Mexican drivers in Mexico is enhanced by little things. For one example, Mexican drivers never use their turn signals here to signal a change of lanes. For another, the idea that when two vehicles approach an intersection simultaneously, the vehicle on the right has the right-of-way would mystify Mexican drivers. Moreover, stop signs are only advisory in practice, signifying de facto, “maybe it would be a good idea if you stopped at this intersection.” Practically speaking, stop signs are a waste of money and as a result are rare, particularly so in towns.

Mexico City with its large thoroughfares and big speedways encourages this aggressiveness and is a suicidal place to drive. I will never, ever attempt it. Furthermore, if you attempt to drive and sight-see at the same time anywhere in Mexico, you are in for grave trouble, my friend. If you are lucky, you will only hit somebody's goat, which can still be quite a complicated proposition. You might then ask why those aggressive Mexican drivers do not hit goats. My answer is that I have not the faintest idea. It must have something to do with a Latin magic that we do not possess. But back to the subject at hand. . .

The drivers who routinely drive in San Miguel de Allende are not aggressive at all, however. Here is my own theory as to why this is so. It is not because people are nicer or more considerate here than elsewhere. That is clearly not the case. Rather, it is because every driver here is in the very same boat. Every local driver needs the cooperation of every other driver here in order simply to maneuver his own vehicle through the streets of this town. Every local driver appreciates the fact that if all the drivers were suddenly to become aggressive, this entire city would become gridlocked and no vehicle could move at all.

The upshot of that is that driving in San Miguel is very much a communal activity rather than a solitary one. That is the essential distinguishing feature of this driving experience.

I often get into situations in the truck when I ask myself, “How the hell am I going to pull this off? I don't see any way out.” Yet so far, I have always pulled it off. I have always pulled it off because the other driver or drivers involved always, always cooperated in the effort. Pedestrians get in on the act. It is not uncommon for a pedestrian to step up when you are in a tight spot to keep an eye on the distance between the opposite side of your vehicle and some obstacle and let you know whether you are going to make it or not.

Many times one will meet an oncoming vehicle when there is not enough room to get by each other without some intricate maneuver by both drivers. Both drivers might have to turn a little to the right and then a little to left simultaneously while they both keep moving slowly and pass within inches of each other in order to negotiate the passage. As you pass, you are literally nose to nose with the other driver. A vehicular pas de deux. And you know something? I am confident that both drivers then drive on with the thought, “we did that quite well.” That is always how I feel about it anyway.

Then there is the situation where you wish to drive up a street when another car is coming down the street and there is no maneuvering room available anywhere in that block to allow you to get by each other. Obviously, you wait. And cars pile up behind you. And they wait, too, but they are accustomed to that situation. They wait patiently. There is remarkably little honking in this town. This is often a helluva noisy place, but it is never because of car horns. Inevitably, other cars fall in behind that car coming down the street, and now you are waiting for a line of cars to clear the street instead of just one. Sooner rather than later, however, a driver up there who also wants to come down the street will stop and wait at the intersection. Then your own little line of cars can go up the street.

I know that I have expended more words than might seem necessary, but as perhaps you can see, the experience of driving in this town is not a simple thing to describe. The first few times are frightening, I can assure you. I have only scratched the surface. Suffice it to say that over time the experience of driving in San Miguel remains a nearly intolerable ordeal while also becoming strangely satisfying. It is satisfying because it is an exercise in teamwork, and all the local drivers are on the same team. Perhaps just as important, nobody--nobody local anyway--cares in the least about when they are going to get to wherever they are going. . .with the exception of those kamikaze pizza delivery guys on the motorcycles.

09 July 2010

Paul the Octopus



I do not know how much coverage this is getting up north.

Paul the Octopus has been perfect in predicting the outcome of Germany's world cup games, including the loss to Spain. He received death threats as a result of that correct prediction. Obviously, some people confused his ability to predict with an ability to control.





Paul has predicted that Spain will beat the Netherlands in the final.

06 July 2010

The Truck




With my dad and ready for the road in April 2009.



Oh, my GMC pickup truck. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

05 July 2010

Selection of My Arty Photos



Some experiments. And like all experiments. . .





Click to stroll through Benito Juárez Park and around town.


04 July 2010

2001: A Space Odyssey



While we are on the subject of this film, I wish to tell you that I have come to firm conclusions about it up through the point that we see the third black monolith floating around in space near Jupiter. We see four black monoliths during the course of the film. (I know that some of you are convinced that they are all the same monolith. I do not buy that.)

For example, for 41 years I simply chalked up HAL's malfunction as just that, a malfunction. Still, it bothered me. No 9000 series computer had ever malfunctioned before. HAL, the super-computer constructed in Urbana, Illinois, is one of my favorite film characters, right up there with Rick in Casablanca, and I have had to abandon the idea that he malfunctioned in the sense that we think of that.

Corn on the Cob



Yes, Hurricane Alex is causing it to rain here. We are in the midst of the rainy season. However, the normal pattern in the rainy season is that the day is beautiful until the late afternoon when a heavy shower suddenly materializes from over the mountains, and it rains for an hour or two. Then it clears off again in the evening. Now, here on the edge of that weather system, it has been drizzling off and on all day and all night. A very strange experience. Nothing like the poor folks further north have had to endure though.

Nonetheless, some American neighbors held a Fourth of July picnic today, and the rain held off for awhile. Grilled chicken, grilled corn on the cob, grilled vegetables, salad, chips and guacamole, watermelon. A mixed Mexican and American crowd, which I enjoy. My mind tends to wander in a totally American gathering anymore.

I must explain something about the corn on the cob here though. You need to be prepared for it. I was not. You see corn on the cob still in the husks being grilled everywhere. In the plazas. Along the side of the road. In fact, I have a couple of pictures somewhere of the rigs on which they grill the corn. Or maybe it was in one of the videos. In any event, I come from a part of the United States where the folks pride themselves on their sweet corn. In fact in a good year, the sweet corn is so sweet in Iowa that it constitutes a health hazard.

Here, although it looks the same, the corn on the cob is not sweet at all. It tastes like field corn to me. It was simply a little culture shock. Not a high voltage culture shock. Just a little jolt as if I had grabbed an electric fence. But what does not kill you will make you strong. I am into Mexican corn on the cob now.

01 July 2010

Arthur Schopenhauer on Art



It is not immediately necessary to know what Herr Professor Schopenhauer believed to be the fourfold forms of reason nor is it necessary to be familiar with his definition of will for our purposes here:

. . . . All these, of which the common name is science, proceed according to the principle of sufficient reason in its different forms, and their theme is always the phenomenon, its laws, connections, and the relations which result from them. But what kind of knowledge is concerned with that which is outside and independent of all relations, that which alone is really essential to the world, the true content of its phenomena, that which is subject to no change, and therefore is known with equal truth for all time, in a word, the Ideas, which are the direct and adequate objectivity of the thing itself, the will? We answer, Art, the work of genius.