09 December 2011

Quit Bitching and Drive

In swearing off the expatriate cocktail party circuit and taking up with the economically disadvantaged of Mexico, I did more than trade fresh shrimp and grouper nuggets for two-day-old carp out of the river. I also traded a vague, theoretical, distant, comfortable, soft-around-the-edges sympathy for the plight of these people for the hard practicalities of life among 'em.

 Luis Eduardo awaiting departure.

Among the many things that the economically disadvantaged of Mexico live in want of, they live in want of a ride. Which is where the pickup and I entered the picture. The main protagonist in this is Fortino, who has washed and waxed my pickup at curbside for so long now that he considers it his pickup, only on loan to me when he does not have other plans for it.

His plans have included, to name a few, multiple rides up the mountain to the Tuesday market, a ride to Comonfort to eat barbacao; multiple rides to nearby ranchos to watch amateur soccer games on Sunday preceeded by side trips to some god-forsaken pueblo half way to Guanajuato to pick up the goalie and his girfriend; a ride to Dolores Hidalgo with a sick daughter because the clinic here is not up to Fortino's standards; rides and more rides. Not to mention the drive to Dolores Hidalgo to haul a bed back and the trip to the salvage yard with a load of scrap iron. Sometimes Fortino simply enjoys riding around town to show his friends his pickup truck complete with gringo chauffeur.

The team bus. 

Moreover, if you are foolish enough to develop a fondness for a man such as Fortino, you are then quickly sucked into an extended family. You get “famlied up,” as I refer to it, very quickly. Mi casa, tu casa. My house is your house. Mi familia, tu familia. My family is your family. Tu camioneta, nuestra camioneta. Your pickup is our pickup.

The upshot is that I have spent an enormous number of hours careering around Mexico with the pickup loaded to the gunwales with poor Mexicans, the ranchero music blaring out of the disk player. It is not uncommon for there to be a mother in the passenger seat with a toddler on her lap. Women in each of the tiny jump seats in that extended cab, each holding an infant. A toddler sitting on the back beverage holder between them. And six or eight others bouncing around in the bed of the truck, adolescents and adults. I do not exagerrate. Ask Fred. And always, always, two or three of them are ill.

Which is why I am disgruntled right now. I myself am sick, although on the mend. I know exactly how that came about. Fever at high altitude below the Tropic of Cancer is a strange experience, not necessarily totally debilitating but mind bending. It can result in some weird blog entries for example. That extended quotation of that 4 December blog entry at Open Salon was from Untimely Meditations by Friederich Nietzsche.

I have learned to live with the empties, the food wrappers, the chocolate smeared on the seats, glops of salsa on the floormats, and the other unidentifiable scraps of Mexican foodstuffs strewn throughout because, after all, I bought that shit for them in weak moments.

And anyway, Fortino will clean it all up when next he washes his truck—for an exhorbitant fee from me, nonetheless, that it seems we must always renegotiate after he has finished. As we Americans learned in 1848, you can easily invade the place and take whatever you want, steal half the country if your Manifest Destiny requires it. But never, ever negotiate with a Mexican. Even when you believe that you have acquitted yourself well, you probably took a thorough, bent-over fucking.

At first I was taken aback watching Fortino's family pile into the truck without my recalling having invited them to do so, me standing there, arms akimbo, awaiting only instructions as to where we are going. Now, I know it is inevitable whenever I go to Fortino's house in colonia adolfo lópez mateos. In preparation for a trip out there, I have stood in front of the mirror and practiced in Spanish, “No, Fortino. Let's just stay home today with the family and grill some carp instead.” So that I can say it with a suitably firm demeanor. But I have yet to get that out of my mouth while Fortino is supervising the loading.

I take comfort in the fact that Fred with his little Honda SUV has almost as much difficulty saying no as I do, even after spending the last fifteen years hauling poor people around six different countries in Latin America. And Fred is about as crusty as they come. He advises me to hold onto a simple “no” for as long as possible. If pressed further for a reason, simply say you don't want to. That reason has the best chance of acceptance. Easier said than done though.

I have seriously considered driving the pickup north, selling it, catching a plane back here, and buying a motorcycle. Then I realized that I would only have to make more trips to the destination of the day . . . each with two toddlers straddling the gas tank in front of me and and an adult behind. The problem has nothing to do with the fact that I own a pickup truck. Rather, the problem has everything to do with my hopelees affection for Fortino and his family. So I guess I ought to quit bitching, sit back, and enjoy the drive. Which is what I always end up doing anyway.

 We only paused for a moment before loading up to go for a ride.

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