THE HEADLINE was to draw you in. I learned that back during my newspaper “career.”
There is no solution to mass shootings in the United States. None, zip, zilch, nada. It is an American cultural cancer without a cure. No radiation. No chemo.
Gun control certainly will not do it. Gun sales could be brought to an immediate, complete halt, and it would not solve the problem because America is floating in firearms already. It would be shutting the barn door after the horse has skedaddled.
Blaming Trump won’t do it either. Ain’t his fault anyway.
No one is to blame. It’s just something Americans do now and then. Mexicans don’t do it even though we have plenty of guns floating around down here too, which proves, by the way, the futility of gun control. We’re highly gun-controlled.
Bullet-riddled, bloody, gun-controlled Chicago proves the same point.
And the shooters span the political spectrum. The El Paso gunman was a right-wing nut. The Dayton killer was a lefty, a fan of Fauxcahontas and Antifa, which the media have tried to keep quiet. But not that of the El Paso gunman, of course. White supremacist!
And it was a Bernie bro’ who shot Rep. Steve Scalise in 2017.
Why were there no mass shootings above the border, say, a century ago? To a large degree, because there was no rapid communication, no internet. High tech has made it very easy for maniacs to get wild ideas about manifesting their fantasies and communicating them all over the place, which makes them feel so very good. And important.
Rapid communication, internet, social media exist in Mexico too, of course, so why don’t we do mass shootings? The culture is different.
I cannot imagine it would ever enter a Mexican’s mind in his wildest drunken dreams to go into a mall and start killing random strangers. It would be unfathomable.
Wipe out a rival narco gang? Well, sure, but that’s just business.
As for senseless, mass murder, better get used to it.
Above the border, that is.
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(Note: Here’s an interesting piece by a writer who thinks America has an “angry, young man” crisis. He’s correct and, again, it’s the culture.)
THE OLDER you get, the closer to death you are and the more death you witness in one way or another.
In my years here on this Mexican mountaintop, plenty of people I’ve known have died.
The brother-in-law, of course. He killed himself unintentionally with a small-caliber pistol that he aimed too close to his heart.
Long ago, there was an old fellow named Charlie who drove around town in a rattletrap Volkswagen Bug the color of a bluebird. Every time he saw me, he asked: Are you still here?
And I always was.
Once Charlie was having lunch at a sidewalk table outside a restaurant on the main plaza when a car pulled up and thugs got out. They walked by Charlie, went into the restaurant, grabbed a man, tossed him into the car trunk and drove off.
They were rivals from narco gangs. This all happened right next to Charlie who didn’t bat an eye. He later said he thought the guys in the car were cops. But they were not. Charlie is gone now, a natural demise. He’s not here.
But I still am.
There was another fellow. He was quite fond of my child bride, and he often would sit with us Saturday afternoons during the weekly pastry sales that my wife did then and still does now.
He was a nervous man, gay, quite smart, about 50 years old, but very nice. We enjoyed his company. He was a Cárdenas, a descendent of Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas. One day we heard he died under questionable circumstances.
Then there was the wonderful Al Kinnison. I loved that guy. He was almost like a father to me. When he died here in 2005 at the age of 79, I wrote a tribute to him. And I miss him still. His wife, Jean, preceded him into the unknown a year or two before.
Almost two years ago, a nephew died at age 31 of cancer. We had driven him almost weekly for a year to the state capital for chemo treatments, to no avail. He left a wife named Alma (soul) and two small children.
Last May, a second brother-in-law died. A heart attack in his early 50s. He was a younger sibling of my wife. No one had a clue about his health issue, so his death came out of the blue.
And very recently, two more. One was an old man we knew fairly well. The other was a young boy we knew far less well but who had impressed us mightily the last few years.
Almost every Saturday, before heading downtown for our pastry sale, we eat lunch at a very humble, roasted-chicken eatery on the highway near the Hacienda. The family business started about three years ago in exceedingly low-rent surroundings. A small dark room with a couple of metal tables and chairs.
A father, mother, two children and a granny who made the tortillas by hand.
The father roasted the chickens on wooden stakes stuck vertically into glowing coals which were spread directly on the ground outside. He also cooked chorizo and ribs in the same way. He is a very serious young man whom I’ve seen smile just once.
His wife is far more outgoing, a young, happy woman who looks in her late 30s. The husband is about the same age. The children were a daughter about 7 and a son, 16.
They toil seven days a week.
The food they sell is excellent, and the business grew. Last spring they moved a few doors in the other direction to a larger, less gloomy location, but the roof consists of log beams and a plastic cover. That’s what keeps the rain at bay.
My wife and I always noticed the boy. He was tall, good-looking, clean-cut, polite, attentive to the needs of both customers and his parents. He seemed like a great kid, the sort of son anyone would be proud of, and they were proud of him.
He did home deliveries on a small Honda motorcycle. He was killed on that bike two weeks ago. This is what tragedies are made of. We learned of that last Saturday.
Last week, Michael Warshauer died. He and his wife, Susie, came to our house not long after they moved to the mountaintop in 2005. Mike was a superlative cook, and I had mentioned that I missed Vietnamese pho soup, which I often ate in Houston.
Mike and Susie visited, and Mike made pho. It was good. Not quite what the Vietnamese served in Houston due to the lack of some ingredients hereabouts, but it was a stellar effort. The inimitable Jennifer Rose has written an excellent tribute to Mike, which you can see here.
She did it far better than I could have.
R.I.P., Mike, and to all of the others I mentioned or, as it’s written in Spanish, Q.E.P.D.
Perhaps I won’t be far behind you. Have pho prepared, please. Fixings shouldn’t be an issue up there. And I’ve heard good things about your chocolate eclairs. That too would be appreciated. I adore eclairs.
YESTERDAY WE did what we always do on November 2. We tossed supplies into a big bucket — bleach, incense, lighter, broom, dustpan, trash bag, candles, plant clippers, etc. — and we headed to the downtown cemetery.
Due to the graves’ being shoulder to shoulder, the traditional Day of the Dead overnight vigils are not held in that cemetery. There simply is not enough room, so families go the next day to clean the tombs and leave flowers.
Outside the cemetery gates, you’ll find vendors selling flowers at inflated prices and painted coffee cans to fill with water and use as vases. You also hire boys, young men and even girls to help scrub the headstones while family members stand nearby and observe.
This year we encountered something quite disturbing. Two tombs to the left, bodies had been removed. In so doing, a metal fence that had surrounded those graves had been tossed willy-nilly atop the abutting grave and the following one, which was ours, brother Carlos who died at age 26 over 30 years ago.
We had not yet hired the helpers to scrub our grave, so my child bride headed out to find two young men, not kids. We needed someone strong enough to move the fencing, and that is what happened. Two young men with dyed blond hair muscled it back atop the empty graves.
I neglected to snap photos until after the fence had been manhandled back to where it came from. Here is where it came from:
Those empty holes go down about 10 feet, so having the fence around them is a good idea, especially if folks are stumbling about in the dead of night.
I remember who had been buried there before, a narco family. One of the homemade markers had an automatic rifle hand-painted on it. You don’t do that if you’re honest, church-going people. I wonder where they were moved to.
Today we continue our Day of the Dead duties. We’ll drive about 40 minutes southwest to the cemetery in the small town where my child bride spent her earliest years. Buried there are her mother and father.
Mother died at age 31 giving birth to her fifth and final child. Father died many years later at 61 of a heart attack. We’ll tidy up their stones, leave flowers, and go have lunch. Maybe some enchiladas.
WE WENT TO the dentist yesterday, both of us. Actually, it was two dentists. One for her, and another for me.
My child bride was to get, after three months of waiting for the posts to set in her jaw, her four new implants. She ended up getting three. There was some detail with the fourth, and she’ll be returning in about 10 days to get that last one.
While she was doing that for over three hours, I drove about 10 blocks away to a specialist who does root canals. That went well, if longer than usual, two hours in the chair, and then I returned to the other dentist to pick up my better half.
A friend in Arizona told me yesterday that he needs a root canal, and his dentist’s fee will be $2,500. That’s U.S. dollars. My root canal cost $3,200 pesos, which is about $172 in U.S. dollars. This cost difference is astounding.
We have no dental insurance, but we don’t need it. Unfortunately, my friend in Arizona does not have dental insurance either, and he does need it. Just one more example of how life in Mexico is superior to life above the Rio Bravo.
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THE SEASON OF DUST
This morning, like most mornings, I swept the downstairs veranda and wiped off the shelves. All the shelves were dusty, and some harbored bat turds that had dropped from the roof tiles where bats doze during the day.
We’re heading into full-tilt dry season, which means lots of dust, inside and out. The dust inside drives my child bride nuts. We really should hire a maid, but we never do. The minor reason is that we don’t want another ongoing household expense. The major reason is that we don’t want anyone underfoot here.
In the years we’ve lived here, we’ve had two maids. I forget why we fired the first, but we fired the second because she was unreliable. For months after she departed, we noticed things had been stolen, mostly clothing and music CDs. If we ever hire another maid, we will not leave her here by herself, which is another reason not to hire a maid.
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CARS, CARS, CARS
Unlike so many Gringos who make the wise decision to move over the Rio Bravo, I did not bring a car with me. Delta Airlines provided my transportation.
I bought my first car in September 2000. It was a little Chevy Pop, something that was not sold in the United States. It was almost a clone of the Geo Metro, a very nice little ride. Four years later, we bought a 2004 Chevrolet Meriva, another car that’s not sold in the United States. It was made in Brazil and sold in other nations around the world as a Vauxhall, sometimes an Opel. It too was a very nice car.
A bit over four years later, we bought our 2009 Honda CR-V. Aside from some design flaws that only the driver notices, this is a very nice car, and it’s still serving us well.
About four years later, again, we bought my wife’s 2014 Nissan March, and yet again, it’s a car that is not sold in the United States. It is small and sweet.
The Honda is almost a decade old now. It’s been great. However, a large plastic part where the front bumper should be — why do cars no longer have bumpers? — fell off recently in the state capital. No huge issue, and a mechanic reattached it for free.
Is this a harbinger of things to come? Will we be tooling down the autopista through avocado groves and narco hangouts toward the sands of the Pacific when something else falls off or simply stops functioning? It’s a concern.
I don’t know when I’ll buy it, but I have decided on its replacement: the Kia Soul.
It’s smaller than the Honda CR-V, but it’s far roomier than it looks. We went by the dealership in the capital city recently to see if my tall, lanky, aging self could get into the Soul with no problem. It was a piece of cake.
The front seat is incredibly spacious. The back seat not so much, but we never sit in the back seat. The safety ratings are good, and so are customer reviews.
Inexplicably, when I tried to sit in the significantly larger Kia Sportage, I cracked my skull on the top of the door opening. Kia, a South Korean firm, has been making a big splash in Mexico the last couple of years.
When this change will take place is unknown. Currently, the Honda is working fine. I recently bought new floor mats and had it waxed for the first time. Soon, I’ll need four new tires, no small expense. But when a new car is purchased, I’ll become a Soul Man.
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BEEF AND WALKING
I wrote the above this morning before heading out on my daily exercise march around the neighborhood plaza. The butcher shop in the next block, run by another Felipe, was closed due to its being Friday during Lent.
Semana Santa is just a couple of weeks away, so he’ll soon be able to sell again on Fridays. That won’t affect me, however, because I rarely eat beef, being more of a chicken and salad man. It always amuses me that Catholics think God worries about what they eat.
And Jews think God wants guys to cut off the tip of their dingus.
I’m sure he has more important things on his mind, like how to get the Mohammedans to see the light and put down the scimitars.