A rare night out for dinner with my lovely wife and friends practicing physical distancing and wearing masks. (Not shown)
“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.”
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”
Ya know, kids, you haven’t lived until you drop off you car at the local one-man Mexican mechanic shop at the edge of town because you just need some basic service done like oil, fluids, filters and such and the one man doesn’t speak English but he does speak Spanish muy rapido so you find yourself standing at the front of your car with the hood up and the one man is talking and pointing at stuff that you have no idea what it does and your nodding your head in agreement with a look of understanding on your face and you’re thinking how is it humanly possible to speak that fast and now he is speaking even faster and at some point he stops speaking yet you’re still nodding and now you’re both looking at each other in silence and it’s very awkward so you blurt out “Esta bien” shake his hand a walk away thinking he’s either going to rebuild the engine or just replace the gas cap and it’s going to cost somewhere between $1.15 and $5000 US but it doesn’t matter because you’re pretty sure you are never going to see your car again so you decide to just walk around Mexico for a while.
It’ll be fine.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Ya know, you haven’t lived until one day during a month long visit to Puerto Vallarta away from your home in San Miguel de Allende you decide to sit and casually check your email because why not what could possibly go awry during such a common and trivial task and oh look here’s an email from the lovely and helpful women who is in the process of helping you get a work permit attached to your temporary residence status and you are eager to read that indeed the paperwork has gone through without hitch and you are now able to work legally in the United States of México so you decide to just give the email a cursory read for the main info and let’s see “accountant” “retail trade of antiques and works of art” “not allowed” “must have PHD” “final decision” “accountant should not have registered you as such” “20 days to leave the country” and that was not the email you were looking for and now you’re starring blankly out into the distance trying to digest the information you just absorbed on a cursory level with a confused look on your face and just the tiniest bit of drool starting to leek out of the corner of your mouth and a more detailed read of this email is in order HOLY FECES AND EXCREMENT you realize you are being deported FROM México TO the United States of America because for some reason only your non-English speaking accountant can explain you are incorrectly registered as a “comercio al por menor de antiguedades y obras de arte” (retail trade of antiques and works of art) which is quite illegal especially because you don’t have a PHD in this field and well OF COURSE YOU DON’T HAVE A PHD IN THIS FIELD the only PHD you have is in procrastination and you will receive that ready-to-frame-certificate as soon as you finish and submit your final thesis but DAMN IT MAN that’s not important right now because you have only 20 days to vamos or whatever the Spanish word for “get the hell out of our country you felonious gringo” is and the worst part is now you have to tell your wife you have to start a new life in a strange and dangerous country about which you only have the memories of a young and skinny boy playing barefoot in the yard of the home in Gary where you were reared and isn’t that a weird word to describe growing up “reared” it almost has disgusting sexual connotation to it and HOLY MOTHER OF ALL THINGS MEDIOCRE focus man none of that is true except the ‘skinny boy’ part and you’ve only lived in México for going on three years and now you’re watching your wife read the email anticipating the exact moment she reads “cancelled your temporary resident status and gave you 20 days to leave the country” and there it is and now she is using words you’ve never heard before and apparently the words are really bad words that Australians only use on occasions such as this or say during the nuclear apocalypse and hey the part of your phone that predicts the word you’re typing predicted ‘apocalypse’ after the first ‘p’ and isn’t that oddly frightening but anywho now your wife is booking your flight back to Arizona so you can go to the Méxican consulate which is not the same as an embassy and some people don’t realize that which can cause confusion and SLAP MY ASS AND CALL ME BETTY will you just for once in your life focus on the matter at hand and before you know it your travel plans are made and you will take a sub trip from your current trip which will require a smaller carry on bag with less stuff in it than the larger bag you packed for your main trip and this is really too much to digest and there are so many questions like will they arrest me at the airport and is my photo hanging in the post office and are there even post offices anywhere in México cause you’ve never even seen a mail truck are there still even mail persons in los Estados Unidos anymore with the big bag thrown over their shoulder and you remember the father of an ex girlfriend was a mailman and he seemed quite happy indeed you believe his name was Al and the first time he met you he thought you were an Arab and isn’t that best name for a mailman “Hey good morning Al got any bills for me today ha ha ha” ok that’s enough reminiscing about an ex girlfriend’s father already you’re in quite the pickle and why do we say people are in ‘quite a pickle’ answer me that Mr. Deported Man and now more questions like if they let you out of the country will they let you back in and what is Spanish for “Hi Mr. large cell mate man gosh you look angry” and also really where do babies come from and if only you just hadn’t decided to check your email you would have remained blissfully ignorant which is an oh so pleasant place to be. It’ll be fine.
“Then pealed the bells, more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth he sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men”
Whilst gathering found objects in the alley behind my studio one afternoon, two men and a young boy started walking in my direction. I had passed them driving down the hill and we had exchanged glances, they from their front door stoop. Juan was the eldest of the trio, yet most certainly younger than me. He had been drinking whiskey all day and still held the plastic cup containing little more than remnants of what most likely had been a new bottle. His speech was slurred but not so much that I couldn’t make out his Spanish/broken English. Jose was younger, shorter, stockier and had uniquely maintained facial hair. He seemed to hold his proportion of alcohol with greater command, though profuse sweating, beyond what the hot sun could rightly justify, gave him away. Jesus couldn’t have been more than four and positioned himself between his two chaperones, sitting, bouncing on a soccer ball. They spent minimal time on pleasantries before getting to the point by asking if I had any work for them, suggesting they could clean up the vacant lot next to the courtyard that lead to my studio, neither of which were mine to offer. In between their verbal offerings of work experience, both in Mexico and the US, Juan politely offered me a sip of his drink. I’m always gracious in declining such kindness, though decline I do, having no interest in warm, backwash infused whiskey. Jesus was called to return home by his mother with a whistle and a yell. He turned and ran, leaving his ball to be kicked part way up the hill by Jose. The conversation continued a bit longer but was entirely repetitious, they being persistent in asking for work and I being insistent in having nothing to offer. There were so many premature goodbye handshakes and back pats that from a distance it must have appeared to be a rehearsal for a Three Stooges bit. I agreed to keep them in mind for anything that may come up, which seemed enough to appease them. So it goes.
I drove down the short alley to the back door entrance of my new studio, as has become customary in a relatively short period of time. My studio neighbors were, as usual, enjoying their whiskey drink and a cordial greeting was exchanged through my intentionally opened driver’s side window. After parking and exiting my car I noticed an older man sitting on the stoop of the tienda that services the neighborhood just across the alley. An opened quart of cheap beer sat at the ready beside him. We exchanged traditional greetings which seemed to encourage him to stand and walk toward me to engage in more in depth conversation. We quickly determined a reasonable combination of broken English and broken Spanish to maintain a conversation. His name was Jose “Freddy” Alfredo. He had recently returned from “the States” where he had worked for 37 years picking various crops in more states than I can recount, including Alaska. He returned to San Miguel because his mother had died, and as he crossed the border going south he was told he could never return to Los Estados Unidos. He had ten years when he left Mexico, and stood before me a 47 year old man. His entire family was deceased. He was friends with the tienda owner and so found comfort there. He lamented the loss of regular, though difficult, work that afforded him a living wage and also allowed him to contribute to a society through labor and a certain degree of consumerism and the inherent taxes. He needed, craved, work of any kind. I told him if anything came up I’d let him know, but that was a lie. There was nothing I could offer him, just as I had nothing to offer the young neighbor man who approached me two days earlier, drunk on whisky with the same request. I gave the “old” man a few pesos, nothing really. He crossed himself, and I noticed his eyes watered.
Well, that was his story, such as it is.