Archives for posts with tag: Mexican sandal guy

I was thinking back to the post ‘The curse of technology’ where I recollected shooting the kid across the street with an arrow at the age of five and it got me thinking for the first time in years about my earliest crimes.

This photo is personally important for two reasons. First, viewed retrospectively it was highly prescient and second, it is the earliest known record of me getting punished for something. Judging by the pudginess, I must have been somewhere around two years old. Looking back I suppose that the entirety of my childhood and adolescence  could be viewed as one long chain of events comprised of playful experimentation, willful disobedience, and punishment.


So, anyway here is a partial list of my earliest crimes:

  • Oh yeah, a note on the arrow. It actually stuck for a brief moment and drew blood.
  • I was five or six when a little buddy and I trashed the inside of Becky Swinky’s house (and I have no remembrance of why).
  • I smoked my first cigarette at five.
  • I participated in numerous fistfights between the ages of six and fourteen.
  • When I was eight or nine I hit a kid with a rock square between the eyes. The fact that he started the rock throwing didn’t abate the punishment. I was pleased that the rock knocked him to his knees but immensely relieved that I didn’t put out one of his eyes.
  • At the age of ten I began to plot out a long and successful career of talking girls out of their clothes.
  • Started smoking pot at eleven or twelve.
  • In the spring of ’69 I dropped acid at the age of thirteen.

And that’s just the stuff I remember. The list of crimes is long. I was still adding to it in my twenties, thirties, and (heaven forbid) forties.

But I never looked at myself as bad. Even as a kid there were just things that I needed to try. The problem to me was one of authority inasmuch as I never accepted anyone’s right to rule over me (and still don’t).

But I understood consequences – as in the consequences of one’s own actions. And it was this understanding that kept me from spending too much time on the wrong side of the yellow line; but not enough to keep me from habitually straying.

For example in ’93, long after I should have known better, I was sleeping in my usual unprotected way with the company’s twenty-eight year old receptionist in Sao Paolo, Brazil.

I penned this prose poem ‘Is She Pregnant?’ as a way of trying to wrap my head around my feelings and my knowledge of the situation. The last line presents the conclusion: I might find a way to extricate myself from this particular situation but there was no fooling myself; future crimes would follow.


I cannot look beyond Brazil.

Beyond this time and place

there is a foreignness where

I might not recognize myself.

I should isolate myself to this

island in time, for today at

this table I can see myself

as I truly am.

Perhaps nothing but the folly of

my earlier choices have led me

here, to her, now.

Still, there is a magic here

if I could only find it.

At this table still cluttered with breakfast

dishes I sit with my hands

folded and head bowed –

not knowing whether to weep for my loss

or for the frightening thought of

crimes yet to be committed.

                                              5-16-93 pnc

                                              Valinhos, Brazil


Little Carol is 15 months old and wonderfully cute. She lives across the street with her mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa. Their house – if you could call it such – has neither windows or doors; just a couple of curtains that separate them from the long, skinny grass-topped parking area that they adjoin. The family for all practical purposes lives outdoors so I see this tiny tot often.


I wave hello every time I see her and tickle her tummy every chance I get. Yesterday for the first time she let out a squeal of happiness when she saw me. Or more correctly said, she let out a squeal of happiness when she saw me see her. So here she is finally learning how to walk which is surprising given the fact that her feet never seem to be touching the ground long enough at any one given time to learn. For instance, I watch through my window as neighbors and friends heading up or down the street always stop long enough for chat and the chance to pick her up and hold her. And because everyone wants to hold her she invariably gets passed around like a football.

She is adorable in that same soft squirmy kinda of way like the white Chihuahua puppy that lives a couple more doors down. Estrella (Star) finally let me pet her a couple of days ago. Her master was sweeping up in the car port when I was walking by and not seeing the dog about I asked about her. She whistled and Estrella came racing out of the house. She saw me, panicked and went into a butt-sliding skid across the tiled floor. She quickly righted herself and retreated under the car. After some coaxing she finally wiggled her way over and let me pet her walnut-sized head.

I am working my Spanish more every day. Daily encounters like these give me reasons to try a little harder.


I just came across this ‘to scale’ sketch layout that I did of my chimney when I was trying to understand both the aesthetic and impact of having a Poseidon missile size thing sticking up through the center of my house. My mother said, ‘don’t do it’. She said that because chimneys are one of those scary architectural things that you can’t do over, simply move, or tear down if you don’t like it. A true statement especially if it’s running up through the center of your house. My lead carpenter agreed and said ‘that thing is huge’. And he was right. At the base the thing measured 7′ X 9′ and when finished would stand 45′ tall. The master mason said after it was finished that the thing weighed upwards of 60 tons.

A bold move but ended up looking and working beautifully. The chimney supported 3 separate fireboxs, each necessitating an appropriate sized flue. So there was a woodstove for the ground floor, a big see-thru fireplace on the main floor and a Franklin design based fireplace on the top level.

I turned over all of the hand-drawn floor plans and house design details that I had created to the people that bought the house from me in 2007 (good timing, eh?).

In 1978 I got my toes wet in the engineering world by first working as a pen and ink draftsman. This was old school stuff: drafting boards, parallel arms, and plastic triangles. Art and engineering! I was hooked.

When I found this sketch that I did in ’99 I was very pleased to see it. I had forgotten all about it.

The back story is I returned to university in ’85 and got an engineering degree. Designing shit is so cool.

Hey Buddy –

I am going to be able to meet up with you after all! Ian just found out that he needs to be back in Singapore the 3rd week of January so we have to cut our trip to Cusco short by two weeks.

Email me back and tell me where you want to meet up. I know that you are just kicking off your own trip so take your time with deciding on where.

When needs to be mid-January so maybe we could meet in Mexico City? You decide. I can grab a flight to anywhere.

Katie says ‘kisses’.

Best. Spike

PS – Have I ever mentioned that nimrod, Tim the Tech Writer to you? You know the type – every office has one – he’s in his fifties, lives with his mom, watches a lot of the Nature Channel; in short -he’s a never been laid, know-it-all durfus. You feel sorry for the guy, if for no other reason because he could be the poster child for Loser (and that is a highly contested distinction). For example, he has a small collection of wrist watches. None of them are impressive or important timepieces – try ‘vintage’ Hamilton, Bulova, etc. He likes to wear a different one every week. He contrives to drop by my office Monday morning to talk to me about ‘fine’ watches. Like I even care about watch collecting. (I am, however, almost beginning to regret winning that 20 grand in Lake Tahoe last year, then getting drunk and impulse buying that damned Explorer II. I spent a big wad on a stripper too but that purchase doesn’t come back to haunt me every Monday morning…)

Anyway he comes to me – the question was Turkish food and whether or not I want to go to a Turkish place for lunch.

I simply reply, ‘yeah, sure, I love Turkish food.’

He replies with, ‘yeah, it’s just like Afghani food.’

You’d have to know this dimwit to truly appreciate this remark but I quietly marvel at this unlikely comparison like I do a lot of the things he says. First, the only possible common ground between these two ethnic cuisines might be mutton kebabs, and a few spices.

Afghanistan is xenophobic, landlocked, and inbred. And the food shows it. Turkey spans 2 continents and has coasts on 3 different seas. It has been the birthplace of more than one civilization beginning with the Hittites. And has been invaded by everyone from Attila to the Saracens. All which partially explains the breadth of Turkish food.

One can overlook his blithe disregard for world history and geography but still manage to be dumbfounded by his cavalier approach to logic; choosing to use an obscure data point as the reference.

It reminds me of the joke that starts with a gringo tourist asking a little Mexican boy what he is going to do with the dead Roadrunner that he is carrying. The boy replies that he is going to eat it. The gringo asks what it tastes like. The punch line is that it tastes something like a chicken hawk.

I tell myself every morning that I just need to cut the guy loose but he shows up, typically mid-morning for a ‘how’s your day going visit?’ Not that he cares; asking the question is really just an opening for him to put you in the path of his high beams, to demonstrate his burgeoning awareness and let a lesser mortal bask momentarily in the rich inner life he possesses. I know he should just be put out of his misery but I can’t bring myself to do it. Being truthful with the guy would probably hurt me as much as it did the kid when he put down old Yaller.

So I just inwardly grimace when he starts expounding on modern Swiss clock making, 16th century chamber music, or any other number of topics that props up his delusional Renaissance Man self.

(I’d probably only have to pick up a TV guide, look at the History channel programming to predict what he is going to bore me with next).

Oh yeah – I was in Starbucks (sigh) to pick up my morning ‘small dark roast coffee please*’ and i became slightly exasperated (finally) with ‘would you like something to eat with that?’ I said, ‘what am i, like 4?’ Thinking and no, i don’t have to go potty either. He misheard me but the lady in front of me turned around and smiled (in sympathy? gratuitously? scornfully?) at this mean spirited remark. Yeah, yeah, yeah – I am thinking, ‘ just give me the coffee pork face’ – as an adult if i wanted something to eat I’d come around the counter and smack you upside the head and help myself. You could tell from his sallow complexion that he was more than likely a lactose intolerant vegetarian.

(“Ah, vegetarian – an old American Indian word for bad hunter”)

Why don’t most people just shut the f*** up?

Travel safe my friend.

Cheers. Spike

12 people were shot dead in my old neighborhood in southeast Washington, DC this morning. This wasn’t some shootout between rival triads in a Chinese laundry. It wasn’t the mafioso brawling in an Italian grocery store. And it wasn’t a street shootout between rival crack dealers. This happened in a secure naval facility. A place where there are lots of sailors on guard duty all the time, with well defined security protocols, and all carrying firepower. And yes, this is part of the same government that still proclaims with a straight face that it can protect you, the citizen.

Call me cynical but a dozen years ago when that plane crashed into the pentagon building it became highly dubious to me how this same government could protect other interests if they couldn’t even manage to protect themselves. This last incident at the Navy Yard appears to be another case in point. Oh, but it gets worse.

According to the news, the 3000 people working in the Navy Yard at the time were instructed to ‘shelter in place’. This is bureaucrat speak. It means that you are on your own and to expect no help from the authorities. I know this specific language is what it is for a fact because I spent 5 years working in the defense industry in Washington, DC.

Coincidentally, I was pinged by one of the entities in the Navy Yard to do some engineering contract work there a couple of years ago. I thought ‘cool, it would be nice to be able to walk [8 blocks] to work for a change’. After these recent events, I’m sure glad that opportunity didn’t work out.

This ‘shelter in place’ doesn’t just play out in a government building. Oh, no. It has much further reaching implications than that. For example, I have been on the DC metro on three different occasions when it was shutdown for some emergency purpose. We were told to leave the metro and that is all we were told. There was no back up plan, no buses, no alternate transport provided. We were all on our own and some of us were as many as 20 miles from home.

So if the unspeakable happened and space aliens invaded Capitol Hill, the government’s response would be to shutdown every means of egress to the city and the half million of us that lived in the city and the other couple of million that worked in the city would be delivered those same rather unnourishing words of ‘shelter in place’.

We’re talking about the capital of the US and supposedly the leader of the free world. And like how the wizard of Oz turned out to be only a blustery little man behind a curtain; the nation’s capital and its leaders for all its posturing and noise have absolutely nothing (nothing) by way of a disaster plan. So when the shit hits the fan my friend and you live in an urban area like Washington, DC, I strongly suggest that you have your own personal disaster plan.

Mexican’s have such a strong cultural identity because they renew it constantly. You can’t be a Mexican living in Mexico and ever forget that you’re a Mexican and what being a Mexican truly means.

From the time they can walk kids here begin gathering an identity that transcends that of family. These pictures that I took yesterday kind of hints at that. But you really have to see more of these fiestas: Christmas, New Years, Patron Saints, and so on to really get the bigger picture.



And in case you were wondering, no, kids don’t dress like this year around.


This is how the sky looked late yesterday afternoon:


This was looking east from my third floor terrace. Between where the buildings end and the distant mountain lies the valley that I run in most every day.

This weekend is Mexican Independence. Lots (and lots) of fireworks. And lots of festivities that actually started the first of the month and will continue until the end of the month. Fiestas are serious business here.


I was out for a walk yesterday and came upon this very healthy and happy Bird of Paradise:



It’s 9:15 am and I am drinking a licuado (fruit milkshake) loaded up with pinole to power my 10 am run.

At noon I am going to wander down to the plaza to watch the festivities. Ramon has assured me that there will be lots of beautiful and possibly scantily clad women participating in this afternoon’s program.

I hope your Saturday is as nice as this one promises to be.


Both the State Police and army were massing troops on the north side of town as I set out for my run at 10 am. As the combi-bus passed I counted 2 big army trucks and a dozen state police trucks in a big parking lot. Every man was wearing black body armor, helmets and masks and carrying M-16s. The trucks were rigged out with tripod  mounted M-60 machine guns. Later into my run I could see that they had set set up check points on National Highway 15 and were re-routing some northbound traffic through my valley. The big guns, black clad guys and all of the extra traffic kinda harshed my mellow.

A very unusual Monday morning for this part of Michoacan. I have seen patrols before. But I had never seen this level of activity. There was even a helicopter involved. I have no idea what was happening to the south of town or anywhere else in the locality. I do know that the little old town of Sahuayo is highly contested territory between 2 different groups of bad guys. One of the local bad guys grew up here and the bad guys from the nearby neighboring state of Jalisco want to take it away from him. This rivalry precipitates periodic murders, shoot outs and gun battles, assassinations, decapitations, and mayhem.

My friend, Mike Loh sent me a big assortment of Cuban cigars from Singapore and they arrived today. And they arrived in such pristine condition that whoever packaged them is a genius.

I am beside myself with joy and happiness.

Smoking a great cigar is a culinary top-tener. A glass of a great Bordeaux Grand Cru is another one of those top-teners. Or a mixed ceviche in Peru. Caviar. Sushi in Japan. Oysters on the half shell. A porterhouse grilled medium rare over mesquite served with butter fried morel mushrooms. To be continued.

Cocktail hour cannot come early enough today to suit me.

I am going to break open my last good bottle of tequila  – Tepatio Reposado – kick back on the veranda, fire up one of those big, fat Cohibas and watch as the late afternoon storm blows in from the east.

It’s okay to be a little jealous.

When I was a little boy I wasn’t afraid of dogs, just the opposite. I’d walk up to a highly agitated barking dog and attempt to pet it; who would – crazy as it seems – generally let me. My grandfather warned me more than once that I was going to get bit but I never did.

At least not until Bart’s rescue bitch of a German Sheppard lunged out the back of his ’65 Ford Econoline van and took a chunk out of the rear end of my Levis. As an unprovoked surprise attack it quite frankly scared the shit out of me. Bart shrugged it off saying she had a hard time after being abandoned on the mean streets of Detroit. I was 19 at the time and it was at that moment when my fearless relationship with dogs changed forever. Getting bit by a dog is scary. And it hurts. Getting bit by a big dog you didn’t even see is something entirely else; terrifying, that’s a good word.

I’ve had several other frightening encounters over the years; never in the US where there are things like leash laws and legal accountability. I had two encounters in Bolivia back in the ‘90s which could have both turned out very ugly, but didn’t. And I’ve had more than one encounter down here in Mexico. The scariest encounter was with three big dogs while I was running up in the hills called the ‘Big Panties’ a few months back. In surviving that encounter I learned a couple of valuable lessons: immediately fight back, be very aggressive and show those dogs just who the big dog really is – in other words, bluff like hell. Big posturing with the help of throwing lots of rocks can save your life in such an encounter. It sure was news to me. I was in reaction mode.  I had no idea it would actually work.

This however doesn’t work with pit bulls. I learned that lesson here too. For example when that white and tan pit bull advanced on me I picked up a big rock only to find out almost immediately it was the wrong thing to do. His owner standing a few feet away looked at me and very matter of factly said, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. He doesn’t like rocks’. I looked at the big shovel headed brute and concluded that it would probably piss him off and bounce off his skull anyway so I sensibly put the rock down and the owner called his dog off.

A problem with pit bulls is you can’t read them. They typically don’t wag their tails or do anything to telegraph what their intentions are. You don’t know if that particular one was raised to be aggressive or what. And you can’t fool a pit bull. He already knows who the alpha dog is and you both know that it isn’t you. Other frightening facts: you can’t see into a pit bull’s eyes and that they come in only one color – stone cold.

I had an encounter with a bad guy here a few months ago. He had the same eyes; unreadable and stone cold. The man was a killer, no question about it. He asked me questions like what was I doing in his neighborhood and so forth. He liked my answers enough that his mouth formed the rictus of a smile but the eyes never changed.

Thinking about killers got me thinking back to ’77 right after I partied my way out of 5 useless semesters of university. The best job to be had at the time was that as a corrections officer in a maximum security prison in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. I worked inside for one year (to the exact day) and in that time saw lots of killers. I talked to them too. During that year we took the transfer of one of the very first of the infamous serial killers – the young guy who murdered those 7 or 8 coeds at the University of Michigan back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Locked up in the Segregation Unit in B-Block with the other protection cases he looked like a baby faced punk who wouldn’t survive a week out in the general population.

Most convicts for that matter look like regular people. It helps that there is this running myth that every last man locked up doing time is innocent. Every last single man in the joint – just listen to them and they’ll tell you – they are there because of some huge mistake. And to keep the illusion and hope alive means that every other convict is working on some stage of an appeal.

There are very few tough guy acts in a maximum security prison. Most everyone just wants to do their time as quietly as possible. And paroles are easier to come by if you play the game and act the nice guy.

But here on the outside – down here in Mexico – bad guys and big dogs don’t have to pretend to be anything other than what they are.