Random Thoughts On Expatriating

Pulling The Plug

Yesterday, after two months in Mexico, I flew from Guadalajara International back to the sprawling gringo asylum above the Rio Grande. I wouldn't have, except I had to go back to Washington, the heart of all darkness, to rent my condo before relocating to Guad. I guess I was in a philosophical mood. Or maybe jalapenos are mildly hallucinogenic.

"How reasonable is this?" I thought, an hour into the flight. "I'm flying at six hundred miles an hour in an aluminum box, seven miles in the air. It weighs tons. Probably it doesn't belong here. It may not stay." My knees were up around my chin and my feet were in my pockets. Airline seats get smaller by the week. I think they make them of some material that shrinks.

A Brandenburg concerto was pouring out of my headset. Johann Bach, I happened to know, was dead. What is the world coming to? Dead men write music and nobody thinks it strange. If a dead cat chased mice, they probably make a movie about it.

Further, I was listening to musicians who weren't there. If I listened to little voices from the receiver the CIA put in my brain, they'd say I was crazy as three monkeys in a briefcase. When I listen to musicians who aren't there, through a wire coming from the furniture, I'm called a passenger.

Maybe, I thought, a schizophrenic is just someone who sees what is going on.

Outside, Mexico drifted slowly beneath us. They ought to tie it down, I thought.

Why am I moving to Mexico? Because it represents a more advanced form of civilization, or maybe a less advanced form of decay. (If I'd gotten more sleep, I could make this more plausible. You'll just have to deal with it.)

I was in Tommy's Bar the other day when a horse stuck its head in the door. The owner knew Tommy and wanted to talk to him. The horse apparently wondered what was inside, and stuck its head in to look. It seemed reasonable. It was how I would have done it.

If you even rode a horse in Washington, you'd need three permits, a parade license, turn signals, and a horse diaper. The paperwork alone would require help from an accounting firm. They'd x-ray the horse for explosives. It would probably mutate and turn into a huge gurgling cephalopod.

In Mexico, you get on a horse and point it where you want to go. Nobody gives a damn. It's a horse.

A lot of things work that way in Mexico. I was in a restaurant on the plaza when a woman came in with her dog. It curled up under the table and occasionally cadged bits of enchilada. It's what dogs do. It's OK. In the US, people keep dogs in their houses for years and nobody dies.

If the same dog came into a restaurant in Arlington, a SWAT team from Public Health would storm the place in funny-looking gas masks, confiscate the dog for analysis, and seal the premises for forty years. The United States can't tell a pup-dog from the Black Death.

Further, Mexicans like their kids. The reason may be familiarity. They spend enough time with them that they can generally recognize them. The concept is novel but bears investigation.

It's a good thing they like them. The place is awash with progeny. On a flight out of Mexico, the average age of passengers is about four and a half. It is not true that every seventeen-year-old girl in the country has a baby in her arms. Sometimes they put them down. Yet if fecundity is any indication, they evolved from kudzu. At birth they begin crawling northwards, like salmon, toward the frontier. A Mexican nursery has no doors on the north side. It's so they can keep them in.

I hate airplanes.

To support myself in Guad, I decided to write a series of novels about a female computer geek named Monitor Lewinski who could crack 128-bit encryption in her head. I thought a little more and decided not to. Aren't you glad?

Anyway, Mexico. These folk have no idea how to run an airport. For one thing, they're civil. Their security people are not surly urban aborigines one step removed from human sacrifice. Further, they aren't crazy. If a six-year-old boy were discovered to have a rubber pirate's dagger, they would not wrestle him to the ground and strip-search his grandmother. They would figure he was a kid with a rubber pirate's dagger.

It's frightening. I think of walking the plank from an MD-11, and shudder.

In the town I lived in, near Guadalajara, the main vortex for nutcake gringos is Tommy's Bar—it of the exploratory horse. I think technically it is called the San Andreas Bar. ("It's our fault," the gringos say. The true American never slacks in his quest for new forms of imaginary guilt.) The clients are the usual overseas pot-poury of pilots, a couple of journalists, a mechanic refugee from the creeping Stalinism of Canada, and various curiosities who got sick of the lunacy elsewhere.

Anyway, Tommy's is best known for a wildly colored cow's skull on the wall, a wildly colored clientele, and the tendency to get strange late at night. Recently A Mexican barmaid, a pretty local gringa, and a Yanqui writer were seen dancing on the bar at two a.m. (I decline to answer. Talk to my lawyer.)

If you think I'm crazy, check this out: As we were taking off from Guad, the PA system said that by federal regulation we had to we put our Bistro Bags under the seat for take-off.

Yeah. Federal regulation of sandwich bags.

A Bistro Bag is a sandwich that tastes like cardboard and a nickel's worth of potato chips. It meant the airline didn't want to feed us. It also meant they didn't want me to fly with them again. I guess they think that if they call it a Bistro Bag I'll think it was personally prepared for me by a homosexual French chef and flown in by satellite.

You want crazy? I live in a country where the government says where I can keep a sandwich. You could take all the drugs at a Grateful Dead concert and not get that twisted. It's for my own good, of course. ("Man Emasculated by Carnivorous Tuna Sandwich in Lap.")

In Mexico, you take your chances with sandwiches. It's still the wild west there. I'm going to take a shower and sleep for a week.