It’s Kaspar Hauser all over again.
Most mysterious. Against a wall some 50 meters from my hovel Adelina and Jocabeth saw a young man standing in the merciless sun. Hours later he was still there so they took him a glass of water. He would not drink it nor respond in any way, just stood, his eyes downcast, almost catatonic.
He is clearly of Korean or maybe Japanese descent but understands Spanish, has well groomed hair and nails. Somewhat moon-faced. He wears high-quality glasses of the brand “Crizal” He has not spoken a single word but has been persuaded to write, but only the words “Santiago Ismael ” and “21” in response to questions about his name and age. Both are Christian names. He will follow orders and help carrying heavy objects, but otherwise will simply stand or sit in the same semi-catatonic stance, eyes downcast, face blank and quite unreadable. He appeared disturbed, frightened, when asked about his family. When I spoke to him in English he clearly understood at least some of what I was saying; the impression is that he is intelligent but has either had some awful experience or is autistic in some unusual way.
Lucinda and Pedro took him in, washed him and gave him fresh clothing. He will eat only if spoonfed, has not said a word nor been to the bathroom in all this time, four days. Newspapers and the police are all informed but no information of any kind has appeared.
Later: On the fifth day he said ¨Gracias¨ when given a drink. Later he stood, said ¨I am going for a walk. Who knows if I will return.¨ He walked off down the beach hatless and did not respond to entreaties to come back. He was seen a litttle while later walking through El Bayo, the next village south, but that was the last of him.
Stalinism: The needs of the many override the rights of the individual.
Bassism: The pleasure-seeking of the individual overrides the rights of everybody.
I can hear the foul thumping from a position 18 km out to sea, upwind. That is not a typo.
Next to bassholes, Stalin looks pretty good.
I am not achieving much at the moment. This is not unusual but what is new is that I am not having to work endless hours to not achieve much. I sail little, there seems no point now the testing phase is mostly over and it is hard to find willing company. So I piddle about onshore making adjustments and modifications, re-cutting sails, making a shelter on the platform, a new trampoline/hammock between the platform and the outrigger, a chair to help prevent the agonies of pulled muscles and salt-water sores from which I have suffered much during long twisted hours at the helm. Ooh it’s lovely, to have a comfortable chair.
My plan to ignite the Bubbles of Terror has come to nothing so far because they have spread out; instead of the single gout there are many small dribbles which I don’t imagine will burn well. This is happening I think because the sand is very deep and the gas diffuses through it after leaving the rock below, changing routes continually. I must wait, and strike when the time is right.
The Three Testigos
I had hoped to have left by now, but I am waiting on the process of registering the boat, which seems rather onerous to me as it is just a tiny sailboat with little displacement and no motor. I believe I am being forced to go through the same process as 100-ton trawlers, and the wait and frustration are driving me insane. The rainy season looms, with all its danger of lightning and sudden squalls at sea, plus my visa will expire soon, so I have the feeling that all my work and time is to be wasted for want of a little paperwork. Since I am not a Mexican national my boat must be registered in the name of a friend, and three testigos must testify before a notary that it was built here. Only the Mexican bureaucracy can require of a man that he present three of those of which nature only gave him two. It took almost a month to get this done, now I may have to hurdle the ¨Certificate of Safety¨requirement which is a reasonable thing although there seems to be only one set of rules for all boats, so amongst many other things I am required to carry a box containing 19 kilos of sand, to extinguish fires.
My thanks go to my good friend Professor Santiago Pavan for all his help and his consistently good company. One of my favorite ways of misspending time is to go to the fish market in Alvarado with him. I buy no fish but we consume sufficient alcohol to justify the trip… I think we have hit upon what is possibly the only way to have a good time in a fish market. Santiago is a clever fellow, a retired naval architect who believes his students should get their hands dirty. He can do calculus, which has me in awe because I forgot mine. And he’s the only person I have ever met who can tie more knots than me. Hi Santiago.
Regatta II, the Sequel.
2 years ago I attended a sailing regatta at Anton Lizardo in a boat very new and unprepared and got my ass handed to me in a race. It would be very weird that there is a regatta at Anton Lizardo – the place is not exactly Henley-on-Thames – but for the fact that the Naval Academy, Mexico’s Annapolis, is located there. Anyway despite my horrible misshapen sails I did well enough to win second place in my class (er, there were only 5 boats in this group). I could not compete with modern sails when beating to windward; the closest I could get to the wind was about 55 degrees which meant that despite my boat being faster reaching and running I lost too much ground on the windward legs. I have since recut two sails to get a flatter shape and can now slice along at 45 degrees to the wind which is reasonable.
The racing was fun, with good cheer and sportsmanship from all. There were a few boats up to ten meters but mostly it was dinghies and Hobie cats. I especially enjoyed the starts, when about 20 boats (several classes would start together for some reason) would all attempt to simultaneously cross a line only about 30 meters long and since half of us would be on one tack and half the other the chaos was amazing. Screams, capsizes, collisions, people falling overboard, terrifying near-misses and nerve-wracking sustained proximities to other boats, everyone trying to figure out who had the right-of-way as our tracks converge or diverge. I only rammed two other vessels, and only lightly.
My boat was the only non-production vessel there and got a lot of attention, all very gratifying. There was practically no woodwork whatsoever on any of the other vessels.
I would like to thank Capitan Carlos Quezada for organizing this fun event and for his personal help to me in obtaining permission to search the beach at for my lost camera. The Captain is a gentleman amongst gentlemen at the academy. I am normally not too keen on military people but when it comes to the Mexican Navy – as seems usual with the people of Mexico – I am won over despite myself.
If social skills are measured by how good one makes another person feel, then Mexicans have the best in the world. It may seem to readers of this blog that I am somewhat schizophrenic in my attitude towards Mexicans: it is true, I love them and I hate them. I like most and dislike some, the liked and the disliked being for the most part separate people, but it is also extraordinary in this place how you can love someone for their personality whom you might despise for their ethics. In other words even the most reprehensible types here can be so charming and disarming that one likes them despite oneself. It is almost confusing. For instance the other day I met a highway patrolman who was quite candid about his corruption to the point of telling me what bribes were expected to escape certain offenses (eg. about $160 USD for drunk driving; the regular fines total around $600) and what he would accept if the person couldn’t pay the whole mordida. I cannot escape the feeling that I should not like this guy, but he was very friendly and personable and I enjoyed his company. Confusing.
I am now making a new sail to give me more speed in light winds. It is a real monster, made of heavy-duty polytarp with sleeves instead of lacing for yard and boom, and no frippery. Looks like I will have it done in 2 days instead of the usual week. [Later: Wow what a sail! I finally got the shape right and even in light winds the boat moves like a stung cat. I wish I’d had this at the regatta. I have not tested it much since the second time out it was pretty blowy and between this and the size of the sail the longitudinal beam to which the windward stay is attached snapped in half causing the entire rig- mast and all – to pitch itself into the surf. All recovered without much damage.]
The Island of Santaguillo.
I only recently learned of this place, out over the horizon about 20km from home. I had to go there. It turned out to be tiny and treeless, made of coral sand with a lighthouse and a few buildings. I’d expected something a bit grander with its big name and all, perhaps to see Papillon jumping off on a bag of coconuts. On the way there, miles out, I found a reef I had not known existed; it explained the mystery of why the swells never come from a certain angle – the reefs of which I was previously aware alone could not account for the remarkable shelteredness of the beach at Playa Zapote. My piece-of-shit GPS inexplicably died about halfway yet again so I flagged down a passing fishing boat to ask the way. They pointed and I could just make out the lighthouse. Then they warned me of an impending norte gale. I just carried on. This may seem unwise but I am so sick of these false alarms. When is a norte not coming around here, according to the locals? Maybe they keep telling me of this impending danger because they think it will keep me safely off the water, but crying wolf all the time is unhelpful. Sure enough no norte appeared. I caught a 2-kilo peto which I released (only my third fish so far). The trip was typical in that the whole way out was against a strong breeze which promised a thrilling, zippy return, but as soon as I finally reached the island and turned back it died away leaving me to crawl home at a snail’s pace. Certainly no norte. It does not pay to be in hurry in a sailboat, but being philosophical about time does not stop night from closing in or the awful roar of the reefs; there are real imperative reasons for haste. I got myself backwinded at one point and the mast fell down but mostly I was able to lie in the trampoline steering by the setting sun and wishing I hadn’t forgotten the gin and tonic. I saw dolphins and two enormous (2-meter plus) fish, occasional patches where a school of fish made the surface boil, and a pure-white thing about 8 feet long which submerged as I approached and nobody can explain to my satisfaction. A ray jumped a meter clear of the surface, I never figured rays as being jumpers but I have been wrong before, once, back in ’62. That’s how I lost my leg.
Changa miscarried her pups, outside the vet’s in my car which was traumatic both for her and my car. One pup lived a few hours, it was weak at first and I became an expert dog-milker, it grew stronger but she squashed it in the night. She then hemorrhaged for days and I became an expert dog-injector. Her course of antibiotics cost only $7 USD, what would this have cost in the US? The syringe is great for measuring epoxy. Changa is now fully recovered and has become rather attached to me even when I have no food, and I to her. She runs rings around me on the sand, joyously gyrating her body and tail, then rolls over at my feet for a tickle… it is a pleasure to see any organism so content.
The cat had her four kittens under my bed and they are still there; it is purr purr purr all day and night, you never saw an animal so happy. She eats well, I bring her fish which are so plentiful here in the mornings when the boats come in. I wish she would stop bringing them into my hovel.
An escaped posse of cows thunders into the yard and Changa goes mad; this is unacceptable; they lower their horns and she knows better than to get too close. When they leave down the beach she is left with a huge blue land crab to hassle, they come ashore to mate inland, but every dog knows not to get too close to these. A couple of turtles have come up the beach to lay their eggs, and the villagers who previously would have eaten them called the authorities so the creatures could be tagged and the eggs taken to the aquarium for protection. Good to see, but more a product of threat of extreme punishment than raised consciousness. One can get many years in prison for killing a turtle here, though there is still a black market in them. I know this because I have been in the fish market in Alvarado with a trusted person and have seen what I was told were turtle parts for sale under the table.
I learned a new verb: Molear – to eat mole. Mole (Mo-Lay, I can’t figure out how to put an accent over the e) is a food so important that eating it merits its own verb.
Somebody told me that he was not religious, but he did believe in God. Oh.
Raimundo has been doing better in his fishing operation. 2 1/2 tonnes in one net, then 3 tonnes, very rare catches indeed. He has been successful because he has somehow wangled permission to fish off the point by the Academy which is rarely plundered. We must seek out these last refuges of wildlife and eradicate whatever remains there! How glad I am that so much of this good work has already been done!
An acquaintance whom I shall call Pedro was just incarcerated for five days for failing to pay child support. This seems quite commonplace here, and it is a fine thing to see that the government takes it so seriously and actually enforces the law. They have plenty of laws here but enforce few of them. The mother only has to file a complaint with the municipality and they do the rest. Pedro came up 40,000 pesos (about $3500 USD) to so he will not have to return for another sentence. I wonder why he can’t fix his muffler if he’s so loaded, silly question, the muffler is the last thing that is ever fixed on a typical Mexican vehicle. You should hear the land roar from the sea, it is worse than the reefs.
It is hot and humid. Dust and sand blow along the rocky road to El Zapote as my tiny, suffering, enfilthed car grinds and groans along with its cargo of myself and nine Mexicans and three buckets of fish. One feels like a postage stamp that has just been licked. A burro passes on the beach, harried by two dogs, ridiculously small under its fat rider. I douse boys by the well since I am hauling up buckets anyway and they just surged in all salty from a fishing boat. It would be a dream for a certain kind of man but it does nothing for me. I do like the boys, they are good kids. That stupid iguana is in the well again.
A truckload of soldiers goes by, lord they must be hot in all that camo gear. They look very professional but I think the camouflage would work better if they stuck garbage all over it. Someone got rid of a load of tires by throwing them off a truck one by one all the way from El Zapote to Playa Zapote; I’m surprised they didn’t just burn them, pretty much everybody burns their garbage here, the stench is everywhere. The dump at Anton Lizardo is burning yet again, it seems almost futile to bag and remove one’s garbage if this is so inevitable. One doesn’t have to recycle cans and bottles because the dump is continually raked over by poor souls who make their living from such gleanings. It is so awful to see and smell these people at work amongst the hordes of vultures. I see a car coming along the beach. It stops, the driver emerges long enough to hurl a bag of garbage into the sea, so as he comes by me I pick up the nearest piece of trash, as always just a step away, and lob this plastic engine-oil bottle into his cab. “Garbage for you!” I cry. He does not stop, he knows he is at fault but is stunned that someone has called him on it, for this just does not happen in Mexico, with bowed heads these pleasant and non-confrontational people accept the unacceptable, both for themselves and their children. We Gringos do not understand so we sometimes make a stand and it is very unusual to meet with any resistance. Maybe we should not interfere because this is not our country, but to hell with this this guy and his garbage, this is my world too. Turns out he was Reyna’s uncle, but I have made it clear that I will not be offering an apology, it is he who owes such. Fight! I say to the locals, or you will live in a garbage dump all your lives. Thing is, they all throw their garbage everywhere too, so there is no hope.
Mexicans seem not to understand that the relative order and prosperity of other countries did not just happen: it came with effort. The reason that NY State for example is not hideously trashed is that the people decided to fight those who would trash it. By collective effort dumping and littering was made ethically and legally unacceptable. People do not run red lights where I live for similar reasons. We foreigners are aghast and amazed at what Mexicans put up with, all day every things happen here which in many other countries would cause at the very least public meetings if not riots in the streets but in Mexico pass without even a murmur of protest. We Gringos ask: Why do you not protect yourselves and your children by holding a meeting to demand from your municipality the presence of a policeman or two on the street and the beach? With the power to levy fines they could easily pay their own salaries and raise more to pay to fix the road, run the school and so on. The street and beach would be safe and clean for all, the rednecks (known here as “nacos”) would go somewhere else. Tourists, the kind with money, would hear of a unique beach that was clean and safe for their families, which would give the village an alternative to dwindling fishing which is no longer able to support the population. But the people feel so weak, so lacking in confidence, so certain that there are no honest cops to be found, that all of this is inconceivable, so they live with the garbage and the price-gouging, the bassholes and the bureaucracy, the crazies on the roads, the corruption, a beach you cannot relax upon, the thieves in the night and the worse ones, in offices in the day. And when some asswipe comes through in his tricked-out jerkmobile booming so loud conversation is impossible and the very ground shakes, they pretend not even to notice rather than look the guy in the eye and tell him what they know he is.
In El Zapote up the road, three or four houses have stereos so powerful that the entire village of about a thousand people must listen. Day and night, there is rarely peace in the village (oh how I love a power cut on a Saturday night). Some people might tell you that “it’s cultural” this noise that Mexicans live with, but that is not so… of course once music was made by hand, there were no amplifiers or power to run them, so it was not a problem, in fact music when heard was a delight, but this is completely different, thousands of watts different and incessant. The only thing about it that is cultural is that Mexicans simply do not defend themselves from the worst amongst them. It is no more “cultural” than line jumping/queue barging – in any culture there are people so entitled that they want to do this, the difference in culture lies in whether or not the rest of the line lets them. The old people I talked to about the pollution in El Zapote said, “No, we do not like it. It is a competition between the houses with the stereos, who can have the loudest. It is an invasion”. Many of the younger people do not like it either. I asked the elders “If you do not like it why do you not meet together, then go to the houses in a large group and tell them they must stop? If they don’t desist, each person brings a bag of shit as a gift next time. If they still persist, give these presents in the form of projectiles. What are they going to do, attack the old people?” The elders just looked away and gave me no answer, and I do not understand them except that I am forced to agree with what Gringos generally say; most Mexicans are lovely, delightful people, and the most shocking pussies.
The world, especially in less ordered and prosperous countries, is becoming poisoned by bass.
I would like to propose that to live in peace without the intrusion of others’ music, this wholly unnecessary pollution specifically crafted to affect the human nervous system, be established as a human right under international law, not to be overidden except in circumstances deemed appropriate by duly elected representatives of the community, for say, bar districts or such events as music festivals and the like. An inevitable outcome of this would be that certain people would have to be forbidden the use of large amplifiers just as some are now denied firearms.
And when I for one say I do not want to listen to other people’s entertainment I do not mean that I do not want to listen to it for less hours per day. I do not mean that I do not want to listen to it at a lower volume. I mean I do not want to listen to it!
Actually I do not find “normal” music played at moderate volume too bothersome. It is bass that has become a problem – I find it intensely intrusive and deeply unsettling, impossible to ignore, even frightening on a visceral level in the way that thunder frightens. Furthermore I believe that this is not just teenage kicks; many of the people responsible are not particularly young and I strongly suspect that an examination of them would reveal a preponderance of abnormal and unsavory psychology – gross egotism, psychopathy/sociopathy (now known as Antisocial or Dissocial Personality Disorder), Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and general assholism. The local people describe them as orgulloso – prideful. Ego maniacal is more like it. What kind of ego needs to be noticed like this. What kind of mind desires to thrust an intensely obnoxious noise into the gardens, the homes, the very bedrooms of everyone they pass, of entire communities? Think about it. And about what society stands to lose by giving such types free rein.
I am unashamedly happy to report that the very worst of all the local bassholes, driving like a cretin on the beach down at the next village, rolled his Audi and broke both his arms. I am not the only one pleased.
Sigh. I wish I could avoid these rants. They just come out.
´Tis the season of the ciruela, a strange little red fruit unlike any other. Most of the dwellings here have some kind of refrigerator, even if it is decrepit but nothing so fancy for me; my only experience of coolness comes from occasional drinks at the homes of friends, and I think cold liquids are more valued than anything for everyone here right now. We drink the juice of the ciruela mixed with sugar and water and the feeling is so wonderful we can’t help but go “gaaarrrgh” after draining a glass. We’d drink dog piss if it had ice cubes in it.