Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Film Reviews By An Illegal Alien In Mexico

I became an illegal alien somewhere between Piedras Negras, Mexico, the busy frontier town, and Montclova, Mexico, a town of paint stores and stray dogs. My last chance to obtain a tourist visa, or some kind of official evidence that Mexico agreed to let me tour her land, was at the border when I innocently rented a taxi and asked to be taken to "El Centro De Autobuses."
I'd read that visas are not required. Only a passport. Well, the truth is that you are supposed to buy a 180 day tourist visa at the border. If you arrive by plane then it's part of the plane ticket. If you arrive by land then you are supposed to find the immigration office and fill out the paperwork, especially if you are driving a car since you can't import your vehicle without the tourist permit, but definitely if you are walking. I did none of this, innocently ignorant at first, and then flagrantly irresponsible later.

This post is basically a self portrait so...
My planning for the trip was like this:

(V.O.) Oggy: Should I go to Mexico? Hmmmm. Fuck it. Yes. Pack your shit and go.
Oggy packs 2 extra shirts, the pants he is wearing, socks, bongos, claves, a songbook, presents for Mynx and his passport. Less than most people take to the gym.
(Cut To)
Oggy to Landlord: Hey, can you drive me to the bus station?
Landlord: What for?
Oggy: I'm going to Mexico.
Landlord: When will you be back?
Oggy: A week or two. I'll send you a postcard.
Landlord: Ok.
Oggy: One more thing...
Landlord: What?
Oggy: I might be bringing back a wife.
Landlord: ????Uh????
Oggy: There's my bus, gotta go...!
(Cut To)
Oggy getting on a bus bound for the border. Waving goodbye to puzzled Landlord.

Bus Depots in Mexico are like a shopping mall food court. All the bus lines, Chihuahuaense, Coahuila Express, Ecobus ("eco" as in economy, not ecological), and others all have their ticket counters at the same terminal. The prices can vary according to luxury or economy class but the more important thing is the departure times do vary. So if you see that you missed a bus from one line then you merely find another line that is leaving proximo. I didn't grasp this detail at first and even though I saw a bus in the terminal that said "Durango" I was told there was no bus to Durango leaving. Why? Because I was asking the Taco cashier for an order of Kung Pao Chicken. If I had walked a few yards away the other clerk would've sold me a ticket for Durango. But no. I waited and waited for the next bus that was leaving for Torreon. I ate a Torta. I played bongos with kids whose running noses certainly infected me with a chest and head cold that would plague me and others for a month.

And I watched a Mexican movie from the '60s or '70s called "Loco Para Mujeres" on the terminal television and got the idea to review every movie I saw on my trip in order to give my selfish journey a framework and context.

"Loco Para Mujeres" was about a man (and his twin brother?) who is obsessed with the legs and feet of any woman. So he must wear dark sunglasses to pretend he is blind. But he can't resist looking at the legs of women so hijinks naturally ensue. I was very confused about the existence of a twin brother who was sort of normal but I am sure the writers knew what they were doing. The audience in the terminal laughed merrily. I was mildly amused and distracted. Then the Torreon bus loaded and I departed into the night.

Somewhere I remember we stopped and some military personnel got on the bus and eyed everyone. I had my cowboy hat over my face because the lights were blinding me and since I was dressed in traditional Ecuadorian peasant clothes he didn't ask me for my passport. We pressed on and that was when I became illegal. My passport wasn't stamped. I had no visa. I had no tourist permit. I had a set of bongos and we rolled deep into the northern Mexican desert.

We arrived at Torreon at 4 in the morning and the difference between that and arriving in Cleveland is minimal. My bones ached and my neck was kinked like a bad radiator hose. I considered taking the 6 am bus to Durango and then Mazatlan but couldn't see straight and my back was killing me. My shoulder pain that had bothered me for all of January was suddenly better and I didn't want to risk injury from sitting in the terrible bus seats so I took a city bus downtown and jumped off when I saw a sign for "Luxury Hotel $225 Pesos"
They took pity on me and let me check in at about 8 am. I took a nap and a shower and then walked around the city to look at the Bosque park and the carnival and eat pastries. The largest Jesus statue is in Rio De Janero, Brazil. The second largest is in Torreon, Mexico. Since I could tell from pictures that I looked identical to the Jesus statue (same beard length, hair length, facial features, etc.) I decided to inspect the statue from a distance lest I cause a riot. I also bought a sim card for my old Mexican phone and got that started up.

Later that night I lay in the room and watched "Dream House" a movie with husband and wife acting team of Daniel Craig who plays the husband of Rachel Weisz, whom I am stalking in an alternative life and who was born almost exactly one year before me (Happy Birthday, dearest), which I feel makes us destined to be together. This movie sucked and the fact it was in Spanish made no difference. It's beneath me to review such a pathetic and hollow story but for the sake of completion and to spoil it for everyone I'll tell you that Craig's character kills the bad guy and Rachel's ghost and the ghosts of their two daughters rest in peace. Rachel looks ravishing...everything else is simply horrible. (It occurred to me that if Rachel and her daughters are ghosts and Craig can communicate with them then the fact he tries to accept the reality of their death essentially kills them twice.)
"Why, Rachel, why would you take this role?" I yelled as I punched the pillow.
"I love you, Rachel." I later whispered in regret and self-loathing.

I took a taxi back to the bus station at 5 the next morning to catch the 6am bus to Durango and then to the coastal ferry port of Mazatlan. This leg of the trip, between Torreon and Durango and then Mazatlan was a brutal, punishing drive and after hours and hours of crossing the desolate Chihuahua desert we climbed into the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains. I had seen this area on a topographical map when I was pondering whether to drive my van to Mazatlan. The topography is unnaturally varied. Was it even possible for there to be that many elevation changes? It was totally puzzling and there is only one road from Durango to Mazatlan. Now I saw for myself what this road meant as one after another of the passengers from babies to old men began to sway sickeningly in their seats. Sounds of vomit and gasping hacks for breath came from the back of the bus along with the reeking stomach acid smell. My boots slipped on the wet floor. Oh, lord. La Espinazo Del Diablo: The Spine of the Devil.
A minute of research on the internet would've prepared me for this leg of the trip but I had spent the last month researching '70s Czech Republic Moped Parts so I was horribly surprised. Had I been driving I would've been more engaged in steering than the sickening feeling in my stomach. Every few minutes I would look out the window at a landscape like something from Peter Jackson's "King Kong". The valleys and crests are indescribable but the only way you will see it is if you are in a car and if you are in a car then I guarantee that looking from side to side to admire the scenery during this drive will not be what you are doing...because you will be certain you are seconds away from death by a head on collision with an oncoming cargo truck, bus, car, motorcycle or the mystery vehicle that will appear from behind THAT 110 DEGREE HAIRPIN TURN!

In my case there was an insane decision by the driver to play a movie on the bus television to distract me from the nightmare series of turns and the fact he routinely put all our lives at risk by passing a truck at high speed with no possibility of knowing if a car was going to suddenly whip around that turn in front of us and cause one or both of us to swerve over the cliff.

The movie was "Taken" with Liam Neeson. I thoroughly hate this film. Never mind that all my attention was on that blind area hidden by the mountain cliffs as we crept painfully past the truck...seconds lengthened into hours as my destiny was completely at the mercy of luck. No, I'd seen "Taken" two times before and this third viewing firmly established my loathing of the movie. It's pure titillating nonsense. From the gangly legged daughter who is kidnapped to be a Saudi whore (And who somehow remained as innocent as a Buddhist Nun although she lived in Los Angeles with a millionaire step-father and a security-guard-to-celebrities father. RIGHT!) to the dull generic villains, I despise this movie and now I have more reason to hate it because the editing, tailor-made for terrible actors and a choppy script, made me totally sick to my stomach.

This terrible spine of the devil road went on and on and enabled yet another film to come on the television. "Enough" starring Jennifer Lopez. This was the point where I realized Mexicans have unlimited tolerance for American films no matter what the content or context and this trait would loom terribly in my near future. "Enough" is a domestic violence movie that is inexplicably bad. The characters are developed like in a video game. Suddenly, the husband turns violent and sadistic. Finally, Lopez decides to decapitate her husband. The evil husband is loaded with cash and admits to cheating on Lopez. That's pretty much a blank check for Lopez. The Spanish was too fast for me to translate what flimsy excuse is used to explain why Lopez doesn't file for divorce and use her husband's lucrative savings as collateral for the divorce lawyers who would've eaten him alive for 3/4 of his possessions. Maybe she says, "No, I don't want to divorce him. I'm too proud and independent...(even though I've milked his wallet and his cock for the last 8 years)" Foolish. "Sleeping with the Enemy" with Julia Roberts is a better approach to this sad topic than this dull cliche.

The spine of the devil is not for the weak of heart. Nor is it for people who like natural landscapes because your eyes will be fixed on the road if you are driving and if you are a passenger your eyes will be closed in tight prayer. As we rolled into the coastal flat-lands I was crippled with post-nausea weakness and the beginnings of a Mexican strain sickness that would make me cough blood for two weeks as my lungs filled with phlegm. If there's an epidemic outbreak of sickness in La Paz, sorry.

So, after an evening in a Mazatlan beachside hotel room with no window pane I pondered how to get across the Gulf of California and decided the Baja Ferry was the only way. So I bought a ticket and was westward bound once more. This ferry trip from Mazatlan was 16 hours long and fortunately the sea was calm because it was packed and I had bought my ticket so late that I wasn't assigned a seat so I had to rest in the cafeteria with the sleep apnea crowd. No one vomited. I walked to the concierge desk and saw dozens of bootleg dvds waiting to play. The list of films shown on this epic voyage was as follows:

Avengers: Dull. Hectic. Fractured. It's not like a rock 'n roll supergroup...it's overkill. Like a Wrestlemania cage match or a Roman orgy. What the hell is happening? Thor's brother wants to rule Earth? So The Hulk punches a huge metal dragon? Totally emotionless, juvenile and fake.

The Departed: Not Scorsese's best (and it's an adaptation from a Japanese flick) but it's the one they gave him an Academy Award for. Snitches in the Mob, moles in the State Police. Lots of good actors and pleasant faces to look at. Again, Spanish voice-overs can not capture the Boston accent, so much of the character is lost.

The Boy in The Striped Pajamas: WHAT THE FUCK? This is where things turned weird. Maybe the concierge read the title and decided it would be a good movie for kids. THE MOVIE IS ABOUT A NAZI CONCENTRATION CAMP! The German son of a Gestapo Camp Director makes friends with a Jewish kid (wearing striped pajamas). This is pure fantasy. The Nazi think tank propaganda was so effective at indoctrinating kids they would HAPPILY REPORT THEIR OWN PARENTS FOR SHOWING MERCY TO ANY JEWS. So, the chance a 12 year old German army brat would befriend a Jewish work camp inmate is zero. But for the sake of drama the German kid wanted a candid look at the inside of the camp where his father worked so he digs a hole under the electric fence and his new Jew friend gives him a set of pajamas to wear and that's the day the Zyclon-B is brought out of storage. I WONDER WHAT HAPPENS NEXT??

Life is Beautiful: OH, FOR FUCK'S SAKE! TWO HOLOCAUST MOVIES IN A ROW? I looked around the cabin and realized I was the only one awake at 2 am watching Jews die by the millions. WHY WOULD THEY PLAY THESE TWO MOVIES BACK TO BACK? Was it the title again? Now, Life is Beautiful is an excellent movie. Roberto Benigni wrote and directed and acted in this film and it's one of the most animated performances ever and he deservedly won best actor for the role. But I'll tell you frankly that the Spanish-speaking voice-over actor who was hired to dub Benigni's dialogue into Spanish should win some kind of award too because the inflection, speed, dynamics, personality, and range of the character's voice is off the charts. But the dubbing was flawless. Still, I found the film choice noteworthy. I mean, they have made like five Fast and Furious movies. When you have a captive audience couldn't you show one of those disposable flicks instead of a movie about the Holocaust? Let alone two movies about the Holocaust. I must write Baja Ferries to voice my concerns.

Battleship: Sure, the perfect movie for those on a ferry in the middle of the Gulf of California. Why not show Titanic? Aliens attack earth. A lone battleship is left to save us all. Oggy walked out on the deck to look at the rising moon and mourn his boring alien-free life.

Zookeeper: At last, a totally forgettable movie. Kevin James has finally won me over. He's an excellent actor and these terrible movies that type-cast him as a chubby, unlovable man who finally finds love really don't do his talents credit. I don't know if he's the next Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but I'd like the world to give him a chance to find out. Do not judge Kevin James by the quality of his movies. No, that's the result of a celebrity obsessed audience who wants soft core porn tits and chins on the screen of serious movies. The Zookeeper started not long before the ferry arrived at Pichiligue near La Paz in Baja California so I didn't get to see it all. The animals started talking and conspired to help James woo a girl. Gee, I wonder how it ends?

La Paz was a time without any media. I almost went to a movie to have something to review but events did not cooperate so I have nothing to review here. I sent off a few postcards explaining my plans and slept at an economy family-style mission where I cooked fish and rice and noodles. My goals and accomplishments there will be well documented in my biopic so there's no point to elaborate. Top 10 high points are:

1) Crying my last tears over The Temptress Myrna Mynx.
2) Meeting the inspirational Adam on his international mission to save the world. Filming and editing his first video campaign.
3) "Fully" recovering from my emotional and physical injuries sustained in the oil field.
4) Fresh Manta Ray tacos and learning to roast Anaheim Chilies like the street vendors.
5) Meeting my soul mate, the 70+ year old Peruvian grandmother of the Zoologist I've been trying to meet for 4 years.
Oggy: Yo conozco solo una cancion por Robert Schumann. Entonces...(I only know one song by R.S. So...)
Soul Mate: ....Traumerei...
My jaw drops and she points to an upright piano. The piano is perfectly in tune. I sit down and remember every note. Later, we talk about Hermann Hesse and trade off humming themes of Romantic era symphonies. I toast her family in Spanish and drink shots of 100 year old Tequila. It's pure heaven.
6) Realizing I can barely order food in Spanish but can fluently discuss the dichotomy of Hermann Hesse's characters, the flesh and the spirit, the body and the mind...etc.
7) A long cold night in an abandoned sugar cane mill. Serpientes means snakes.
8) Finding a common bond with every Mexican in the form of Jose Alfredo Jimenez's music.
9) Finding my old jazz band still active and playing for a real audience so I sat in on bongos, clave, kit drum, bass, guitar, piano and vocals. Marimba Rhythms, Girl From Ipanema, El Viejo San Juan, Okie From Muskogee, Loving Arms. The last 11 years of avoiding all adult responsibilities to learn these instruments finally pays off so those who treated me and my selfish aspirations like dirt can go fuck themselves.
10) Writing "Sleepless", my last desperate poem that is so good that I can't publish it out of respect for Pablo Neruda. After I die people will read that poem and think, "Holy shit!"

Fortunately, the poem is now obsolete, but the good thing about poetry is that its narcissistic love is immortal. The author's heart can move on but that doesn't mean the poem loses meaning. 
La Paz is magical for me. The month was gone too fast....a month?...holy shit...I'd better get back to Texas before my landlord forgets who I am.

The trip back east had the added excitement of still being an illegal alien. Would I get caught? I decided to see. Since I had vowed never to drive on La Espinazo Del Diablo again I only had two options by land. Take a bus to Tijuana and then bus across the United States which guaranteed I cross paths with every meth-head recently released from prison or take a different ferry across the Gulf to Topolobampo. A German traveler I met on the ferry from Mazatlan said she was going to take a train from Los Mochis to Chihuahua. A casual glance at the map of Mexico made me think this was going to cause problems later on (it did) but I had no alternative. The train went through the Copper Canyon, a place I'd been trying to see for 20 years. After Adam left on his motorcycle for Panama and/or Africa I packed my bag and bought a ticket for Los Mochis.

The ferry I wanted to take was the TMC line but rough seas canceled the voyage. Luckily, the Baja Ferry line left at approximately the same time for $100 more pesos and was a bigger ferry so they didn't care about the seas. So, I went with Baja Ferries. The sea was indeed rough and I was mildly sick but mostly because of the teenage Tarahumara Indian migrant farm workers on their way back from the onion fields on the western slope of the peninsula all getting drunk and vomiting. One young couple had sex on the floor behind my seat. None of them had tickets and they were all allowed on the ferry so I think if you disguise yourself as a Pre-Cortes mountain Indian and wait until the ferry is about to leave they will let you on for free. It's a shorter trip across the Gulf from La Paz to Los Mochis but the rough seas made it longer and made it feel much longer. Then the movies began...

Paul Blart: Mall Cop again demonstrated Kevin James's talents with an abysmal script. He's supposed to play "The Likeable Loser" but the thing is that He is Likeable. That takes talent. The late John Candy probably sets the bar for this role and John Cusack isn't bad either but Kevin James is excellent. There are lots of likeable loser types who are not likeable, read: Ben Stiller. Kevin James works. Hitch probably showcases him at the top of his game, but Mall Cop is a terrible movie. James plays Blart, a mall cop on a Segway who thwarts a plan to steal some money from a mall...and gets to kiss the hair extension saleslady in the end. Yawn. Nothing stands out from this film except the Tarahumara Indians who repeatedly stood in front of the screen swaying in drunken amusement and periodically throwing up on the slick floor filling the cabin with the awful reeking stomach acid stench.

Save the Last Dance: Julia Stiles redeems herself and her dead mother in the "Hood" of Chicago by finding interracial harmony with dance and love. Julia Stiles reminds me of my girlfriend in Santa Cruz minus the emotional imbalance and the pro dance techniques. It really bothers me how our life's trajectories are often controlled by drunk, fucked up, irresponsible, deviant adults who mar us forever and never get punished. This movie has a happy ending; the Santa Cruz story does not. My thoughts were as dark as the ocean at this point in the journey.

The Next Karate Kid: Hillary Swank never did know how to act. Her career defies all explanation. Is she the secret daughter of Marilyn Monroe or something? Miagi teaches Swank some karate kicks and respect at a Buddhist monastery. I fully expected the monks to bust heads but in spite of the obvious set up and opportunity I guess the screenwriters couldn't see how cool that would look. Pathological villains cause havoc for no reason at all. Even the soundtrack sucks. The drunk Tarahumara Indians were more interesting to look at so that's what I did until I watched Bandamax music videos in the bar where cases of beer were being drunk so the drivers would be properly shit-faced before they drove off the ferry that evening to tackle the dark road.

Kung Fu Panda 2: This was the first animation feature of my trip and while it's a predictable/ by-the-books plot point of a mythological hero's journey, it's done so well and is so well paced that I could ignore the fact I'd seen the story countless times before. If a Louis L'Amour western was translated into Chinese Pandas, peacocks, tigers and monkeys then it would look like Kung Fu Panda 2. Excellent! One day I'll watch it in English.

I took a collective bus into Los Mochis from Topolobampo. The taxi drivers said there were no hotels near the bus station but they knew of others they could take me to. That is bullshit of course since there are hotels everywhere in Mexico. Rule: Ask a taxi driver where the nearest hotel is and he will tell you he can drive you there. So I walked a few blocks until I found a hotel that rented rooms by the hour. Since I was arriving at midnight and the train left at 7 am the next morning I only needed it for 5 or 6 hours. The cost was 300 pesos and I handed him 200 pesos. He was too sleepy to care. The room was definitely not for the business traveler. The air was cold but there was no blanket. Couples had written their names on the mattress in more ways than one. Wait a second...rents by the hour...no blanket...a huge mirror over the bed...low moaning in the adjacent room...semen stains on the pillow case...oh, what the fuck...I'd accidentally rented an empty room at a brothel. I turned on the television and it wasn't long until I found my first adult flick to review...

I Fucked The Babysitter: This fine film fulfilled the promise of its title but the sex was monotonous and predictable...B.J, Clit licking, Missionary, Doggy, B.J. Cowgirl, Cum shot...Next. The direction was unobtrusive but also uncreative. The same P.O.V. was used repeatedly. The couples lacked all but the most geometric chemistry. They kept fucking in uncomfortable 1970's prop armchairs so they couldn't get comfortable. But the women were easy on the eyes and their randy, improvised dialogue (no Spanish overdubs were considered necessary) did more than arouse me. I kept waiting for a Brunette actress to take her turn as the babysitter but they were all fake blonds. Fortunately the next feature on the channel delivered...

Bachelor Party Orgy. The title says it all. 6 women and 5 men fuck like they invented sex. This single camera affair sort of required the cameraman to stay well back from the action in order to include all the orifices at once. So the direction lacked intimacy and detail. But the sight of 4 curvy brunette women all simultaneously riding their men like Preakness Jockeys auditioning for a role in movie about Man of War brought my arousal to full fruition. The stress and emotion of the last month and years of despair and suffering and the redemption of the recent weeks all built to a blazing climax. After extended foreplay and admiring my newly tanned chest in the ceiling mirror I ejaculated like a gay farm boy in a jailhouse shower romp, essentially signing my own genetic name to the dirty sheets.

Inside Asa Akira: I admit I ordered more than I could eat by trying to watch the next feature. I was a day shy of 42 years old and the testosterone that once dominated my life has been replaced by stomach fat and the cancerous residue of Jarritos Mexican soda pop. Nevertheless, with great effort and concentration on Asa's amble chest and thrilling abandon in the realm of anal and oral sex with multiple male and female partners, I managed a second weak and painful orgasm before my embattled prostate petitioned the governor for clemency and I collapsed on the freezing, filthy, whore-stained mattress to sleep for a few hours.

Ai, Chihuahua! The El Chepe train trip is indeed a journey for the ages but I've lately felt so spoiled in the realm of natural beauty that canyons don't impress me as much as subtle gestures by women or the soft accents of rural Mexicans singing songs by Jose Alfredo Jimenez or the quick feet of drunk couples dancing La Baila De Pareja to throbbing accordion music. But at least it was a pleasant ride and no one threw up. I should mention that the El Chepe website suggests the first class train leaves at 6 am and the economy class leaves at 7 am. Well, that's total bullshit at least on the day I left. There is only one train and the economy cars are attached to the first class cars. They all leave at 6 am and only because the brothel owners told me that I should get to the train station at 5:30, and because I had the self control not to watch another porn flick in the morning, led to my casual arrival about 6 minutes before the train left. If you miss that train then you are stuck in a Los Mochis brothel for two days...which might not be so bad.

But I caught the train and climbed aboard for what turned out to be an epic journey over the mountains on a train track that took something like 90 years to complete and turned 50 years old last year. We left at 6 am and arrived in Chihuahua at like 10 pm. So, another grinding 14 hour trip where I entertained myself with reflections and ponderings, writing great works of literature in my head and then forgetting them. I don't care what the schedule says when you are on that kind of train track. You are simply glad to be alive at the end of. This isn't the Red Line from Quincy Center to Kenmore Square, get it? There were no movies and I was basically exhausted as the giant canyons passed by me. I will always know where I was on my 42nd birthday.

Arrival in Chihuahua train station. There's a hotel right next to the station for 350 pesos and since it was 10 pm I think I should've rented a room there. But I wanted to walk around and stretch my bones and shop for a different hotel. But this is Chihuahua, a real city probably with city style crime and I noticed there was hardly anyone on the street walking let alone someone in a cowboy hat with a set of bongos and $200 Ray Ban sunglasses dangling from his neck. But I'm an idiot so I walked and walked and damned if I didn't find anything for blocks and blocks. Thoreau wrote that "It's a great art to saunter" and I'm not sure this is what he meant but it was nice to saunter and I wasn't robbed or molested. The gas station attendants with their cracked skin and missing teeth did their best to give me directions until I finally found another hotel that rented by the hour around 11pm. It was $250 pesos until the morning and I'll tell you that finding pubic hairs in the shower drain are the least of your worries in that place. No movies or porn on the television and believe me, I looked...(well, there was some softcore/tease Emmanuel type trash that's beneath mention.) I went on the street and found a food vendor and ate a salchicha/hot dog wrapped in bacon with lettuce and tomatoes and salsa and roasted Anaheim chili peppers that was so delicious I almost didn't mind the pain it caused in my chest and colon.

The next morning I foolishly thought I could simply stumble upon the bus station. The city is about the size of Boston so it's like setting someone down in Cambridge and them thinking they will eventually walk into the Greyhound station near south station without a map or any sense of direction. I drank fresh squeezed orange juice on the street (Imagine a city where you get a big glass of fresh squeezed orange juice on the street for $1) I gave up on walking to the bus station but I did see enough of Chihuahaua to think I could live there. It had not a blade of green grass but it had tons of character. 

In front of the government building is a gigantic statue of a man with a gun on a horse. There was no plaque or anything.
"Quien es?" I asked a man lounging on a bench in the warm sun of the cold desert morning.
"Pancho Villa." he said with a kind of accent and lilt that you will only hear in the state of Chihuahua where Pancho operated and became one of the first terrorists to attack America in 1916. Villa would surely be villanized today a' la Osama Bin Laden but he was a kind of Mexican Robin Hood who seized large land tracts and divided them among peasants. He was also governor of Chihuahua and was eventually assassinated by another revered politician named Alvaro Obergon...and he rode a horse and wore a huge sombrero and shot to kill. Townes Van Zandt wrote a classic song about him that if I can find the right key to sing it in will keep me company for the duration. His huge bronze statue is in the government courtyard in Ciudad Chihuahua. It would be like a giant statue of Jesse James in the Saint Louis City Hall courtyard. Sometimes it pays to saunter in strange cities.

Pancho Villa in Action
A taxi took me way, way out of town to the bus station. I would've stumbled on it about 30 years from now if I had kept walking. A bus was leaving for Ojinaga in ten minutes. The only other option was to take a bus south hundreds of Kilometers to Torreon and backtrack through Montclova and then to Piedras Negras to catch the same bus back to Uvalde that I took when I left. I almost took that route but was also dangerously close to chucking it all and taking another bus south to Puebla to meet my soul mate's granddaughter, which even sounds ridiculous on paper so I opted for the northern route with no idea what would happen.

It was a painless trip through the desperate desert to Ojinaga.
We watched a based-on-truth movie called "Dolphin Tale" to entertain us. It's about a dolphin whose tail, or fluke, has to be amputated after it is injured by crabbing lines. The hero kid's older cousin is a wounded vet and the idea to use a prosthetic fluke is realized along with the salvation of a Florida marine animal rescue hospital. In my emotional state I was moved by this Pollyanna inspiration flick. Can we at least pretend to respect the ocean? Midway Island is full of seagulls dying with their bellies full of plastic bottle caps. Why? Because you and I are repulsive scourges destined for ecological Hell. On top of it all, my arch nemesis Harry Connick Jr. not only plays saxophone and is a brilliant singer and composer but has the role of a dreamy marine veterinarian in this movie. Could he be any more awesome? He kills me.

The trip was painless but pain quickly started once we arrived in Ojinaga as only my feet were left to get me to the United States. I walked and walked, crossed the river and found myself in front of a bored immigration clerk.
"Are you an American Citizen," she asked.
"Yes, I am. And I can prove it." and I started to sing the Star Spangled Banner.
She stopped me before I could get to, "...what so proudly we hailed...
"How long have you been in Mexico?"
"What month is it?"
"March? Man. Where does the time go? I was there a month."
She looked at my bongos and my book bag full of socks.
"A month?"
"Maybe longer."
"Your passport was never stamped."
"What's this?" she asked holding a hard bundle of newspaper.
"A ceramic napkin holder." I said.
"What was your purpose in Mexico?"
She inspected the bongo drums for false panels, was clearly mystified by the "Esta Machina Mata Drogistas" graffiti.
I smiled and shook my head. My purpose?
"I broke my heart a few years ago and I went back to look for the pieces."
The clerk slowly started to put on her inspection gloves.
I plunged on..."And I found most of the pieces. I found the important pieces." 
I dreamily touched my new Tarahumara necklace and bit my sun swollen lips.
"Stand over there," she said as she requested backup from two armed guards.
Even though I had accidentally left my antler bone Indian peace pipe in my backpack, soon enough I was walking into America, nodding at a heavy guard.

"Donde esta la estation de..."
"Hey, man, yer in Texas now. We speak 'merican."
"Right. Where's the bus station?"
"Half mahle. El Pat-e-o." 
He pointed a meaty hand north.

It was more like two miles to El Patio and the bus was leaving in ten minutes for Fort Stockton. As I had feared there was no bus to Del Rio. The only way to get to Uvalde was to take a 4 hour bus to Fort Stockton and then transfer at 2 am to a bus to San Antonio and the next morning take a bus bound for Del Rio to Uvalde. But there was a stop on Route 90 called Alpine. I could get off the bus there and technically hitchhike to Uvalde or at least Del Rio where there was a bus to Uvalde. After a desperate race to get dollars I bought a ticket and took off for Alpine. No movies on that bus as we passed through Marfa, Texas where the mysterious lights are proof we are not alone in the universe

We arrived in Alpine around 5 pm and I made my destination sign and 4 hours later all I had to show for my thumbing efforts were sore feet and a typically disgusting meal that a Baptist Church camp volunteer bought for me at Dairy Queen because he mistook me for a destitute drug addict instead of an ex-oil field electrician. I'd vowed to maintain a healthy diet and I hadn't been back in Texas for 8 hours before filling my face with processed chicken flesh and processed french fries and high fructose soda pop and ice cream. Alpine literally has nothing but processed food and packs of deep fried tacos to offer the hungry. Abysmal diet in Texas. ABYSMAL. EVERYONE IS GOING TO DIE OF DIABETES. S.O.S.

So, a peaceful night at a Pakistani Inn that smelled like Chicken Vindaloo. I watched most of Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows and found it entertaining but too cheeky for my matured tastes. The intrigue takes a back seat to visual trickery. Robert Downey Jr. has as much charm as the law allows and Jude Law plays a perfect foil. The band of suspects rounds out the film, directed by the reliably inventive Guy Ritchie. It's definitely better than the latest Bond movies but it isn't as good as classic Bond movies. The action was too obvious.

I got an early start since I had approximately 350 miles to hitchhike. Fortunately, I was standing on the road that took me to my house. State Road 90. Hours passed. Not much traffic passed me and I was starting to regret my decision since I would probably have to take a bus anyway to Fort Stockton and then San Antonio. Then god smiled upon me because I met a woman whose every interest seemed to correspond to mine...even to the point of taking pity on hitchhikers. But we never should've met since the trip she was taking from Arizona to Nuevo Leon, Mexico in the interest of forest studies normally involves packing her small car so full of gear that there is no room for a passenger, and I don't hitchhike anymore. She passed me and then circled back since the sight of my bongo drums in the middle of the desert seemed to make me more sane/safe to her. Her car plates were from Chihuahua and as I bubbled in excitement and babbled in broken Spanish about my destination and tried to justify my bizarre situation she calmly threw some trash in the back seat and said, "Get in," in the most cultured and natural voice with no hint of Spanish accent. She looked like she could be Mexican and her car was Mexican so for a moment I was paralyzed and confused since she sounded like people who have never left San Francisco, California. Away we went.

Earlier, If you'd asked me to custom order the person who should pick me up from the side of the road in Alpine, Texas I would've said, "Send me a pretty, single, 25 year old Mexican scientist, a doctor of Botany, Forestry specifically, who is a day out of the field in Big Bend National Park where she was trapping mountain lions for a friend's research project and is on her way to Mexico where she is a professor at a university and researches Mexican forests and lectures. I want her iPod to constantly play independent folk songs and dark songs by The Smiths and also I want her to introduce me to a new independent band or artist and I want her to sing along with the songs in spite of having met me moments earlier. And I want her to have her long dark hair in two French braids that slowly come unraveled from the desert breeze through the window. And I want her to slow down every time a raptor flies overhead and then say, "Red Tail." without adding, "Hawk" because she will know that I know it's a hawk. And she must emote sadness when we pass a dead deer on the side of the road and have ever-evolving views on ecology and the world. When we pass a bicyclist she should weave far away so as not to disturb him and she won't honk because it surprises the rider and she should have specific views on bicycle touring because she has toured cross country. In fact, I want her to agree that 60 miles is the maximum distance one should travel on a given day. I want her to have plans to bicycle tour this summer. And she should drink fruit juices and not smoke cigarettes. And she should not point out the inherent contradiction in my writing anti-hydro-fracturing essays while working in the hydro-fracturing oil field because she knows I already know the contradiction but possibly there is a greater and more obtuse design I am cultivating or maybe I'm a hypocrite and it would be rude to point that out. She will hold her own in a conversation about the music of Tom Waits. And when we get to a border inspection road block I want her to transform into a completely cultured Mexican woman with a blunt Spanish voice, without a trace of English, intentionally adopted for the border guard, refusing to speak English, pretending she barely understands English and making no attempt to flirt or charm her way through the inspection, even to the point of adopting a condescending tone herself like the whole process is juvenile. And immediately after the inspection station I want her to transform back into the singing and smiling picture of pleasantry. Oh, and while you're at it, I want her first name to be a beautiful Aztec word. And if you can do all that for me and have her go out of her way to drop me at my doorstep then I'll waive the requirement that she plays piano concertos."

And of course you would've laughed and laughed at me for making such a completely insane request of the universe

 You want a Mexican to pick you up hitchhiking in Texas? Are you daft? You want a pretty female Mexican doctor of Forestry to look at your "mata drogistas" bongo drums and pick you up and drive you 350 miles to your front door? Hahahahaha. A Mexican tree-hugger and a Yankee gypsy crossing Texas? That's against the law.

 I was in no position to bargain or ask for anything and was in fact at the mercy of fate standing in the sun on a lonely road going nowhere with a sign for a town 350 miles away and maybe a car passing me every twenty minutes. And it actually even seems insane right now as I write it down and if I didn't have her email address (which is the scientific name for a beautiful Riparian tree that is very similar to my favorite tree, the Golden Larch) then I'd say I imagined it all
...but that's exactly who picked me up. (She used the word "Dendrochronology" in an email to me and I realized I'll never find a partner outside of Academia if I am turned on by words like that.)

Destiny brought us together as merely a reminder that I need not give up on myself. As Adam said in an ancient Israeli proverb, "When you miss a bus, the next one comes along and it has air conditioning."

She dropped me off at my doorstep and I made no attempt to be nonchalant or disguise my interest in staying in contact. It's not like I'm going to see her on campus tomorrow. I'd had 4.5 hours to make her think I was crazy but messed up because she seemed to understand the madness of my methods.

The trip was an emotional dream, a mythological adventure. I felt it was absolutely necessary, even to the point of risking all my money and possessions. My peace of mind and focus is all that I need to write the Santa Cruz book I've been planning. Skills are almost all I have at this point as I have no job and no security beyond the four walls of my apartment. A month ago I could not have written this recollection because The Mynx had my heart held captive. But now I'm free. I looked at my bank account and decided I have $3000 to spare for a custom guitar. I dreamed of it one night and it played like a magic gift from St. Cecilia. It's one week paycheck if I can ever get hired again in the oil field.
You thought I was kidding about the ceramic napkin holder.
Speaking of my apartment, in my absence the attic rats had taken over my bedroom...eating pecans IN MY BED ON MY PILLOW. They stashed old Christmas candy under my socks. I'm at war with the rats now. They ate my soap. And a swarm of vicious Africanized Hornets managed to get inside my room and start a hive on top of the overhead fan. I was being kind and tried to usher them outside alive but they literally attacked me and stung me until my hands swelled up. Then I went on a hornet killing rampage, showing no mercy. I vacuumed the rat shit. Evicted/slaughtered the hornets. Washed my clothes. The lady across the street had left 15 messages asking me when I was going to play the piano again at the care facility. "When are you coming home?" she asked my voice mail even though I didn't take that telephone with me. She never received the postcard I sent. My landlord had never received my postcard either and thought I was gone forever. The Czech moped parts from Hungary had arrived though. I went shopping and bought fish and rice and a mango. My name is Oggy. I'm 42. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Thanks for reading.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.