New Year's is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.
-Mark Twain-

My new years resolution is the same every year and I always keep it. It is "I resolve to make no New Years resolution". -tom swaim-

Friday, November 19, 2010

Old Fools Journal: Borders

This is not the high rent district. This is downtown Loreto, Baja California Sur. Our yard was behind the board fence on the left (see photo below). Another 1000 feet (305M) and you are swimming in the Sea of Cortez.

It often shocks acquaintances that I am not a nationalist. I know that I come from the soil of North America and there is not a damn thing anyone can do about it. I didn't choose it, it chose me and grew me just like it grew the oak trees and weeds in my yard. I have traveled and rooted in other places and like a bamboo plant I come up everywhere and am just as difficult to get rid of. I am here now because it suits me but as a denizen of the planet Earth, as English speaking people call this temporary ball I, like the Gypsy's, resent other humans telling me where I can and cannot go.

Borders cannot be seen from space or even from airplanes. When I was flying a lot which was most of my life I never ceased to be amazed at first time fliers not recognizing the earth they live on. It was a shock to some that there were no dotted lines or different colors to tell one place from another. Animals, insects and birds do not recognize borders. Many humans do not either and I am one of them. Borders create conflict.

Borders do exist and guns are used to make sure that "they" don't get over here, get our stuff and rape us all. Death is the ultimate penalty for treading on another governments soil.

The southern border between Mexico and the USA is an example of an artificial border. Within 100 miles of either side there is not much difference. It appears to be mostly Mexican with family members living on both sides of the imaginary line defended by the Americans. Mexicans don't defend their side so much. People who want to go to the trouble travel back and forth daily without bothering with the formalities of using government approve gates. I suspect that the Canadian border is much the same.

Traveling south the cultural change is hardly noticeable. Food, clothing and automobiles all are about the same. There are fewer signs that start with the word No, you see more people on foot, the highways are a little different, not as many fast food restaurants and occasionally a different language is used. Flowers are the same color on both sides. The easiest way to tell you are in Mexico is the Americans and Canadians do a lot of stupid rude things they would never think of doing at home. Other nationalities do the same but since their are fewer of them it's not so noticeable.

Note* If a group of males are doing scary dumb things with a beer in their hands they are most probably American Firemen. If a large group of people are walking toward you in the middle of the street talking loudly they are Americans or Canadian if they are speaking English otherwise probably German. You can tell them apart. The Canadians will have on shorts in the winter and be very white. They are almost always having a good time and laugh a lot.

The most notable thing I noticed of the Mexican people is that they considered you to have the right to be, even the officials although they may require a small fee.

An example of that happened to us back in the late 1980's. SWMBO (she who must be obeyed), her teenage daughter Zena, Priscella (la Perra Fantastico) and I were traveling south out of Tecate on Carretera Federal 3 in a very much overloaded 1966 Ford F110 pickup truck. We were packed to the gunnels with loot for our place in Loreto, BCS. We were making good time and planning to take a room south of Ensenada probably in San Quintin. Just when we were getting used to the idea that we had escaped the USA one more time without getting killed or caught the left rear axle snapped clean just outside of the bearing. This was not good. We had passed the village of Espuela (I believe that's the name) and were about 30 mile south of Tecate in the mountains and on a blind curve. Ducky.
Our destination.

The F110 was the four-wheel drive version of the F100 which Ford orphaned. It was made without the benefit of automotive or any other kind of engineers and I think in a blacksmith shop. It had mechanical steering (no power) but it did have a booster on the drum brakes. That meant they didn't give out until you were halfway down the mountain. I discovered this coming out of Big Bear City, Calif on highway 18 headed north. It had a real four speed transmission with a real granny gear and my version had a retrofit 390 cubic inch engine. If I could get traction it would go straight up a cliff pulling a house. That axle was the weak link but it was a truck that was built for The Baja. If you had a hammer you could fix it but you needed a refinery to drive it.

That little photo of the bus and truck is all of I have of left of the truck. I had lots but I don't know what happened to them.

I put it into four wheel drive and used the front wheels to pull me off the road and then went back for the wheel. It was obvious that we were not going anywhere until we got an axle. We set up camp on a mountain grade on a blind curve. That would not have been allowed in the good old USA. We were greeted by every passerby one of which gave us an old red dress she was carrying to the village with other stuff for charity to set up around the bend as a warning. She set one of them herself. (For those that think "dumb Mexican" when they think of Mexicans bear in mind that they understand that a red cloth on a stick beside the road means trouble ahead. The average American would pay no attention.) Then she set off to the village to get us a tow truck. Many offered help, offered water, offered food and told us that the Angeles Verdes (Green Angels) would be along later in the week. The Angeles Verdes are the Mexican governments highway assistance patrol and I'm here to tell you they are great.

We had a miserable night and SWMBO was up most of the night watching for the tow truck. Several came by but when she flagged one down it was not for us. A tanker truck had gone off the cliff south of us beheading the driver and they didn't think our piddly ass problem trumped that. I found out later that there is a truck accident on that stretch of road between Tecate and Ensenada about once a week usually with a fatality.

We had a long day and with a bare minimum of stuff to camp we wrapped up in blankets. The ladies put their feet in plastic bags to stay warm. The dog didn' t care one way or another.

When morning came while I was out foraging for firewood SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) looked around the truck found what she needed and when I got back with the firewood to build a fire for coffee and breakfast she handed me a cup of hot coffee. Breakfast would be ready in a few minutes. Turns out I was just there for comic relief because she already had it under control. I think she kept me there to act as a buffer between her, her daughter and the Latin lovers that wanted to sweep them off their feet. I swear those two females could get those guys to chase their tails and howl. Priscella thought everything was wonderful with plenty of lizards to chase.

The Angeles Verdes showed up that afternoon. We had ample warning as everybody stopped to give a progress report. We had eyes and ears ten miles ahead and ten miles back. There was no radio just word of mouth. They surveyed the damage said "no problemo" and one staying to guard the ladies the other piled me into their truck and off we went to the rodeo. Really. It was the 16th of September their independence day and there was a rodeo back in the last village. Since everyone there is a cowboy it stands to reason that the Ford parts dealer would be riding.

So this guy rides up on his horse in full regalia including the required fancy spurs and chaps and they talked. After a minute or so the cowboy gets down off his horse gets in his old pickup (spurs still on) and proceeds to lead us up the mountain on a dirt trail. We stopped at an old shack with a monster pile of rusty car parts in the front yard. They dug around for a while then pulled out an axle and said that was it. Ten dollars later we are on our way to the local welder car repair person. He was riding also but had already heard of our problem and had gone to his shop to wait for us. We needed him to fit the bearing to the axle. It didn't fit tight and that is all that holds the bearing on those axles and the bearing is all that holds the axle in the differential. The welder said this is temporary when you get home get the right one because this will eventually break. I ask "is it safe" he said with a smile "Si, maybe two week or two month or two year and pow over the precipio you". He had excellent English. In this case Si meant No.

Back up the mountain we go, installed the axle and it did not fit. Well it sort of did. Turns out that Ford in their lack of engineering had made this axle a little shorter from the bearing out to the wheel than the same truck in two wheel drive. That means it will turn the wheel and the wheel fits but the brakes don't line up. Why they did that I'll never understand and there is no one to ask as I have never found any Ford person that has ever even heard of this truck. Ford has no record of it. I know about it because I owned it for thirty years.

In this case "close enough" was close enough.

The senior senòr green angel said "no problemo" and procedes to cut the brake line bend it over and crimp it. "So" he said "fix - cuidadoso tres frenos solamente - go slow". His English was better than my Spanish and we understood each other enough to laugh at each others wise cracks. Understand we had a lot of very steep mountain driving to do in an overloaded truck that had inferior brakes to start with. Off we went with three brakes and a bucket full of brake parts.

On the other side of the mountain on the downhill grade we found the truck wreck. It is so steep there that the wrecked truck was nearly vertical. They had gotten the drivers body out but didn't even leave a guard. Nobody was going to steal anything from that wreck. It was a long slide to the bottom. The vultures wouldn't even land there. We had driven this road several times but had never really noticed the large number of wrecked vehicles at the bottom of that cliff until this time.

We made it home later that week but it took a month of drinking Tecate and Oso Negro gin to get that elephant off my chest. The final fix was done in Loreto, B.C.S by my local mechanic. I only had to pay for a four day vacation for him to go to a whore house in Constitution (the equivalent of Stockton, California) for an axle. It was all very mysterious and secretive but I knew what he was doing and I'll bet his wife did too. He was successful and came back with the correct axle. He knew about that Ford truck even if Ford did not and when he got over his hangover he fixed it good as new.

The axle and the rodeo $10.00. The welding and advice $5.00. The service the Angleos Verdes gave was beyond price and in fact you are not supposed to pay them. When I tried they refused but I impressed upon them that we had become friends and I wished to make a gift. They accepted but they only took half what I offered which was about the cost of lunch.

During that whole episode we were assumed to have the right to be there and to need help. We were not those damned foreigners we were just people. I haven't had that experience in the good old USA the land of my birth, the home of the brave and land of the free. My experiences there started in 1957 by being taken into custody for driving through Deming, New Mexico in the middle of the night. No charges could be trumped up so I was let go.

When traveling North the hardest thing for me was getting hit in the face by displays of military and police with guns everywhere. When crossing the border into California, Arizona and Texas the culture shock is terrible. Immigration and customs were rude. The traffic was aggressive, stupid and rude. San Diego was the worst culture shock I ever experienced when returning to the U S of A. It wasn't the people or the town it was the traffic and the fast pace of life there. In fact during the seven years we lived in Baja we never got over it and always felt safer traveling south where the worst drivers were just macho and stupid. You are a suspect anywhere within 100 miles of the border traveling north. Since I don't have any good stories to tell traveling north I think I won't tell any.

Well there is one. Once I ask my bride, her daughter and Priscella the most magnificent dog, when we were traveling north "should we press on or stop for the night". They told me they would like to press on but only if I would buy some chewing tobacco and chew it. I had run out a couple of months before and decided to quit. They even offered to get it for me and they had to see me put it in my mouth. I think that if I had not they would have strangled me in my sleep that night. I don't know what their problem was. They said I was unbearable but I thought I was my lovable self. It was another ten years before I quit again and that was only when I had a yard I could be chained in and have buckets of ice water thrown on me occasionally. I quit cigarettes in 1969 and that took 20 years to get over plus I started chewing. I have been a recovering tobacco chewer for over ten years now and it still ain't easy. Nasty habit. I am thankful that I never even think of cigarettes now.

Now I resent being a prisoner in my own country. The United States has surrendered to the terrorist. You can leave but you can't come back unless you have a passport. Only those with money can have a passport. When I was in High School I use to pop over the border for lunch but those days are long gone. I can't carry my pocket knife and I won't take off my shoes on command so I can't ride on an airplane and now the Airlines use government mandated gropers to feel you up. As much as I like being felt up I choose it not to be a TSA groper. No self respecting person would apply for a job like that and and I am amazed at the number of people that pay a lot of money to be groped by those goons. Not taking my picture through my clothes either. I will completely disrobe and bend over spreading my cheeks but only if the ticket to ride is free and if done in the middle of the boarding area. I want witnesses.

Otherwise any traveling I do will be non-government approved at least as much as possible.

Read about a fellow blogger's exciting experience here. His blog Paleotool's weblog is an excellent read.


f said...

You might find John Torpey's book, the "Invention of the Passport" an interesting read... my time in Malaysia (way shorter than yours in Mexico) was much the same; in part because I tried to be everything the oil engineers were not. I learned a bit of Bahasa Malay, a bit of Hokkien, and a bit of the odd grammar that ties BM, H, and (sort of) English together as a language of communication. But the people were friendly, but not 'tourist friendly' and eased my passage into their world for the duration of my stay.

On the TSA. Imagine if every single US citizen who flies as a passenger just said 'no, we are not flying' until the TSA was put in its place? The airlines would force the TSA into its cage pretty quick. Or they'd go bankrupt and the entire reason for the TSA would go out the door. Maybe.

And Customs, or as it known in my case, the Canadian Border Services Agency, is no better than yours. A huge number of self-important, ignorant, defenders of freedom and democracy, whose greatest joy seems to be making 'citizens' feel like criminals.

I won't go on.

workbike said...

"Turns out I was just there for comic relief because she already had it under control."

I find that with my wife too...

At the moment the German version of the TSA seem to be human, but I think that our history last century probably has something to do with that.

Steven Cain said...

So... What you're saying is that you would rather risk being blown up than frisked?

Is it the terrorists ass they are kissing? If they don't frisk everyone, they are profiling... if they frisk everyone, it's ridiculous and invasive.

Sorry, but I'm already scared to death of flying, just because I don't like being off of the ground, so I can guarantee if I have to fly, I want every human on that plane searched head to toe. I love life too much to be cashed out for some idiot's religious hang-up or what ever pissed him or her off that day.

Maybe they should make an airline for those who like to gamble... a no search deal... and all of the passengers savings accounts and life insurance policies can go to pay for the building the plane gets crashed into...

Sorry boss... I just don't get that perspective. Thousands of people died because of casual security. Am I missing something here? Our airlines have become weapons for lunatics. Shouldn't we be pissed off at the lunatics?

I'll stop now...

f said...

Steven, please bear with me, I wish neither you nor your opinions any disrespect.

On flying. I've done 'mechanical' work most of my life - sometimes turning the wrench, sometimes telling someone 'how' to turn the wrench - and I have a completely different view of flying. Descending from 35k' I love to sit just aft of the wing's trailing edge because in a perverse way I marvel at the very idea that miles of hydraulic tubing, thousands of parts, electric motors, pistons, blah, blah, blah all work (seemingly) flawlessly, and do it most of the time. I think of the ways things 'could' fail and my imagination is thwarted by my very ignorance of the complexities of the systems - I can't imagine 1% of the possible failures - and I'd fly again, and again, and again.

We have, I think, vastly different sensibilities to 'risk' not only in flying but in other aspects.

On the topic of 'security' I'll give my email address urbanwriter gmail and if you'd like to share, or debate (in fairness to our host here) our respective positions please drop me a line.

In the meantime think of the possible havoc on a boat, sailing out of Miami, that has attracted some wretches debased attentions.

All the best

Oldfool said...

Yes I'll take my chances. I don't fly airlines because I really don't like being couped up with that many people. I find crowds of people nasty in general however I will not trade my rights for security voluntarily because of bullies (terrorist).
I refuse to feed the "terrorism industry" out of fear. Those who are feeding the fears of people are far more despicable that the actual terrorist themselves. There would have to be a Sept. 11 type disaster once a month for the risk of flying to equal the risk of driving a car yet every effort is made to alleviate the fear of driving. You are 20 times more likely to be struck by lighting than be in a airline terrorist event and that's without TSA.
If you give up freedom for security you deserve neither. I think Ben Franklin expounded on that subject.
Go to
for more on profiting from fear. Fortunes are being made feeding the peoples fears. It's being used to elect mediocre politicians as well.

Steven Cain said...

Not a problem F... I never open my mouth on the Old Fool's blog with out knowing first that I will later have to eat my words... provided I can get my foot out of my mouth.

I'm hardly debate worthy... but you are more than welcome to send me an eye-opening e-mail... I'll read it right after O.F's!


Diane-Sage Whiteowl said...

I as a child/teenager with my family and as a young adult with friends, traveled to Mexico all the time. Easy in and easy out during those years. Never had a problem and enjoyed my trips. Ensenada was my mom's fav.
Then in 1973 I and my 3 year old son went to Mexico for a visit and coming back to USA they asked to see the birth certificate of my son, to make sure he was a US citizen. Fortunately, I was told beforehand to bring it due to him being "dark" complexion, being a mix blood of Native American, white & Mexican. Yep times were a changin'then.
I read all the comments and can agree with lots that were said from all. Yes the terrorists have turned the tide with all this border stuff. But let me throw something new into the mix...the inventions of mankind, have a lot to do with what we are facing. Planes can bring any terrorist from anywhere fast & often along with other modes of transportation therefore causing all this passport/border patrols etc. stuff. I know I can't change the evolution of inventions BUT with it, it has brought "some" good (Yep,I am one of those "greeners") but with a lot of problems. This is just one of them...mankind has created a humongous ice berg which is floating around slowly destroying the freedom & peace for all. Yes Sir, times are a changin' and it ain't lookin' good!

kfg said...

The WTC terrorists were not brought here fast. They had been here for years. The flights they hijacked were domestic commuter flights. The tools they used to accomplish this were so crude that a street punk would laugh at you if you pulled one on him, just before he beat the shit out of you in the process of taking it away, just to teach you not to be such a dumbass.

The previous attempt to bring down the towers was accomplished with a van rented in Jersey.

These weren't even the first terrorist bombings of NYC. The rejuve of the Statue of Liberty was done largely to repair the damage done by a terrorist bombing; again from Jersey. The bombers arrived by steamship.

The first "dirty" bomb or crude nuke attack won't be "delivered," it will be built on site from locally obtained materials. They'll take their time doing it. Maybe months.

The speed of travel has nothing to do with it.

I used to live in Mexico and visit Canada. I miss the borders nearly as open as the borders between my town and the next. The border between my town and the next does nothing to promote terrorism as the desire is the only needed tool.

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