We Can’t Handle the Truth

blair bush caricatureThe U.K. has finally released the long-threatened Chilcot report, the results of a lengthy investigation into decision-making blunders in the build-up to the murderous invasion of Iraq. The report excoriates  Prime Minister Tony Blair for his blind faith in George W. Bush’s criminally negligent miscalculations and lies concerning WMD’s, and Iraq’s role in global terrorism, and demonstrates how both Blair and Bush ignored vital information about the likely  disastrous consequences of such a folly.

The report is  quite a bombshell in England, even 13 years after the war commenced. The foppish Blair was forced again into his best Hugh Grant impression before the press cameras to stammer his way through the standard I-was-acting-on-the-best-available-information excuse ( the same excuse Hillary Clinton uses when questioned about her affirmative Iraq invasion Senate vote). Family members of dead British soldiers are demanding that Blair  be put on trial for war crimes, and there are MP’s who now agree that there are grounds for such a prosecution.

The response to the Chilcot report on this side of the pond has been a bit more muted, largely because we are in the throes of a full-blown swoon over Clinton’s email server. The Bush administration’s response was predictable:

“Despite the intelligence failures and other mistakes he has acknowledged previously, President Bush continues to believe the whole world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power,” Bush’s spokesman Freddy Ford said in a statement.

“He is deeply grateful for the service and sacrifice of American and coalition forces in the war on terror. And there was no stronger ally than the United Kingdom under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair.”

The little chimp couldn’t even bring himself to make a direct statement.

But despite the distractions of our clown show presidential race, and our national obsession over Email-gate, the timing of the release of this report is the perfect reminder of exactly who is to blame for creating the turmoil and the power vacuum that has led to the rise of groups like ISIS. This is important because of a recent statement from the cranky John McCain that Barrack Obama’s Middle East policies are to blame for ISIS, a slander that was immediately reiterated by Donald Trump, and then parroted by the jack-offs at Fox News and the right wing echo chamber.

It is, of course, a convenient bald-faced lie that a chicken hawk like Trump can hide behind to burnish his tough-guy credentials, the insinuation being that Clinton’s policies would merely mimic those of Obama.

Meanwhile,  British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond is dealing more directly with reality. In the wake of the Chilcot report, he stated publicly that the invasion of Iraq led directly to the rise of ISIS, contradicting the popular bullshit notion that the Syrian civil war led to the groups creation.

Tony Blair and England were certainly duplicitous in aiding and abetting the Bush/Cheney war crimes. But now, at least, Britain is owning up to its failures. One day, maybe, the United States will reach that same level of national maturity and be honest with itself, but, if this presidential race is any indication, it’s not likely to be any time soon.




Random Thoughts on the Presidential Race

As we collectively slouch toward the two political party conventions in July, a couple things become abundantly clear.

First, we are all fucked because both of these candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, are horribly flawed human beings, wildly untrustworthy, and really unpopular, with large percentages of voters who find either choice distasteful.

Second, we are doubly fucked because the next president will be one of these two characters, either Trump or Clinton, despite their serious flaws, personal histories, and gross unlikability.

Clinton acolytes have spent most of the Spring and early Summer beseeching Bernie Sanders to get out of the Democratic primary race so that Hillary can go “one-on-one” with Trump and steal his lunch money. This ain’t about to happen, because Sanders has effectively been out of the race and out of the headlines for several weeks and polls indicate that there is very little daylight separating the remaining two candidates.

And consider that Trump cannot possibly damage his “brand” any more than he already has, short of appearing at a Klan rally in full regalia,

The social media was filled with tributes from the blubbering masses about the historic significance of Clinton’s nomination. Grown men, according to their own Facebook admissions, were reduced to tears when the first female presidential nominee emerged from the primaries, but how much of this tearful jubilation was geared toward placating the wife or girlfriend remains to be seen.

One so-called “narrative” that became prominent on social media is that Hillary Clinton was the “most qualified candidate” to ever run for president, apparently because she served in the senate for two terms and was named Secretary of State in the first Obama administration. Even Obama jumped on that bandwagon after Clinton sewed up the nomination. “Look, I know how hard this job can be. That’s why I know Hillary will be so good at it,” he said. “In fact, I don’t think that there’s ever been someone so qualified to hold this office.”

Well, it turns out that Martin Van Buren was a senator, a secretary of state, a governor, an ambassador and a vice president, before assuming office. Nice resume. Nice qualifications. But Marty was also a one term president who earned in the press the nickname Martin Van Ruin.

Bob Dole was a World War II veteran who served in the house and senate for decades.  Dole ran against incumbent Bill Clinton in 1996 and Clinton won in a 379–159 Electoral College landslide.

These are just two random references.

The point is that Clinton’s qualifications serve as a good talking point, but only within her inner circle, and among her surrogates, party hacks like Howard Dean and Ed Rendell.

Of course, Donald Trump has zero “qualification” to hold the office of president but that hasn’t kept him within the margin of error in several recent presidential polls. And the fact that he’s a first-class dick has apparently helped, not hurt, him in these same polls, at least until now.

As secretary of state, Clinton presided over the successful elimination of Osama bin Laden, but blundered huge in her support for “democracy” in Libya, Egypt, and Syria. And, as senator, her support for the Iraq invasion was a mistake of historical dimensions. That’s why Trump is an overwhelming favorite among voters to take on ISIS and deal with international terror. And with  new suicide missions occurring at a rate of about 3 a week, Trump only gets stronger.

Clinton supporter’s denunciation of the Bernie Sanders campaign was dishonest and repugnant. It was as if Sanders  was trying to mischievously derail the neo-Camelot narrative of Clinton’s anointment for no real good reason other than that he could. That he embraced several core positions different and more progressive than Clinton’s and that he had millions of supporters was lost on the Democratic establishment who viewed Sanders as merely a skunk at the Hillary nomination picnic. The media’s duplicity in this marginalization  of Sanders and his supporters was political journalism at its worst. The “liberal” news network, MSNBC early on joined the assault on Sanders, with the insufferable Rachel Maddow leading the charge, traipsing out Hillary surrogates like Rendell and Dean to denounce Sanders on an almost daily basis.

So we are stuck with who we are stuck with.

And to think the “fun” has only just begun!

Ghost Town

Odd that I would find myself back in Mexico. Rosarito hasn’t changed much. The same little shops are strung out along Avenida Benito Juarez: the locksmith, the leather repair shop, the apothecary filled with its exotic botanical cures, the tamale joint, the Comex paint store. The frail Indian woman in her long traditional dress and her oddly modern eye glasses still slumps on the sidewalk in front of the Banamex, selling chiclets from a box on her lap.

But now there are also ghosts almost everywhere I turn.

No street is more haunted than the one I’m currently staying on, Calle Mar Adriatico. This was the backstreet that led to the frequent happy hours at Pelicano’s, although not all the time spent there was necessarily happy. There was once a dog who slept on the sidewalk, on the same spot day and night in front of a locked gate on Mar Adriatico. This old, decrepit creature looked like a dog drawn up by committee. The head didn’t fit the body, his wall-eyes didn’t quite fit his head, and the fur was more like that of a Shetland pony than a dog. He was black with white paws so we called him “Botas” and each evening returning from Pelicano’s, Botas gratefully received our left-overs.

I recently learned that Botas had been owner-less and depended on the kindness of strangers to survive. I suspected as much. I also learned that Botas had long since died, so why is it now when I turn the corner onto Mar Adriatico,  I see him on the sidewalk in front of the locked gate? Or is that merely the shadow of the yellow bougainvillea under which he used to lie?

I could not bear to go to Pelicano’s now, especially alone, for there even I am a ghost, the ghost that would spike the overly sweet margaritas from a pocket flask, and where we would watch from the terraza the small herds of rental horses on the beach trotting back to their stables at sunset.

I long ago overcame the taboo of dining alone in restaurants, especially if the restaurant is al fresco and there is something to stare at other than my fellow diners. I dined alone last night in a seafood place called Vince’s, at an outdoor table on a second story deck. I was watching a woman across the street scurrying to catch a bus when I was approached by a man with an accordion offering a song for a fee. “Estoy solo!” I told him with a smile. He shrugged and began to walk away, but then turned back for a quick glance. I think he recognized me. I think he remembered me from a time when I was not always “solo”.

But I will not go alone again to Pelicano’s, especially at sunset when the horses are on the beach.

There is also a French restaurant called Bistro Le Cousteau, on Benito Juarez not far from here. It is owned by a burly Frenchman name Phillipe who can often be seen at night standing in front of his restaurant chain smoking and looking worried. Philippe had been a chef in Paris and in Mexico City and always greeted a familiar customer with a bear hug.

The restaurant itself serves up a reasonable Cesar’s Salad and a pretty good wood-fired pizza. The tables are usually filled in the evenings by couples: wives and husbands, but also lovers, talking softly. It is lit by jade lanterns and warmed by the open hearth oven. Philippe does not charge a corkage fee if you bring in your own bottle of wine, let’s say a nice sauvignon blanc from the Guadalupe Valley.

I will not go alone again to Cousteau’s, especially in the evening when the candles are lit.

And I will not go alone to the little Mercado Del Mar, south of town on the free road toward Popotla. I will not search for a new mezcal or squeeze a lime or sniff the fresh guayaba. For if I were to do so, I might embarrass myself by suddenly turning in the direction of her  voice and her  smile that is not really there.

Today I took a walk along the beach, in the direction of the red and white striped smoke stacks of the power plant north of town. We had taken this walk many times, sometimes stopping on the way for a Pacifico and a shrimp quesadilla at a joint called Tacos and Beer. Often, I would run ahead a few hundred yards then circle back, squinting into the sun in search of that luminous hair, that familiar silhouette,  like navigating by a star. Turning back toward the sun today, I thought for a moment that I saw that silhouette again. But, of course, I was mistaken. Perhaps there was something in my eyes distorting the view.

Close by here is a condominium tower called The Riviera. I lived there once. And as I write this now in the gloaming of nightfall, the color of the sea changing from blue to translucent silver, I can hear music playing on the stereo from the apartment on the tenth floor. Is it Chet Baker? Is it Gordon Lightfoot?

The room on the tenth floor where the music is coming from is lit by candle, and there, across the tiled floor, two ghosts dance in close embrace, one of us unwilling or unable to let go.

The Big Sur Attitude Adjustment


I’d been planning some kind of a road trip for a few weeks and I needed a motive. I was originally thinking I might drive cross country to visit my home town in Pennsylvania, but the problem with heading east out of Southern California is the 1500 miles of desert that must be crossed between here and anywhere else. You won’t see a tree between Pine Valley and Dallas. And the northern routes are not much better, because you still have to cross Kansas or Nebraska. Los Angeles is too close, Seattle too far (although the idea of driving to Alaska did cross my mind), and the idea of being alone in San Francisco was depressing.

Big Sur!

Just an 8 hour drive, and a place with which I’m quite familiar. And camping is cheap.

Now I just needed the flimsiest excuse to go.

Ostensibly , I would just getting away for a few days to enjoy the fresh air and solitude, but I wanted another component to this trip. I decided it was to be a journey of self-examination.

The only problem with that is, I have been examining myself for as long as I can remember, going back, at least, to elementary school. In fact, I consider it my biggest personal fault, constantly second-guessing and analyzing the consequences of my every move, always worrying about how I come across. I would never be described as “care free”. Someone recently had told me point-blank that my head was so far up my ego’s ass that I’d lost track of the horizon. Or words to that effect. And she was a friend.

An intrinsic problem with self-examination is who, exactly, is examining who.

Ultimately it didn’t really matter because the idea was already set into motion and had taken on a life of its own.

I was packed and out by 8:00 Sunday morning. First stop would be Morro Bay, traditionally for me the jumping off point to Big Sur. I had booked a room for the night at a motel called the Fireplace Inn, but, unfortunately, that was the extent of my planning. I was  obsessed with a couple things: would there be any available campsites in Big Sur, and why again was I even taking this trip in the first place.

Being Sunday morning, it was smooth sailing all the way up through Los Angeles on the 405, even through the Sepulveda pass, and the 101 through Ventura County was not much worse. I took the 154 bypass out of Santa Barbara through the Santa Ynez mountains reminding myself that every car coming toward me down the two lane mountain road was likely driven by someone who had just spent the entire weekend drinking wine in Solvang, and probably most of them were  either as soused as herring or hungover

When I rejoined Highway 101 in Buellton , the traffic was heavier and angrier, the road clogged with some very aggressive shit-head drivers, the kind that like to get up on your ass, pretending they’re about to push you off the road. So far, not relaxing, not tranquil, and the only examining I was doing was staring at the ominous grill of the SUV who was ten feet off my bumper.

Finally, signs showing San Luis Obispo getting closer, then the cut off to Highway 1 and Morro Bay. I was still obsessing about campsite availability in Big Sur, but it was a relief to leave the 101 traffic behind me. Before checking into my motel, I drove over to Morro Bay State Park and saw that the sign in front of even that cheesy little campground said “full”.

Worry, worry, worry, worry.

After an excellent grilled snapper in a seafood joint called “Born’s”, and a relatively pleasant night in the motel, I was on the road again by 6:00 AM, hoping to snare a campsite early. The signs were not promising. San Simeon campground was booked up, as were several campsites in the Los Padres National Forest, south of Big Sur. With an increasing sense of dread, I arrived at the Big Sur State Park ranger station right before it opened at 9:00 AM. My worst fears were then realized: all campsites in the state park were booked up until labor day, two months away.


What kind of a half-ass trip was this anyway? Poorly planned, poorly conceived, impulsive. And I really didn’t have a plan B. Turn around and head back to San Diego? Drive another 300 miles to the Siskiyou Wilderness? Try and find a motel that I can’t afford in Carmel? Sleep in my car?

And the self-reflection thing was turning out to be bullshit, too. The same unresolvable thoughts, self-denunciations, and concerns were pinballing around in my mind as always. Of course, jamming up the road and worrying about a place to sleep is not conducive to tranquility but so far, not feeling the love. I had cursed several drivers on Highway 101 yesterday and even cursed a seagull in Morro, yelling at it to “shut  the fuck up” when it was squawking loudly in the motel parking lot. What kind of person am I? How is sleeping on the ground possibly going to help me? What help am I even seeking? Only one or two people even knew  where the fuck I was, and I doubt that they gave it two thoughts.

At that point I remembered a campground  at the north end of Big Sur. Several years ago, I found myself in the same locked-out situation but I had stumbled upon Andrew Molera State Park. It is a rustic, walk-in campground, consisting of only 24 campsites, but it’s fully a 1/2 mile walk down a fairly rugged trail from the parking lot on Highway 1 to the sites and there are no reservations. First come/first serve.

I jammed the 6 miles up the road, through the commercialized part of Big Sur.  Molera was my sole hope. The sign at the turn-off said “campground full” and my heart sank, but I parked, raced down the trail with my backpack, and it turns out that I practically had the place to myself! I pitched my tent in in the shade of a small coastal oak, site #3, and ambled back up the trail to formalize the deal with the ranger. I was ecstatic. DSC_1382

After preparing the campsite, I walked the mile-long path to the beach and back, then drove back south a few miles to pick up the trail head that climbs up through the Ventana Wilderness. I walked vertically up that path trying to  shake off the claustrophobia of the car and my own thought patterns, but it was an arduous and steep climb and I was fucking exhausted, so after a couple miles I returned to my car and then to my campsite.  The sun was finally settling into a prolonged dusk. After a couple plastic cups of red wine, I crawled into my tent and fell asleep.

A couple hours later, I wakened to voices. Somebody, several somebodies actually, had come in after dark and took campsite #2. My new neighbors were smoking pot and saying pot-smoking things and giggling for no particular reason, into the wee hours. No drums were being banged, and no banjo was being plucked, and I think the stoners were actually trying to tone it down a bit, out of respect, but it was still obnoxious. I eventually fell back asleep to their murmuring and giggling. And in honesty, even as I grumbled under my breath throughout the night for the kid’s to just shut up, in reality I welcomed their stoned yammering. Theirs were, at least, human voices, and not my own.

When I was in college, I read Kerouac’s memoir ” Big Sur”,  and the next morning I reflected on Kerouac’s longing to escape his demons here in the solitude of the flowing water and redwoods. But it doesn’t turn out so well and, as Jack bounces back and forth between here and and his old haunts in ‘Frisco, he suffers a boozy crack-up, vividly and painfully described in the book. In fact, his friends said that Kerouac never quite recovered from his stay in Big Sur and he would soon be dead. With too much alone time on his hands and too much booze, instead of escaping his demons, they devoured him.

With that in mind, I decided to head up to Carmel to find a liquor store. The red wine wasn’t cutting it.

The scenic route up the coast was jammed with traffic and every view spot parking lot was crowded with tourists taking selfies, but Carmel was as I remembered it and the liquor store was where I’d left it 20 years before. But now the challenge: 3 days sleeping on the ground, no TV, no internet, no cell phone, just me alone with my thoughts. But, at least, a bottle of tequila.

I spent my second day in Big Sur hiking trails. The trail to the beach was about a mile long and, once there, there were plenty of trails along the bluffs overlooking the ocean. I took them all and, when I was done, I took them all again. Then I took trails through meadows and trail through woods along the Big Sur River. I was just trying to tire myself out. The intractable sky was vast and cloudless and blue and the day seemed to go on forever.

Beach at Big Sur
Beach at Big Sur

I’d heard before the term “walking meditation”, as if merely to  be locomoting had the effect of quieting the mind. Didn’t work for me. My mind was a dumpster of senseless detritus: whirling inner monologues, half-forgotten memories, regrets, worries, and looping bits and pieces from old songs. The soundtrack that day was “Sunny Afternoon” by the Kinks and, of course, “Kodachrome”.

I heated up some Trader Joe’s chicken chili late that afternoon, and fiddled around the campsite killing time. Dusk, or at the very least, shade finally arrived. Tequila helped usher in nightfall. I crawled into my tent and read, my coal miner forehead lamp illuminating the pages, but too often my thoughts intruded. Sleep could not come fast enough and eventually it did.

Late that night, I wakened to muffled voices. New neighbors had arrived in campsite #2. At least these assholes were trying to be quiet.

Ben and Jake
Ben and Jake

I met Ben and Jake the next morning. Ben worked in a bike shop in Gainesville, Florida and Jake lived in the Twin Cities. I have no idea of how they knew each other, but they were bicycling together from Vancouver, British Columbia to Tijuana and had been on the road for over twenty days. We chatted while they packed up their gear. “How the fuck do you get through L.A. on a bike?” I asked. Ben said “We have maps.”

Day three was an exact replica of day two: hike, sit, hike some more, fiddle around the campsite, heat up more canned chili , drink a little tequila, wait for the sun to fucking drop out of view. My neighbors that night were Yuan and Jasmine, med students at U.S.C. At the risk of coming across as a creepy old man, I hesitantly struck up a conversation. They were heading up to the Bay Area to visit their parents before resuming their studies. I ask them if I could take their picture. “Only if we can get into costume,” Jasmine said. We chatted until nightfall, than the coal miner returned to his little, nylon mine shaft and fell asleep to the sound of girlish laughter.

Jasmine and Yuan
Jasmine and Yuan

The next day, Thursday, I broke camp and loaded the car, but I was in no big hurry to leave Big Sur. There was a huge, ancient sycamore tree across the way that demanded my attention for a couple hours. My inner journey had taught me one thing at least:  being left alone with my own thoughts, no matter how pointless, repetitive, and depressing they might be, would not kill me. (And thank god for a quality sleeping pad.) And I’d somehow managed to do it without the internet, cellular service, YouTube, Facebook, Netflix, baseball scores and all the other time-sucks that devour our daily lives.

I sailed down Highway 1, stopped for some terrific fish-and-chips on the wharf in Morrow Bay, and rejoined the 101 in San Luis Obispo. By Santa Barbara the traffic had thickened and I began cursing aloud at the lame-ass motorists, tapping their brakes needlessly, slowing down a half mile of cars. By the Sepulveda Pass, traffic had screeched to a dead halt, a six-lane parking on the 405. It would be a good two hours before I even got to San Clemente.

Stuck in traffic, I turned on my cell phone  for the first time in 4 days and, after a minute, it began to buzz with missed messages.

Andrew Molera State Park, Big Sur
Andrew Molera State Park, Big Sur








Snapshots From the Plaza: Living and Dying in Mexico (Part 2)

Playas de Rosarito

I only saw four murder victims in the two and a half years I lived in Rosarito. One was on the beach directly below my condominium where a neighbor of mine was murdered. I wrote about it in a previous blog.  In June of 2013, there were two more fresh bodies, uncovered, lying on the edge of Avenida Benito Juarez in front of a taco shop called Asadero Pepe’s in the middle of town. Then, a few weeks after, coming back from the movies, I saw a small crowd gathering around another body in front of a car stereo installation joint, just a few blocks north of Pepe’s.  The victim there was a stereo installer who was working on the truck of the intended victim, a man who goes by the nickname “Poison”. Poison was also shot 9 times, but somehow survived the attack. The two shooters, described by witness as both bald and tattooed, sped from the scene and escaped.

Murder at Asadero Pepe's
Murder at Asadero Pepe’s

The press declared that “antagonistic groups”  were settling “differences”. The antagonistic groups, of course, are rival drug gangs and the differences are territorial. The Tijuana weekly tabloid Zeta reported at the time, in a story entitled ‘Invasion of the Independent Criminals”, that a new dynamic is appearing in the drug wars south of the border: gangs with very loose or non-existent relationships with the traditional drug cartels are doing most of the heavy lifting these days. These are freebooters that exist and operate lawlessly outside even the perverse “code” of the established cartels. In other words, these gangs are free to attack and kill without orders from above and are offered no protection from the cartels. According to Zeta, they often advertise their services on Facebook.

The car stereo murder victim
The car stereo murder victim

In any event, it’s difficult to put dead bodies on Main Street into the proper perspective. At least in the United States we have the decency to commit murders behind closed doors or in neighborhoods where respectable people don’t travel, not right in front of Asadero Pepe’s taco stand, or McDonald’s, for that matter.

The U.S. and its drug war policy are complicite in this fraudulent, murderous charade.  And if you are not actively opposed to those policies, you have blood on your hands too.


Gringos were scarce in Oaxaca. The few I saw were greying, spinsterish women,  traveling in groups of two,  decked out like they had just stepped from the pages of a geriatric Banana Republic catalog. I took these women to be retired school teachers and the few with whom I had struck up a conversation confirmed my suspicions. I’ve seen these women all over Mexico, especially in all the colonial cities where quaintness and charm are advertised. They are the ones who can afford the art and the hand made designer clothing in the high end boutiques along Avenida Garcia Vigil.

Avenida Garcia Vigil, Oaxaca
Avenida Garcia Vigil, Oaxaca

There is also a new breed of young Mexicans strutting through these tourist meccas and populating the designer boutiques, looking like they just walked off the set of a steamy telanovela. Perhaps they have existed all along, in securely gated enclaves in Mexico City or Cuernavaca, but I doubt it. These guys don’t have the harried look of the traditional Mexican businessman. They are not bank managers, restaurateurs, or plant managers at a Maquiladora, or anything else for that matter that we associate with the Mexican upper-middle class. By appearances, what work they do put in is likely at a fitness salon. The bloodline is purely European.

The cynic in me is convinced that this new social strata has been created by drug money, the angel investment that has launched a thousand telecommunications and computer software start-ups, to say nothing of hotel, high rise, and resort construction in recent years, in a country where 60% of the population has no purchasing power and the peso has tanked on the world currency market.

Wealthy young Mexicans
Wealthy young Mexicans

Cartel profits are in dollars that originate in the United States and at any given moment there are tens of millions of them floating around, all looking to be invested in “legitimate” businesses like construction and real estate.

This new, wealthy breed in Mexico does not traffic in drugs or murder their competition or post decapitation videos on Youtube. But they know that they wouldn’t exist if somebody wasn’t.

Playas de Rosarito

The vatos lived a block behind my building, halfway between the beach and the main drag, Benito Juarez. They lived in a row of tiny one-story cinder block houses, 5 of them crammed into half a block.

The vatos could be more accurately described as deportados as all of them had committed crimes in the U.S. that had gotten them banished across the border, despite having lived in the U.S. since they were small children.

Alfredo went by the nickname “Shorty” and he told me that he had spent over 20 consecutive years in a California prison. I never ask him what he had done and he never volunteered the information. Now his life was funded by the occasional contribution from his sister, brother, and parents, all of whom were living in the states. Shorty had recently applied for a job at the huge Sanyo assembling plant on the edge of town but was turned down, he said, because of the tattoos covering both arms from wrist to shoulder.

Alfredo "Shorty"
Alfredo “Shorty”

 Shorty got around town on a bicycle as did his friend Junior. Junior was considerably younger, a nice looking kid despite the knife scar that ran from his left ear to his chin. Junior would not allow me to photograph him because, he told, he was wanted for some shit in the ‘States. Shorty and Junior hung around with their neighbor, a huge gringo I’ll call Randy. Never quite figured how Randy fit into all of this, but I assumed he was on the run from something. He spent most of his day sitting in his doorway playing heavy metal power chords on an electric guitar. Between the three of them, they couldn’t rub two dimes together.

I got to know Shorty the best. He was funny and surprisingly well-read, he claims because he had so much idle time in the can. Some days, I’d hit the Don Pisto liquor store on the corner, buy a couple of Pacifico Ballenas and a pack of smokes, and Shorty and I would relax on his patio, whiling away the afternoon. Shorty’s patio consisted of a bench seat pulled from the rear of an old car that sat on a fenced-in, shadeless concrete driveway outside his front door.

Shorty’s biggest complaint was the way he was treated by the Mexican government, which is to say completely ignored and cut off from any government-sponsored safety net. “I can never go back to the states,” he told me, “and I can never have a life here.” Shorty was a man without a country.

He was preoccupied with establishing contact with his adult daughter who was living in Colorado. She had been cut off from him while he was serving prison time, and now was further estranged because of his squalid situation in Rosarito. But I had made a Youtube video about another neighbor, Ismael, and his struggle to get a taco cart up and running. The video was called Ismael’s Grand Opening that featured Shorty in a co-starring role. He was hilarious in the video.

Shorty had his daughter’s email address but was trying to figure out a way to break the ice and contact her. I suggested that he email his daughter a copy of the video so she could get to know him a little better while he worked up the nerve to call, which he did. And then he called. And then, like that, Shorty had a daughter again.

Ismael began acting weird a few weeks after that. He had witnessed, not a murder, but a murder suspect escaping past his house one morning and was asked by the police to make a statement. Ismael was completely spooked to be in that position. He sold his taco cart, hit me up for 200 peso, and disappeared with his wife in the middle of the night.

Then a few weeks after that, Shorty’s junkie sometime-girlfriend, Pattie, died of an overdose in his apartment. The authorities were notified and Shorty was put on notice by his landlord. Landlords don’t tolerate much and they certainly don’t tolerate dead bodies in their properties, Shorty and I commiserated over a couple of ballenas on his patio that afternoon and by the next morning, he was gone.

Soon, Junior and Randy were gone too, but one day a few months later I ran into them riding their bikes through town. I ask about Shorty and was told that they had heard he had moved to an Ejido outside of town. And they had tried to find him there but he had disappeared again. Somebody told them that he had left Rosarito, maybe heading for his home town in Sinaloa to find work.

Shorty, Ismael, Junior, and Randy are among  tens of thousands of deportees living in the streets of Rosarito and Tijuana, many sick and homeless, including an estimated 2500 U.S. military veterans. They don’t consider themselves Mexicans and they are not citizens of the U.S. either. They are forgotten Americans, living in limbo.

Stacy Taylor

Radio maverick, writer, escape artist

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