My Blog

I have never claimed to be a nice person. It wasn’t in my upbringing. My father was a mean drunk who not only didn’t have time for a family, he wanted a different one He was a notorious womanizer who claimed I was an accident; and a lazy shit who was unworthy of wasting his hard-earned money.
I went to middle and high school in the shithole of Central America, Mexico City, where pale-skinned, fair-haired Americans stood out, and were constantly persecuted by both Mexicans and the police. After years of this treatment, one learns to watch their back while walking down the street or even driving to the bakery for fresh tortillas. As a teen, I became very resentful and hateful toward Mexicans due to their constant threats. It didn’t help that what was originally sold to our family as an eighteen-month job assignment in Mexico before we’d return to the States kept getting extended by two-year increments until we were there for six years.
I didn’t allow the experience to consume my life. Despite my father’s claim that I was too lazy to play sports, I followed one of my dreams. I forged his signature on a permission slip, and began to play football. I doubt I fooled him for long. He got me back when I broke my ankle as a freshman in high school. He refused to take me to the hospital or doctor, claiming I was the one who wanted to play. I only learnt that my ankle had been broken when years later it broke again in the same place. My father’s cruelty only increased my determination to prove him wrong. My sophomore year I broke my high school’s single-game records for number of carries and yards carried. My coaches, who had ties to colleges in the States, used their contacts to get small California and Texas colleges to recruit me. When my father leant that I was thinking about attending a “shitty” school like Southern Methodist University, he forbid me from missing more classes to talk to recruiters.
Anyone who has played a team sport like as football knows that one develops a unique friendship, an almost brother-like bond with their teammates. In Mexico, however, it was much more intense. Many of us Americans felt we were in a combat-like situation, that Mexico was an adversarial scenario where we had to watch each other’s backs. Some forty years after escaping the world’s armpit, I still talk to old teammates as if they were family, probably better, since they always treated me better than my family.
I was driving with an illegal license by the time I was fourteen. I bribed my first policeman shortly afterward. By the time I was fifteen, a close teammate and neighbor, Bradly Stephens, and I spent a good deal of time together. While we were seeing a movie in 1975, a group of rich Mexican teens trashed Brad’s ca. Brad and I decided we’d both had enough of the Mexican persecution, and decided to retaliate. It started out with simple, but mean, things smashing windshields, but it quickly escalated to unscrewing the tire air valves on all the cars on a street, flatting everyone’s tires.
One day, while searching for fresh targets, Brad drove me out to a distant, very obscure, man-made lake called, Lago de Guadalupe. It was a wooded area where rich Mexican families would go to ride horses or picnic. We cruised until we found a lone sedan parked just outside a small forest with no one in sight. What better place to strand a family? There were no phones around, and this was years before cellphones.
While Brad went about removing the tire valves, it was my job to keep watch. I failed miserably. Brad was still working on the front tires when four policemen in ragged uniforms materialized from the forest. I was whispering for Brad to run when one of the cops pulled out his gun. The gun was a rusty relic which probably have blown up if he’d have fired, but we didn’t chance it
It was while we were being led into the woods that I realized the cops were stumbling drunk, and we were in serious trouble. Brad was a Texan who spoke little Spanish. I acted as translator while the cops laid out their plan. We all knew what happened to Americans in Mexican jails. They disappeared forever, and these cops had us cold. I’ve never been so scared, nor will I probably ever be again. Fortunately for us, the drunks were more interested in greed than justice. The peso had recently been devaluated, making things, especially their wine, more expensive. They had no interest in taking us to jail. They wanted dollars. American money was worth much more than the Mexican Monopoly money. While Brad and I had a few hundred pesos between us to bribe police during just such occasions, these drunks weren’t satisfied. They wanted dollars, and gun pointing can be very persuasive. Neither of us had been to the States in at least a year. There was no reason for us to carry around dollars. The cop toting the 1911 1A forty-five caliber handgun suggested one of us drive back to our house and find some dollars while the other remain behind as their hostage, Brad had driven, so he was elected as the bagman, leaving me behind as the hostage. Besides, my parents had elected to leave my sister and I home alone while they vacationed in Europe for six weeks. I had no means of getting dollars. Brad’s father had recently returned from the States, and Brad thought he knew where his father kept his money.
Off Brad went.
Time came to a stand-still for me while I sat in the hidden shadows with my wine-guzzling kidnappers, and a gun at my head. The police weren’t too threatening, and actually seemed like nice enough sorts as I sat there listening to them joke and talk about their families. Like most Mexicans, they were just poor and unhappy with their lot. They were confused, even angry, about why two American kids were causing trouble. While I couldn’t blame their sentiments, neither could I begin to make them understand our feelings for the need to retaliate against what we saw as unjust persecution.
As the wait dragged on to eternity, the cops jokingly wondered if mi amigo was coming back. Although I can’t say the thought never crossed my mind, I never gave it serious consideration. Bard and I had been through too much together. The only friend I had who was closer was my dog, Tiger.
The cops had thrown their empty wine jug into the trees, and were getting impatient by the time the throaty growl of Brad’s Super Bee could be heard rumbling back along the deserted road.
Our captor’s initial elation at Brad’s return became anger when he only produced twenty-three dollars. They seemed to have been expecting hundreds. The gun holder, whose liver was so swollen he appeared pregnant, insisted Brad drive me to my house for more money. I pointed out the flaws in his plan. One: My parents weren’t home to give me more money. Two, and more importantly: If I left, they wouldn’t have a hostage, and we’d have no reason for returning. We were fortunate the cop wasn’t the sharpest pencil in the box, and suggested driving us back at gunpoint until someone produced more money, but by then the other three had enough of the affair, and wanted to call it a day. They released us. It didn’t occur to us until the ride home, but if the cops would have been smart, they would’ve demanded Brad’s car keys.
I often think of that afternoon in the woods. What Brad was willing to risk for me is the definition of true friendship. How many friends does one encounter during their lifetimes who are willing to tisk their lives for them?

I would like to say brad and I remained close. I went on a couple ski vacations with his family, even after I’d moved back to the States, but time and college separated us. I’ve never been able to locate him again after he got married.
My father’s cruel character never changed. When my cousin became homeless and begged for money, he refused. After forty-five years of mirage, he divorced my mother, saying she was fat and unappealing. He disinherited me shortly afterwards for supporting my mother. He also claimed that writing was no way for a husband to support his family. He died of cancer in 2007, just ten days after being diagnosed. I’ve always suspected that one of his caregivers gave him too much morphine just to knock him off. It wasn’t me. I might not be a nice person, but I’m not a murderer, and I do help out our elderly neighbors clear away their snow so they can get out their cars. I also learned from my father. I’ve always treated my wife and son with respect, and have been happily married for nearly thirty-three years. Maybe there’s hope for me after I realized that one can’t live with such a hate-filled past forever, and expect to be happy.