The Zapata Files

LET’S OPEN the 70-year-old file cabinet and peek inside.

Oh, dear. Look at the mess, the disarray. This is not a “Father Knows Best” cabinet. There appears to be neither rhyme nor reason nor direction. The files go this way and that. Let’s take a closer look.

filesThis cabinet seems strangely familiar. I do believe it’s my personal cabinet.

There’s a whiff of Boodles Gin. And ayahuasca.

Getting out of high school at the top end of my class, I enrolled at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Thought I’d major in philosophy. Weeks later, I dropped out and joined the military. A couple of years later, with only one stripe, I dropped out of that too. Better go to college, young man, because everybody does it. A path to success.

About seven colleges and universities later (really), from Louisiana to Tennessee to California, I got a Bachelor’s Degree in History, useless but better than nothing. In the meantime, I got married, became a father.

A file is tabbed Descendants. Inside are two sub-files. One is labeled Offspring. It contains two sheets. One is rimmed in pink and says Alienated. The other is rimmed in black and says Deceased. The second sub-file is labeled Grandchildren. That file is empty — and always will be.

And here’s a file labeled Siblings. There is one sheet inside. It is rimmed in rainbow colors and trimmed like sharp teeth. It contains two words: Alienated and Angry.

Let’s open the file labeled Marriages. There are three documents. Three wives! Here’s a file labeled Employment. The entry with the most sheets is Newspapering, but I never took a newspapering class in my life. What happened to the History degree? There are other pages in Employment.

I see taxi driver, bartender, insurance broker, insurance salesman, repo man and electrician. Electrician? Where did that come from? Let’s open the file labeled Schooling. Behind the Bachelor’s Degree in History are other pages. One is an Associate Degree in Electrical Construction Technology.

Here too is a document marked Incomplete. Looks like I was one class short of an Associate Degree in Computer Science. Digging farther, I find other papers. One says Certified Massage Therapist. Another says Certified Mixologist. (No shock there.) Another says Certified Private Pilot. Clearly, I was certifiable.

I often envy people whose life had a clear and straight trajectory. But perhaps I had more fun. I hope so.

I definitely had more wives.

26 thoughts on “The Zapata Files

  1. When I was in college, I drafted a plan for my life that included a political career, a wife, and five children (I had names for each of them — the children, that is; the wifely name was a mystery, and has remained so). None of it, of course, happened. Instead, I bounced from the Air Force to law school to private law practice to Air Force Reserve duty to trial work with an insurance company to corporate law. My template was shattered. But, like yours, it has been one interesting life. And I hope I am a far more interesting person for it. I know you are.


  2. We are all like snowflakes… everyone is different.
    Some take ‘the road less traveled’ and some don’t.
    Conformity is not always the best path.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pretty common, really. The file I am interested in is labeled and sealed with one of those stringy things and has a seal on the flap.


  4. In 8th grade, we were told to write about our futures, right down (remember, this was the 60s) to the kind of man we would marry, our children, and where we would live. I waited until the night before to put together mine. I would marry Barry Goldwater, plucking his photo out of some campaign literature. He would be a psychiatrist. We would have one child, who we would pack off and send to school in Switzerland, probably shortly after the adoption papers were signed. And I’d live in a foreign country. Some of that did come true, but I would be surprised if I had progeny living in Switzerland or any place else.


  5. One can plan out their life, but so many things occur to alter the plan. Wars, death, disease, accidents and love. God only knows where and how we will end up.


  6. How can we know what events may happen to change our plans, how another may change their mind — in the middle of a job, a relationship, a marriage? I could always write, and so while raising children I wrote magazine articles and, after they were grown, got a job writing grants for rural counties and, later, for private charities. It made me a bad writer, spitting out social service gobbledygook about empowering and affirming and engaging stakeholders. I was good at it, and I hated it. 18 months ago I had never heard of the place I now live, and I am someone with notebook after notebook of plans for how I will live my life. Nothing in those plans ever said “move to Mexico and never leave.”


    1. Bonnie: I never had any plans before my early 50s, none, zip, zero, except for piddling things.

      So, you used to preach empowering, affirming and engaging?! Jeez, woman, how did you live with yourself? I am delighted that you have done your own intervention and now are on your true path. Path? Did I say that? Slap me silly.


      1. Thank you for your empowering words. Yes, I proposed and secured millions of dollars in grant funds for well-meaning, and largely ineffective “programs.” There are two types of people who go into social services, the older ones, from the 1960s and early 70s, were almost missionary-like (many of them single, Methodist women) who dedicated their lives to the poor and needy, a la Jane Addams. These women were very pragmatic about what could be accomplished through social programs. Mostly, they tried to protect the children from their horrid family situations. The younger group – in my opinion – went into social work to help them work through their own problems, not with a zeal to help others. After writing grants for a number of years, my writing suffered, that is, stunk. As for being on the right path, I have no clue how I ended up in Mexico. I am still astonished to find myself here.


  7. Seems to be a life well lived, I’d say. Hats off to you. I had a lady stop me while I was getting off my bike one afternoon. She said, I am an artist. You have a face well worn. Can I paint you. I laughed, and politely declined.

    As the same as the others, nothing I’d planned in my younger years worked out. It’s been a long windy road. Some places I’d go back to, some not.

    May you have many more chapters to write about.


    1. Bob: Let’s hope we both have many more chapters, but only if they are good ones. As for your well-worn face, which I have seen in photos, the artist had a point. It’s well-worn in a good way, likely much brushed from the wind.


  8. Ayahuasca? Never heard of it until now, when I had to look it up. Was that what you took in Florida that made you a new man? Maybe it deserves its own file cabinet.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we are still filling the cabinet.


    1. Kim: What made me a new man were psilocybin and LSD, primarily in 1997. The first year after I moved to Mexico in 2000 I made a trip back to the U.S. At a group event in Florida I took an ayahuasca analog, I believe it was called, a chemical copy of ayahuasca. It was the last time I ever encountered those materials. But I am quite glad that I did.


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