Watch your step

THERE’S A street project right off the main plaza downtown that’s been going on since last autumn, which is a long time because the renovation is just two lengthy blocks.

This project interests me, and I take a stroll by there almost every weekday after sitting at a sidewalk table with my Kindle and a café Americano negro.

In the United States, it would have been done far faster, and the entire work site would be blocked off so pedestrians and gawkers like me could not walk all over the place.

Around the workmen. Hopping over wet cement.

Here, no effort is made to keep pedestrians out of the work area, and none of the workers sports a hard hat. The main reason the project is taking so long is that there is little mechanized about it. It’s strictly manual labor.

If a passerby trips on something, falls and busts his noodle, he should have watched where he was going. He does not sue the city. We are not litigious that way.

The work started last year with an extensive excavation. New sewer and water lines were buried deep as were electric cables and wires in fat orange conduits.

Part of the reason the project is taking so long is the detail work, primarily on the sidewalks.

I should have photographed some of the detail, but I didn’t. This is fine rock work that will last a century.

There is sunken lighting for a nice nighttime look.

About the only nod to modernity are wheelchair ramps.

This photo shows the area where most of the stone is being worked to make it usable. It was a rose garden outside the church/hospital to the left before the renovation began.

Big stones are cut to size by hammer and chisel.

The scenes of the first two photos are at the end of the block down thataway, the far side.

We don’t have the reams of rules and regulations here that are so prevalent above the Rio Bravo, rules and regs made necessary by lawyers and government meddling. No environmental impact study was required.

Bugs were just squashed.

Here, if you need something done you hire some guys and do it. There are always guys available, plenty of idle hands of men who never grasped the need for schooling.

Just around the corner from the renovation I noticed this sign outside a tiny pharmacy. Look what you can have done. (Excuse the photos’ blurry edges. I had the camera set for that effect, but I did not notice till later.)

You can measure your blood sugar and blood pressure, or get a pap test.

You can get a medical certificate, maybe to get out of class. A problem with your toenails? No sweat.

A wound will be bandaged, and if you need an injection, they’ll stick you with the appropriate needle.

And all will cost next to nothing, and no pricey doctor reference is needed, but a doctor is likely there. Just go in, pay a buck or two if you want some medical advice or a prescription.

Living here is easy. Even if renovating a street takes forever. It will last forever after it’s finished.

Cops on wheels

RECENTLY I spotted a maintenance man in a Mexican airport. He had a stack of toilet paper rolls balanced in one hand and a walking cane in the other. He was crippled and at work.

On a number of occasions, while in the nearby state capital, I have seen traffic cops in wheelchairs, something I have never seen in the United States, ever.

The Mexican traffic cops were wearing the standard uniforms, which tells me they aren’t some “auxiliary.” They were regular cops. On wheels. Impressive.

I imagine that being confined to a wheelchair would eliminate any chance of being a policeman in the United States. There are many jobs that the wheelchair-bound can do, but a cop is not one of them above the Rio Bravo.

America would give you a disability check before it would give you a police uniform and a pistol.

I could be wrong about this. I have been out of the country for a long time. America now lets women be Marine Corps infantrymen, so who knows about crippled cops?

Maybe if they are women.

The number of Americans on disability has skyrocketed in recent years. A huge and still growing percentage of Americans are “disabled.”  Simultaneously, it’s not uncommon to see news stories of some of these disabled folks surfboarding or playing baseball.

Sometimes they are distressed at being caught. Other times they just smile.

A friend recently sent me this:

The Food Stamp Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing this year the greatest amount of free Meals and Food Stamps ever, to 47 million people as of the most recent figures available in 2013.

Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, asks us, “Please Do Not Feed the Animals.”

Their stated reason for the policy is because “The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves.”

Obviously, the USDA is run by Democrats, and the Interior Department by Republicans.

* * * *

Speaking of crime and punishment, I recently tried to pass a counterfeit bill. In my defense, I did not know it was counterfeit. It was a real good knockoff.

odds__endsI was driving through a highway toll booth while headed to Tlalpujahua. I handed a 200-peso note (about 15 bucks) to the young fellow. He looked at it briefly, handed it back, and asked for a different one.

Why?  I asked. He then said it was counterfeit. How do you know?  I asked. He pointed out some detail, a detail I never did quite grasp. But, more than anything, on closer inspection, I saw that the paper was flimsier than a real note.

I tore it up.

Notable was that he did not confiscate the bill. He did not summon the machine-gun-toting cop standing nearby. He just gave it back and asked for something better.

This brings up an interesting issue. A bank note is simply a symbol, a symbol of worth that the government says it possesses, and we believe the government. If you hand over one of these symbols that looks almost identical to a government-issued symbol, and someone accepts it for something, a meal, a night in a motel, doesn’t it have that value?

If someone accepts the symbol, it has done its duty, ¿no?

Mexicans can get really goofy about paper money. Many do not grasp that it is a symbol. They believe the piece of paper has actual value like a gold nugget or a silver coin.

If it is torn, often even a tiny bit, they will not accept it. This can be annoying.

Often there are just two options if you find yourself with a broken bill. Tape it up, which will usually work if none of the paper is actually missing. If paper is actually missing, you usually have to go to a bank for an exchange. Banks know the bill is only a symbol.

A few years back I read this on the website of the Banco de Mexico, the nation’s central bank:

If a bill has more than 50 percent of its surface, it is still valid. If the missing section includes the serial number, however, the bill must be 80 percent intact.

Try pointing that out to an old woman selling vegetables in an open-air market or even the cashier at Walmart. You will get nowhere. Save your breath.

* * * *

Jennifer Rose recently wrote about the process of getting Mexican citizenship, which reminded me of my time making that leap in 2005, three years before her.

There are a number of requirements and, I imagine, those requirements can differ, depending on where you apply because Mexico is like that. When I applied, for some reason, the requirements were hardly different than those for renewing a visa.

It was easy.

I applied in January of 2005 and in December I was a Mexican. The first thing I did was go get a Mexican passport. It’s fun to be a Mexican. I sure don’t look like a Mexican-American, so I must be an American-Mexican. People are so fond of hyphens these days. Gotta be multicultural, you know.

I can vote in Mexico, and I do. I get lots of stares at the voting station. And if I’m ever on an airliner that’s hijacked by Mohammedans, I can flash my Mexican passport, and they will toss someone else out the door, not me. That’s nice.

If I ever get really pissed at the American government, I can go to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and tell them where they can put their citizenship. I have backup. But I have not reached that level of ire just yet. Electing Hillary might do the trick, however.

Even worse, they’re now saying that California’s Gov. Moonbeam Brown is smelling sweet as catnip to Democrats across the nation. Good Lord Almighty!

Four ghosts


Scrolling through photos today, I came upon this shot from a couple of years ago, and it occurred to me that I have not seen this woman in quite a time.

Funny how you don’t miss people who are not there.

She once was a fixture on the big plaza downtown, specifically just over there, across from me, where I sit many afternoons having an espresso and reading my Kindle.

I never knew her name. She would sit on the door stoop that’s visible to the right and sell medicinal herbs. I never purchased any because I don’t know what to do with medicinal herbs, plus I normally feel pretty swell anyway.

Her disappearance overwhelmingly means she has died. She was not young.

By dying she joins a group from the past, people I have looked at.

Three others come to mind.

There was the little old man with the newspaper-wrapped machete and raggedy sombrero. He toted a few belongings with him always, and I imagine he lived on the street. He was nuts and often grinned and spoke to no one in particular.

Once, as I was sitting at a sidewalk table, he paused in passing to converse with me for a few minutes. He made no sense, but I smiled and nodded affirmatively because you don’t want an unhinged old man with a machete to think unkindly of you.

I haven’t seen him in a few years. Surely, he is dead.

And then there was that other old woman. I did not like her. She paused and asked for money at every passing, which usually was daily. She would get snotty if you didn’t hand over change. I didn’t like her attitude, so I never gave her anything.

Before you think me a miserable tightwad, know that I hand over change quite readily. Just not to that woman. Because she was snotty. Snotty gets you nowhere with me.

She too has vanished. Gone to Hell, I’m guessing. I hope not.

Even the bad-tempered can be redeemed, they say.

Number 3 is the fellow in the wheelchair. For years he would roll his chair into the middle of the ring road, at a speed bump, and await charitable contributions from drivers. I often contributed because I liked his attitude. I liked him.

He too sported a wide raggedy sombrero — to block the raging sun.

He often would be reading a small booklet of a religious nature. He was in a wheelchair because he had no legs. I don’t think he had a family either, which is sad.

Family is everything to Mexicans.

Some nights I would see him propelling his wheels alone down a dark sidewalk toward, I assumed, a sleeping spot. He slept on the sidewalks atop cardboard.

He too has vanished. Perhaps he is not dead because he was not old, probably in his early 50s. I hope he is though. No family, no friends, no home, no legs, cardboard for a cot. It would have been a life of stunning bleakness.

I pray his religious pamphlet provided some moments of peace and hope — of a life with family, love, long sturdy legs, hot baths and warm tortillas.

* * * *

Four ghosts. Only one photographed.