Saturday, March 05, 2011

VIVA LA CORRUPCIÓN (MRR 334)


If you want to read more about Mykel's adventures in Albania, Mexico-- or life in General-- checkout Mykel's Diary For a look at the weird, the scary and the funny in real life, check out Mykel's Article's and Propositions.     

You're Wrong
An Irregular Column
Column for MRR 334
by Mykel Board

aka  VIVA LA CORRUPCIÓN!

Corruption is nature's way of restoring our faith in democracy. -- Peter Ustinov

I was gonna use this column to chronologically follow the last with my further adventures in Mexico. But despite my jock itch and whooping cough, I decided to hold off. I have bigger fish to fry.
 
Sometimes, events change the way you think. An epiphany, the Christians call it. A flash of insight that makes you realize something you've never considered before. Take corruption. I used to think it was bad.

Here are three stories:

Guaymas: (Northern Mexicans don't like to pronounce G's when they start words. So the town is pronounced Why Mas? I say, Why not?) I wasn't exactly in the middle of this adventure, but heard about it from Gilberto, who was.

Here's Story 1.

It's late. Sometime after the big punkrock show. There are weird laws in Mexico, as there are everywhere. Here, you're allowed to drink in the bar, but not in the attached music hall. After 10, you can drink anywhere. But, you can only buy beer retail until 9PM. After that you can only drink in a bar... until 10, when you can also drink in a music hall.

We'd just driven 15 or so hours to get to this town. From Tijuana. By now, beers are needed by all. While the early bands played, those of us not playing run back and forth from the bar to the band area. Sin Arte, the Mexican version of Artless, had to cancel. Ivan, the bass player, was evicted from his Arizona apartment earlier today, and had to move to Tuscon. It was gonna be our first show. Sad.

Some of us went out to stock up on booze before the stores closed. We hear there are a couple illegal places that sell after hours, but only Gilberto has the details.

I drink while Cojoba plays. Despite 38 seconds of sleep the night before, they play a good show. Also playing is one of my favorite bands in the world, VERBAL DESECRATION. I've probably already said it, but I'll say it again. Alan Jr., the singer, is one of the best performers in punk rock today. I could watch him all year.

Gilberto, who had driven the whole way, is enjoying beer number I can't count. I'm still racing back and forth from bar to stage, gulping from a can of Tecate in the bar and then racing back to see the bands. Gilberto disappears to buy some of that illegal late nite booze.

When he returns, here's what he tells me:

He's driving along the streets of Guaymas... no idea where he's going... completely sloshed... with a truck full of illegally bought beer. He's careening that pick-up truck right and left across the streets of the town, which is pretty much shut up for the night.

Sure enough: AAAARRR RAAAAARRRR WOOOOWOOOOWOOOOWOOO.

Flashing red and blue lights in the rear-view mirror. Uh oh. The cop gets out, flashlight in hand. He's not a big guy, slightly chubby, a bit haggard looking. I'll translate the conversation for the gringos.


Cop: You know why I stopped you?

Gilberto: I...uh... I... who? Where am I?

Cop: I think you were maybe having something to drink? And you maybe were buying it after hours?

Gilberto: I... uh... huh?

Cop: You know, I've had a long night. Just give me money for a cup of coffee and then get out of here.

Gilberto hands him 20 pesos (about $1.80). The cop shakes his head, gets back in the cop car and takes off. Somehow Gilberto finds his way back to the club.

Story 2. We've just been to a beach near Guaymas. Only Ray actually went in the water. The rest of us just took our shoes off and played with the scorpions in the sand. We were with Sabo, aka The Buddha of Guaymas. He's a really fat guy whose nicknames for everyone catch on immediately. Ray is Michael Jordon. I'm Pinche Viejo Marihuano, (loosely translated: Fuckin' Old Stoner).

The waitress at a seaside restaurant is Verijas Lilas (Purple Snatch). On our only free day, Sabo takes us on a tour of the area. He has his own pick-up truck. Moe and Ray ride inside, the rest of us in back. 

What a glorious trip! Riding in the back of a pick-up... 6 people, among the cactus and desert... Mountains and sea... Downing can after can of Tecate... Wow! Do I feel Mexican! Here's a toast to Mexico and Mexicans! We all raise our cans to the passing cars. It's a steep road from the beach to the highway. It takes careful maneuvering, quiet, sober, thoughtful. 

Then there's us.  

SLAP! Sabo hits the curb. We back up. BAALOO BAALOO! Some one leans on a horn behind us. We toast him too. We're off. Down hill. Seems like we're going pretty fast. Do the breaks work? SCREEEE!

BLAM! We're all thrown to the back of the truck. I manage to grab a kind of lead pipe that keeps me from being flung over the edge. I guess the breaks DO work. BLAM, we hit the curb on the other side. 

Careening through the street, toasting every cute chiquita and necktied businessman. Salud! Salud! (I try Potato Salud! but nobody gets it.) We all grab more beers. I don't know how they do it, but Mexicans have developed an endless sixpack, similar to the bottomless cup of coffee at IHOP. You take a beer out of the cardboard and there are still six beers left. It's magic! The beer just keeps coming.

Uh oh, we're suddenly in a land of strip malls: McDonalds, Walmart, everything except Taco Bell. Did we cross the border and not know it? We park in a parking lot. Sabo and Moe go into THE GENERIC GIANT SUPERMARKET to do some shopping. The rest of us wait in the lot, sitting in the back of the truck, continuing to exploit the endless sixpack. A car pulls up next to us. It's a black and white car, with lights on top. Uh oh. 

Three cops get out. Two short ones, about my height. One taller with heavy jowls and a bad complexion. 

Although Taina and Javier both speak perfect Spanish, they are Puerto Rican and their accents would stand out like a hard-on in church. Gilberto, our only real Mexican, gets out of the truck to talk to the cops. He speaks to the big one. I translate. 

Gilberto: Hello. Is there a problem?

Cop: You know there is a problem. You were all drinking. Where's the driver?

Gilberto: He went inside with a friend. They're going to buy groceries.

Cop: We can take you all to jail. If anyone is drinking in a car or drinking in public we have the right to take you to jail.

Gilberto: Come on. I'm Mexican. I know you can't do that.

Cop: Okay, you're right. But we can make trouble. We can wait for the driver and take him to jail.

Gilberto: I understand. How's a hundred pesos (about $9)?

The cop nods.
Gilberto hands him the money. The cops go on their way. And the party continues.
 
Story 3: Agua Prieta is a dusty Mexican town just across the border from Douglas Arizona... a dusty American town. It's where Gilberto's aunt and uncle live and it's now one of my favorite places in the world. According to Gilberto, it's controlled by the drug cartels. All the fancy restaurants, bars and clubs in town are owned by them. Gilberto's uncle owns the best “non-drug cartel” restaurant in town. You'll probably read more about this amazing city in future columns. It's filled with colorful characters, a great strip club, and the world's only BURGER QUEEN.

Right now, I need to introduce you to one of the colorful characters: Barichu. He's a tall handsome guy in his mid-20s. He wears a black leather jacket, is talkative, and notorious in this small town. His picture was on the front page of the local newspaper... under the headline: POSSESSED BY DRUGS? OR BY SATAN? The story tells how he started yelling at the police. As they surrounded him, he pulled out a plastic gun and shouted BANG! BANG! at them. In America he'd be dead. In Mexico, he got beat up and thrown in jail for awhile. Every cop in town knows the guy. He often suffers from black eyes and bloody noses.

One of the many other reasons I like him is he said to me “Mykel, tu eres una leyenda aquí.” A third reason is that he's known as “Sonora's GG Allin.” (Sonora is the Mexican state where this column takes place.) One of his more notorious tricks was to pound dried dogshit into a powder... and snort it. 

So it's the middle of the night. We've been at the strip club (boy, THAT'S a story), finished a couple buckets of beer, seen... well you'll hear later. Right now we're piled in Gilberto's rent-a-car. He's driving. There's me and Barichu in the back. Gilberto is in the front with Paige, a girl visiting from Boston, and another local guy whose name I can't remember. 

The town looks deserted. Good thing too, as we're skidding across the street, from side to side, like a stripper's hips against a pole. Up ahead is a red light. 

 Go! Go!” shouts Barichu in Spanish. “There's no one around. Just go.”

Er... I don't think that's a good idea,” I say. “Cops don't sleep at night. They may be looking for...”
Gilberto steps on the gas, ending me mid-sentence. FOOOOOOT. Right through the red light. And the next red light. And the next. Although it's physically impossible to drive both on the right and the left sides of the street simultaneously, Gilberto does it. I cover my eyes.

I do not cover my ears, however, and so hear the police sirens coming from behind us. I knew it.

We stop. Pull over. Lights flash in the rear view mirror. Gilberto gets out of the car.


Jeezus: drunk driving, running three lights, speeding. It'll probably cost us $20 to get out of this one. Then Barichu gets out of the car, yelling at the cops.
There's more shouting. Lots of Spanish words I don't know. What sounds like boots stomping in mud. Suddenly a cop gets into the driver's seat of our car, the place vacated by Gilberto. He wears no hat, but he does wear a turtleneck sweater. Pulled up high, the turtle neck covers most of his face. Everything except the eyes. He looks like a giant uncircumcised penis... the glans just peeking through, above the foreskin. With three of us in the car, he starts it and drives... somewhere.

You're taking us home?” asks Paige.
Wishful thinking.
Without a word to us, the cop pulls over... somewhere. It's even more deserted than the already deserted center of town. He gets out of the car. A few seconds later, Gilberto gets in the car and kneels on the front seat.

Barichu pissed them off. We got to get a thousand pesos together or we go to jail,” he says.
Barichu gets in the back seat. The rest of us pull out our wallets. I've got 300. The guy whose name I forget kicks in a couple hundred. Gilberto puts in what he has. Paige has no pesos, but throws in about forty U.S. dollars. Barichu yells at all of us. He has no money.
Gilberto counts what we give him. Twice. “I think we got it.” he says. “Let's hope so.”
Barichu yells at him.
Outside, there is more talking. Barichu gets out of the car again. Uh oh, this is gonna do it. I'm gonna spend the night getting buttfucked by the Frito Bandito. But no. They got their money. They let us go.
Barichu and Gilberto get back in the car. Barichu says he wants to move to Boston where Gilberto lives because the cops here always beat him up. I tell him that in Boston, they'd kill him. He doesn't believe me.
On the trip back to Gilberto's uncle's house, I think about corruption. Three times. In the U.S., each would've landed us in the slammer. We'd have to spend days in court, probably get licenses taken away, have a criminal record, spend thousands on fines and lawyers fees, and what do the cops get for their work? Bubkas.
In Mexico, we're stopped by the cops three times. All for legitimate reasons. It costs us a total of around $100 to get off. Every cent of that goes into a hard-working cops' pocket. We have no criminal records (at least not here in Mexico). No time in jail. That is corruption. And contrary to what I've long thought, I now say: VIVA LA CORRUPCIÓN!

ENDNOTES: [email subscribers (god@mykelboard.com) or website viewers (www.mykelboard.com) will get live links and a chance to comment on the column]

-->And they call it welfare dept: Former candidate for NY Governor, Carl Paladino, said he'd transform some NY prisons into dormitories for welfare recipients. "Instead of handing out the welfare checks, we'll teach people how to earn their check,” he said. “We'll teach them personal hygiene.”


 
-->I wonder if it teaches them personal hygiene dept: Democracy Now! reports that an LA country jail plans to use prisoners as test subjects for a U.S. military high-tech ray gun that cause extreme pain. Seeing as they're only prisoners, it doesn't really matter, does it?

-->Where rights are privileges dept: New Republic editor, Martin Peretz, said he wonders if Muslims "are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have the sense that they will abuse." He also wrote "Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims."
     Seems to me that by writing that Peretz is abusing his first amendment rights.

-->But he's not cheap dept: David H. Brooks, the CEO of DHB, a body-armor company contracted to the US government, has, according to the NY Times, used company money to pay for pornographic videos for his son, plastic surgery for his wife, prostitutes for his employees, and a $100,000 American-flag belt buckle encrusted with rubies, sapphires and diamonds.

-->Who's abusing the first amendment? dept: Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association said that the US should have "no more mosques, period." Why? "Each Islamic mosque is dedicated to the overthrow of the American government."

-->Today's friend, tomorrow's prisoner(ask Noriega)dept: Jailed Afghan drug lord, Jama Khan, has been a CIA informant for years, The New York Times reports. He was paid large sums of money to provide information about the Taliban, Afghan government corruption and other drug traffickers. In 2008, Khan, described as the most dangerous drug lord and Taliban supporter, was arrested and transported to New York to face charges under a new American narco-terrorism law.

-->Letter reply dept: Last month(?) Naomi wrote a thoughtful letter about how there seemed to be a conflict between my complaining about child tobacco labor in Kazakhstan and my opposition to kiddie porn laws in the U.S. She said that since most children don't “consent” to be in porn and that they aren't paid for it, kiddie porn is slavery. Since I believe the letters column should be for readers, I didn't answer there. Here is my answer:

The reality of child porn is that most of it was made decades ago and is still being distributed. (By the way, the number one 
distributor of kiddie porn is the U.S. government... for entrapment purposes). There's no way of knowing if the kids consented or not. In the stuff that I've seen in Europe and Asia, the kids look pretty happy... like they're playing.

In any case, most of the images of children (family pictures, street snapshots etc)... in fact most images these days... are distributed without the consent of the person photographed. That's life without privacy in the 21st century.

Of course, I oppose people forced into doing things against their will, but I'd say a fuck of a lot more adults are forced into working jobs they hate than children are forced into doing something sexual for others to take pictures of. Capitalism is slavery. Most of us are slaves.


-end-

Mykel's personal website is here.

OR you might be interested in Mykel's Travel Blog (more on Mexico)



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