Trailer Park Nirvana image created by Stefany Kleeschulte.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The beginning of another year

It's been strange, waking to this run of cloudy days in pretty much always-sunny Kino Bay. No rain yet, but  last Thanksgiving it rained hard and constant. It was cold. This year I'm heading to New Mexico to hang out with friends. We plan on spending hours in the jacuzzi with lots of wine. Maybe we'll hit Santa Fe for a day and that little town New Madrid where Wild Hogs was filmed. It's been a long time since I've expanded my life outside of Kino and southern Arizona.

It's also been strange how slow it's been for the snowbirds to return to the trailer park. Usually by this time Flo is planning the Thanksgiving potluck, walking around with a sign-up sheet for mashed potatoes and other side dishes, and there are so many people she's always worried there won't be enough food. So far only one snowbird couple has returned. What's going on? Well, on my row alone one couple sold their place, one man died (and his wife won't be returning), and then next door to me the wifebeater is still in prison in Hermosillo and his wife won't be returning either. A couple years ago the Canadians stopped coming to Mexico, only going as far as Yuma or some place. The Californians who'd been coming for years got too old to make the trip. As of yet, no youngens have cropped up to take their place.

However, an interesting demographic shift has occurred at the trailer park: Full-timers. There are eleven of us now. One couple, three single men and seven single women. The man in the couple said now that they're here full year, they feel territorial about the park and are happy that the snowbirds are slow to arrive. I can so relate! I always dreaded the snowbird return to MY park. The lack of privacy mostly, but the dramas, the petty arguments, the who's not speaking to who, grown-ups indulging in summer camp behavior.

November has always been a month of change for me, way more a beginning than an end, and today is one of my biggest anniversaries - eight years since leaving Portland. As with last year and the year before and the five before that, I am grateful I made that change. But as with previous years, I wonder what's next. So far the what's next has remained the same - entrenched in Kino. Itching to leave, not knowing where to go, making new friends which makes it fine to stay put, waiting for the right time to make a move.

I'll be away for the next two, maybe three weeks. I'm not taking the laptop (this is when I wish I had a Kindle Fire or an Ipad or something). To all you Americans out there, have a great Thanksgiving. As Barbara Bush says, "People spoke. Move on, get on with it." For my Mexican friends, celebrate your hearts out on Dia del Revolucion! For all of you shop local, support your friendly neighborhood artists. (But if ever I can get movies in Mexico on a Kindle Fire, that's going on my Christmas wish list.) I'd send up a prayer for peace in the Middle East but that don't look like it's gonna happen any time soon. To my daughter, I'll be looking for you on t.v. at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. And for the rest of my family, you have no idea how much you are in my heart and thoughts right now.

On that note...I'm out of here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Spanish Word of the Day: Trabajar

My work history is varied - waitress, bookstore clerk, database manager, IT Goddess, data analyst, post office employee, transcriptionist. It's that last one - the one I liked least of all - that's saved my financial ass these past few years. Medical transcription has to be the most boring job I've ever had. Combine typing the same shit over and over (Dear Dr So and So, it was a pleasure seeing your patient Mr. Bad Heart...) with hours of sitting in the same position with your right foot perched above a foot pedal, your hands on the qwerty keyboard, eyes straight ahead and you've made for years of back ache, numb fingers, tingling sensations in the pedal foot, a wide ass and blurry vision.

These days I'm grateful for this transcribing stuff, however. Grateful I can work from home no matter where that home is. And I'm grateful that I've pretty much bagged the medical  work and instead have a pretty varied workload. Confidential restraints limit what I can say about our clients but I think I can get away with describing some of my work starting with my favorite: Internal Affairs investigations.

Ooowheee, there's some crazy shit going on with policemen and firemen. Officer-involved shootings can be pretty run of the mill. The stuff I like are the DUIs and domestic violence calls, hearing the officers try to wrangle out of those. One cop - I swear he was a sociopath - was suing or had been sued by every one of his wives and girlfriends of which he had many. I transcribed hours of his interrogations and that bastard lied, lied, lied, and that's the thing IA hates most - being lied to. I don't know what happened to him. The frustrating thing is after all this drama it's like the book ends with the last chapter torn out. I hope he got canned.

I've done some great interviews and presentations. The most recent was a talk by a healthcare policy wonk. I wanted to share his talk with every anti-"Obamacare" person out there. He described the attempts at healthcare reform going way, way back and the various reasons it got derailed along the way. His talk was clear, concise and funny, healthcare 101 brought down to an understandable level.

There are pharmaceutical company advisory boards which are a challenge, all these doctors talking over each other, drug names so long and complex, mechanisms of action - thank god for the internets! In the old days my desk was burdened with massive medical dictionaries and that giant drug book - the PDR - which had to be updated every year. These days if I can make out a word phonetically Google usually nails it.

Then there's the foreign language stuff. Or rather, African Americans who speak a form of English I have no familiarity with. I need a master's degree in ebonics to really know what they're saying. These are the men and women on the lower rung of the social ladder. It's interesting, when grandma talks, grandma uses correct grammar, seems well educated. She chastises her grandson for saying "fuck." There's no need for cussing, she says. Terms of endearment - from young men to their girlfriends - range from my nigger (I miss you, my nigger), to ugly (I love you too, ugly) and b (How you doing b?). Fortunately our instructions from the client are that if we can't grasp something, we can skip it. As it is I always listen at least three times before moving on. Takes for-fucking-ever, b.

Thanks to my mom, I'm able to support myself in my senior citizen years in a manner that isn't too sucky - like cleaning toilets or caring for snot-nosed kids. My mom always told me I should learn to type because I'd probably never get married. Gee, I hate it when my mom is right.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Beach Cookies

After beachcombing this beach for five years I've gotten picky about the shells I gather. Pretty much the shells I like are the ones you see here - the potato chip or jingle shells, those little fan-like shells in the bottom left corner, and sand dollars. All of which are hard to come by which is one of the reasons I like them.

A couple years ago I was walking Popeye beach (down by the estuary) and a friend found one of those small keyhole sand dollars. I was so jealous. For days after I combed that beach looking for one with no luck. Then a few weeks ago I took some women to a beach which is good for beachglass and as soon as the words left my mouth - "we should go to sand dollar beach the next time you're here" - one of the women looked down and there was a keyhole sand dollar. Damn. At sand dollar beach we've found keyhole sand dollars but they're usually big. To me there's something special about these small ones, the size of a chocolate chip cookie. And a cookie is what the people here call them.

Yesterday I walked through town, to the now empty barrio, crawled through the barbed wire fence and up a hill to the restaurant Los Naufragos which, I discovered, is part of the private land that's been fenced off. I slid down the dune, careful to slide under the newly constructed barbed-wire fence that now runs along the beach.

On the beach I took a deep breath and told myself that my vision is too narrow. I need to relax, view the beach as a whole, and maybe one of those sand dollars would show up. I also gave myself a mighty good lecture about how I needed to get my life, my mood, my emotions back on track. I needed to get back the feeling I had when I first came to Kino. I'd been riding the wave of a glorious high-on-life feeling from the Home for the Bewildered. I remember those first days in Kino, sitting outside the trailer reading, listening to the water, endless hours walking on the beach. A summer hot but not as hot as the ones to follow. Then how my joy took a nose dive as snowbirds began arriving with their conservative and racist attitudes. How I spent years feeling as though I didn't fit in but I didn't know where to go. Tried Bisbee. It didn't work. Came back to Kino.

As interesting, quirky and wonderful as Kino can be, I began slipping into a familiarity breeds contempt state.  I felt stuck and stuck was not a feeling I ever wanted to feel again. But I was very, very broke and therefore stuck in Kino for a real reason. Yeah, I could visualize the life I wanted all I wanted but the bottom line is at the very least I needed money for gas and food to go off in search of that life and I didn't have that.

After my lecture I continued walking the beach, gathering jingle shells. On the return walk home I walked in the water, just at the edge of the surf. I was hot and sweaty and the cool water felt great on my bare feet, the sand smooth, washed clear of shells. And then there it was. Right in front of me, all alone, that keyhole sand dollar glistening white against the dark sand. I stood there and looked around. Then before I stooped to pick it up I looked out at the sea and said "thank you!" It was one of the creepiest things that's ever happened to me.

When I reached the muelle I ran into Tio, the old man who walks the beach gathering beer cans. I'd seen him in town when I started my walk and now here he was at the end. He had a treasure too: A canvas-covered mattress pad, kind of like the ones you see on bench seats or big lounge chairs. He had it folded in half, tied with a string, and carried it on his back. We stopped to admire each other's treasures. He pretended to take a bite of my sand dollar cookie. Tio was very excited about this new bed of his. I was excited to have this reminder that things come to us when we need them. And how small my needs are in comparison to others.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

that was the week that was

What fun to wake up this morning and read the Facebook posts from last night. And to read the things I posted. Did I really write that? Ugh, too much prosecco. No wait. Is there such a thing as too much? Certainly not on a night like last night. Four years ago we breathed a huge sigh of relief but that was nothing compared to the deep breath I took last night. A Romney presidency would've been downright scary. McCain was Casper the Friendly Ghost in comparison to Romney's Freddie Kruger.

This morning I woke - or more appropriately I disentangled myself from election night hangover - to see my own private but very much public masturbator standing outside the gate trying to see me as I lay in bed. Last night I'd left all the roller shades up thinking that by the time I got home the masturbator wouldn't be around but now I remember seeing the glow of his cigarette outside the gate but I didn't care. So I went to bed with the shades up. The windows in this house are mirrored and impossible to see in during the day. However, I'd left the bedroom sliding glass door open about 18 inches. The masturbator was gazing into the gap trying to see my reflection in the wall of closet door mirrors. I got a pretty good look at him - average height and weight, baseball cap on backwards, white rubber boots. I've seen those boots at night. They seem to glow. Now I know the boots belong to him. I will be more diligent, have the camera ready. Strike a pose, asshole!

My emotions this week pretty much ran the gamut from joy and appreciation to anxiety and sadness.

A friend visited from Seattle - I've known her for decades - and we had a great week although I did worry she'd get bored. That didn't happen. All our nights were filled with dining and wining with my Kino women friends, our days pretty low key except for our kayak/stand-up paddle board excursion out in the estuary with seven other women - five in kayaks and four on paddle boards.

The week's sadness surrounded the eviction - which is way too nice a word for what happened - of the people from a number of barrios here. See my blog entry from November 4th for more details. And now I've learned that two good friends - my adopted son and my corazon - have to be out of their home in three weeks - a home they've lived in for years. Just writing that makes me feel like throwing up. I haven't been able to find much in the newspapers about this but there is this article which says that the Human Rights Commission is getting involved. I hope another barrio opens up for them, a place they can stay. Vanna will be available for moving services.

We were too exhausted after kayaking to go to the cemetery for the Day of the Dead festivities. My Seattle friend has a thing for cemeteries so we went the next day. All the gravesites were cleaned up, flowers and offerings everywhere. I thought this particular site was interesting because of the banners on the wall picturing the deceased.

When people visit their loved ones they bring food and drink, tequila or bacanora for the adults, Coca Cola for the kids, and often there is music. This family hired a group of musicians to serenade their dearly departed.

Of course the weather was perfect the entire week.

And now with my prosecco hangover I'm off to kayak the estuary with friends. This time I'm taking a camera. Hopefully the white pelicans will still be there.

Some good things happened last night. Let the celebration continue!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

...then there is no barrio(s)

A friend called. "We just drove by the new barrio - Colosio - it's being torn down. Cops are there, bulldozesrs, dump trucks." D. and I were getting ready to go to Popeye Beach, out toward the Estuary, so we decided to drive out to Barrio Colosio.

It was like something out of Mad Max. We'd just driven through there the day before and were impressed at the amount of work that had been done on the houses - plywood walls, wood beams. By the time we got there this morning most everything was gone. Piles of debris - or possessions - burned. Cars and trucks and vans passed us loaded down with building material, blankets, chairs. Neighbors in real houses let people stack their belongings and material alongside their homes. Police cars sat at all roads leading into the barrio.

We decided to visit another barrio, the one we'd heard was also to be torn down. On the way we stopped at a home rented by some gringas and they said the bulldozers were there now. They said the homes were being torn down to make way for that rumored marina...rumored for decades. The barrio was on the road to the estuary so we headed there only to be met with lines of police cars - brought in from Hermosillo - and people standing about watching a bulldozer raze another home.

I got out of the van and wandered around with my camera, hoping not to catch the attention of the police. We were told to move our vehicles back so I did then got out for more picture taking. A white truck came down the hill from where a fairly large home was standing, people surrounded the house, stood in a line along the top of the dune. A policeman yelled and cops went running toward the white truck. More police trucks arrived with masked and armed officers standing in the bed. I went back to the van and sat inside, shaking at the horror and the potential for violence. A policeman yelled for me to vamos. He didn't have to tell me twice.

We found an alternate route to the estuary, spent an hour or so there, then returned via the back road to the highway, past a new dump site where they were dumping people's belongings.

That was on Thursday. The next day we made another trip to the estuary, this time with a group of women to kayak and paddle board. We didn't know if the road was blocked but we didn't want to risk it so we took the road from the highway, past the new dumpsite. This is what it looked like on Friday morning.

The dump area had grown. Now people's possessions were covered with dirt, to be burned? Or to discourage rummaging, looking for something of value, maybe that photo of the abuela, maybe a rusted coffee pot?

I don't know the details of the razing. It seems to be true that the people in the more established barrio had been given notice since January that this was going to happen. It seems that these are the people who hustled out to Colosio looking for a new place to live. But apparently they were there illegally so they had to leave. I keep asking "but where are they supposed to live? where are they now?"

It's no wonder people risk their lives to cross the desert into the United States. Their lives are all they own.