- Travel and Places
Mayhem on Mexican Time
Booze, Broads and Bankrobbers! It Could Happen to You!
The main road from the US/Mexican border heads south through the desert and low hills until it reaches the coast at Guaymas. It then proceeds on for 500 miles until it heads inland again to Guadalajara and the rest of the country.
But we need to back track a little until we stop at what was then a dusty little hamlet some hundred miles south of Guaymas called Navajoa.
Let's meet the protagonists of this seamy but no the less completely true story. One is your author who you know as Diogenes, then there is Flynn, a name used to protect the real identity of a husky, 6' 2" Australian.
A good friend of mine from the old days in California, upon finding out I was about to head south on one of my many trips to visit my son in Mexico City, and that I was driving, towing a small trailer behind my Buick Riveira, asked a favour. "Could you take a mate of mine along name of Flynn, he wants to see a bit of Mexico then fly back to Oz from Mexico City." Fine. Some congenial company for the trip; I enthusiastically endorsed the idea, putting in play dark forces that would shortly leave me with a nightmare of indellible memories that I have held until this day, many years later.
Our troubles began immediately we pulled into the customs in Tijuana to get our visas and temporary import papers for the vehicle and trailer...and this one was down to me. Gun laws in Mexico were more relaxed back then than they are now, but hand-guns were already frowned upon and illegal. But my ex's cousin, Arturo, had asked me if I could bring him a small pistol to help with the security in the bad area of Mexico in which his family lived. So a chromed, short barreled .38 pistol lay concealed under the pull-out bed in the trailer.
Well, the customs rarely searched: too lazy! But something changed that day and the short, fat agent asked me to come in while he searched the trailer. There were the three of us, the tubby agent, looming Flynn and 240-pound me, jammed into this tiny Shasta while the customs bloke poked and pried at all the nooks and cranies. While he was bent down at the front looking into the kitchen appliances, I realized I had to act fast, so I quickly and quietly retrieved the pistol and stuck it down the front of Errol's shorts! "Hang on to that," I whispered fiercely at the bemused chap. And we got away with it, although Errol was muttering despondantly for 100 miles south and he never really forgave me. But upcoming events were to shunt this affair onto the back-burner fast.
About 20 miles north of Navajoa, the Buick started to missfire and loose power. An eyeball check revealed nothing, so we limped into the village - just one dusty road and a few shacks was the depressing backdrop. In Mexico, roadside mechanics operate from a shack like these which they call a "Taller." For years I had thought there must be some person living in these places who was taller than the rest of the local population. But, no, taller meant workshop and there was one a few shacks along the main street.
We had arrived at noon on Saturday: folks familiar with Mexico will now stop, look at the ceiling and exhale, "Oh, no!" This is because midday on Saturday is time to ease off work, break out the cheap brandy and get well and truly legless before staggering off home to the long-suffering spouse and 8 ankle-biters.
Jose, the "maestro" or master mechanic, and his assistant, Jesus, (pronounced Hassooz), were just draining what turned out to be the first glass of their "cuba libres" ("free Cubas, just brandy and coke) as we stuttered to a halt under a convenient shade tree - sorely needed in the noon heat of the Mexican desert areas. This author certainly needed few excuses to have a couple of grogs back then, nor, as it turned out, did Flynn, so we handily accepted Jose's kind invitation to pull up a couple of used tyres and join them. Luckily, I spoke fairly good Spanish and was able to explain the car troubles. "Si," grinned a grease-stained Jose, "Vamos a verle ahorrita, Uds. calmate y despues nos arreglar el coche." .More or less, "Shut up, sit down and we'll fix the car by and by." By and by was about four hours later, and by then, after two more bottles of "Don Pedro" had been purchased by the clients, we were all close buddies and better oiled than any of the old jalopies in sight.
Sometime during the soiree women came up, as they do among a bunch of imbibing machos. In the natural order of things, the local brothel, or "zona rosa" crept into the dialogue and Flynn, this huge, sun-bronzed, gap-toothed Aussie surfer, admitted sheepishly he had never been to a whore-house anywhere. "No es cierto," (It can't be true), exclaimed Jose, who had probably spent every Saturday evening in one for the last 30 years. "Pues," he mused, "We have the best whore house in Mexico right here in Navajoa!" He turned to Jesus, whose eyes had begun to take on a curious gleam. The shy Indian helper wouldn't have had the money to visit protitutes very often, even those dispensing their favours for half the cost of a bottle of brandy. "Jesus will take you to the zona right now"
I decided to opt out and make sure Jose had a look at the car before events got completely out of hand, as they are wont to do south of the border where time is irrelevant, the booze is cheap and the zona stays open all night. The engine trouble turned out to be an easily fixed timing problem as the poor Buick had been trying to run, pulling a heavy trailer, on Mexican petrol with an octane level somewhat nearer ditchwater than Detroit designers had anticipated.
Jose and I settled down again to the last of the brandy in the current bottle, ruminating on the fun Flynn and his young assistant were having with the "putas," a not very polite name for ladies of the night in Mexico. As we finally sat and dozed, in companiable silence in that dusty corrugated shack, there was suddenly a squeal of brakes outside and a police car skidded to a halt. What! Flynn and Jesus were handcuffed in the back seat; what could have gone wrong in this easygoing place where misdemeanours hardly evoke interest and felonies are often dealt with "manana" (tomorrow).
A blubbering, babbling and bruised Flynn was allowed out of the back seat to explain. "Christ, mate", he groaned, " "They tried to pull us over as we were just about to go in to the brothel. We have been in a car chase all over the county, across ploughed fields, through rivers...this bloke (Jesus) is out of his bloody gourd." He continued, "The police finally got us with four patrol cars and pulled us out of the car giving us a good smacking, I don't know what the hell he has done."
"This man," said the young cop, regarding our bleary condition with distaste, and indicating Jesus, "And his brother, Ramon, who we are still after, are wanted for bank robbery in Los Mochis." (A neighboring town). "You friend is with him, why!?"
Well, it took about an hour to explain with Jose's corroberation and Flynn, white and shaking, was finally uncuffed and the police roared off in the pursuit of the other miscreants with Jesus still shackled in the back.
Somehow, another bottle of brandy had appeared and Flynn was soon restored to his old self, even beginning to boast about the affair. As you do. And, as you do, he was suffering from remorse of a different kind. "I never did get to the brothel," he complained.
It was time to go as Jose had to get home and face the music, eased, no doubt, by the mioney he had for the wife and kids. Before he left, I had him draw a map of...how to proceed with our journey? Right? No. You guessed it dear readers, a scrawled idea of how to get back to the zona! Well, we were young and damn near legless. Couldn't go on down Mexican Highway 2 like that, could we?
So with the little trailer bumping over the uneven ground and scattering chickens and grubby little urchins the whole ensemble rolled up to the local bordello (brothel). Here we go again.
I must confess the next period, from about 6 pm until midnight became a blur. Only one thing stood out. Flynn, this strapping 22-year-old bodybuilder, with film star good looks, took no notice of the girls at all and was dancing, stripped down to his briefs, a rose clasped firmly in his remaining teeth, with the bloody male waiters! Thanks, RJ, (my friend back in the States), I muttered to myself. You didn't tell me Flynn is as gay as the rites of spring!
I finally settled - I thought - the hefty bar bill..did I mention Flynn was also broke? As we fell into the car to leave, one of the waiters, accompanied by a security guard, grabbed my arm. "No has pagado la cuento," he hissed. "You haven't paid the bill! It was the old trick again, they thought we were too drunk to remember and were trying to shag us for double the amount. Well, he could have literally shagged Flynn for all I cared if it would have settled matters! But...drunkeness and mates. "Get in the car," I yelled at a sleepy Flynn. I slammed my door into the bloke trying to restrain me and jumped in, key into the ignition and we were off, tearing across the very same ploughed field Flynn had chased over earlier with the cops after him. We hit the highway and I didn't stop till we were 50 miles out of town when we pulled over for a sleep. I took the trailer and left Flynn in the car.
So that was the end of it? Not on your nelly. At first light, I felt someone frantically shaking my shoulder, "R" he shouted, "I left me bloody backpack in the brothel with me passport and all the papers in it." I tried to reason with him, but he said he would walk back to Navajoa if I didn't take him. "Yer me mate, aren't you?" Big deal, mateship in Oz, sometimes I wonder if they're not all a bit gay, their mates certainly are more important than the sheilas.
We didn't even get into town before the cops had us, handcuffed, car and traliler driven by another cop and we were in the hoosegow (lockup). After most of the long, hot morning had passed by, we were called before the commandante (police chief). "Right," he said. "You owe £400 for the bar bill and another £500 "fine" if you want to go on your way." Let me explain, the "mordida," or bite, meaning a bribe, opens most doors in Mexico. We bargained a bit, but the price stayed the same as this was a fairly serious offence, (The cop said). It cost me my last penny in traveller's checks and with just enough petrol to get to Los Mochis, we had to telephone for urgent help from my ex wife in Mexico. (The mordida was worth about £2,000 today).
Flynn never did get his papers back, either, so the whole return was a waste of time. He also cost me days of running around in Mexico City to get his passport and tickets, etc., replaced, and several days on the road repelling the sexual propositions of this loathsome "mate" as we finished the journey. Several times he was lucky I had ditched the pistol outside Tijuana, I swear I would have capped him.
I never did get any of the money back from Flynn. My friend in the USA wouldn't believe he was gay to this day! I think the buggers were lovers